Southeastern Lions Football Position Report: Specialists
HAMMOND, La. – The reigning Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana University football team features proven talent in every facet of its special teams heading into the 2023 season.
While punter Austin Dunlap, placekicker Riley Callaghan and punt returner Darius Lewis are all preseason All-Southland Conference performers heading into the season, head coach Frank Scelfo and special teams coordinator Ross Jenkins has been pleased with the depth at all the specialist positions.
“We’ve really had good competition on special teams and guys are going to have to win their job every week, because there’s somebody capable behind them ready to step in,” Scelfo commented.
Heading into his final collegiate season, Dunlap has established himself as one of the premier punters in FCS. A three-time All-SLC performer, Dunlap finished 10th nationally with an SLC-best 43.4 punting average. The Slidell, Louisiana native is backed up by Alec Mahler, who has impressed both Scelfo and Jenkins this fall.
“Austin has had a great career here and we’re looking forward to him finishing his time in Hammond on a high note,” Jenkins said. “Austin finished last fall with a nagging injury that he took care of this spring, so that gave Alec a chance to show what he could do and he was very impressive and has continued that into the fall.”
Southeastern has the luxury of having a pair of All-SLC kickers on the roster. Callaghan was 15-for-18 after taking over as the starter early in his freshman season. Mateo Rengifo, who handled kickoffs in 2022, was among the league’s best placekickers in each of his previous two seasons.
“Riley did a phenomenal job as a freshman to earn the job last year,” Jenkins commented. “Mateo deserves a lot of credit for the work he’s put in. He’s had a great camp and it’s been a good competition.”
The Lions also have multiple options at long snapper, as multi-year starter Korey Karbowsky returns after suffering a season-ending injury in week two of 2022. Cade Collier stepped in and handled Karbowsky’s duties admirably for much of the season.
“For the first time since we’ve been here, we had to play three long snappers, so we know how important it is to have a backup plan there,” Jenkins said. “We’re glad to have Korey back, but Cade has proven he’s a great snapper.
“Even though there’s competition at every position, our specialists are a close-knit group,” Jenkins added. “They do a great job of pulling for one another and supporting each other.”
Lewis averaged just under nine yards per punt return in his debut season in Hammond. But Jenkins sees a solid mix of veterans and newcomers alike that could make an impact in the return game in the coming season.
“We’re all excited to see Darius to step his game up to another level as a punt returner,” Jenkins commented. “Kunta Hester, Mike Williams, Deantre Jackson and Tylon Cooper are all guys that we believe have the ability to be difference makers in the return game.”
The Lions will return to the practice field Monday at 3:45 p.m.
Southeastern opens the 2023 season with three straight nonconference road contests, beginning with a Sept. 2 trip to Mississippi State. The game versus the Bulldogs kicks off at 3 p.m. in Starkville, Mississippi and will be televised on SEC Network and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, The Boss 103.7 FM/WFPR 1400 AM).
Season and single-game tickets for the 2023 home football season, which includes visits from HCU (Sept. 23), Tarleton State (Sept. 30), Lamar (Oct. 14), McNeese (Nov. 4) and Nicholls (Nov. 18) are available online at https://vivenu.com/event/2023-football-2klkar.
Southeastern Football Preseason Practice Schedule
Aug. 21 – 3:45 p.m.
Aug. 22 – 3:45 p.m.
Aug. 23 – 3:45 p.m.
Aug. 24 – 3:45 p.m.
Aug. 25 – 9 a.m.
Aug. 26 – 9 a.m. (Season Ticket Pickup Party – 10 a.m.)
For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net. Southeastern will continue offering mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2023-24 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.
For more information on Southeastern Football, follow @LionUpFootball and @Coach_Scelfo on X, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
TOUCHDOWN CLUB/S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the football program are encouraged to join the Touchdown Club. Lion football alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.
All membership fees and donations to both the Touchdown Club and S Club (football) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern football program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.
INSIDE SOUTHEASTERN FOOTBALL WITH FRANK SCELFO
The 2023 season of Inside Southeastern Football with Frank Scelfo will debut Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at its new home – Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux (305 CM Fagan Dr) in Hammond. Hosted by Scelfo and Allen Waddell, the hour-long radio show will air Mondays throughout the football season on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/WFPR 1400 AM.
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