SIU’s football kicks off spring practice with first scrimmage
The SIU football team played its first scrimmage of spring ball on Sunday after the originally scheduled Saturday scrimmage hosted at Carterville High School was rescheduled because weather.
The Salukis ran about 68 plays on offense and defense full contact against each other at Saluki Stadium.
Third year coach Nick Hill said he was impressed by how his team played Sunday.
“There was some good give and take,” Hill said. “The offense went on a few drives, there were some good stops, and the defense — what we’re emphasizing — got a few turnovers.”
The Salukis ranked No.7 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in total defense, averaging about 433 yards allowed per game. They also ranked second-to-last in pass defense by allowing 267 yards in the air per game.
Sophomore cornerback Shawntrez Spates had a big interception that ended in a touchdown Sunday.
“All spring we’ve been preaching ‘get the ball, get the ball, get turnovers’ so it was a situation for us to get points before the half which is always a good thing,” Spates said.
Spates said he thinks the defense is “coming along well” but still has room for improvement before the season starts.
“We still have a ways to go to be where we want to be as a championship defense,” Spates said. “I feel like were right at our stride.”
At the beginning of last season, the Salukis hired cornerback coach Carl Franks, who helped the Salukis rack up 12 interceptions — the most they’ve had since 2011.
“Coach Franks is a great coach,” Spates said “He always holds us accountable if we do things wrong, but if we do things right he lets us know.”
Hill has also been emphasizing the importance of running the football, which he said the team did pretty effectively during the scrimmage.
“We feel like we have a couple of good backs,” said the third-year coach from Du Quoin. “We’ve got to be more physical. It’ll be fun to get on film and see that.”
Hill said he was also pleased with the performances of his quarterbacks, who threw a couple of touchdown passes in the scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Sam Straub said he thinks the “offense is way better this spring” compared to last season.
Straub’s favorite target Sunday was easily sophomore receiver Landon Lenoir who he completed seven passes to on the day.
“I like Lando a lot — he’s a steady guy,” Straub said. “You can always count on him to do the right thing. He’s got great hands, he’s a good route runner. So just being able to develop a good relationship with him this summer and over the fall will be good.”
Hill said there are many little things that need to be focused on to better prepare the Salukis for the fall and what hopes to be a winning season.
“We’ve got a long way until the season,” Hill said. “So it’s all about individuals getting better, coming out here and correcting things off film, and putting them in tough situations that they can learn from, maybe put them in situations they haven’t been in, different lineups. We’ve got redshirt freshmen going against our starting group … there’s going to be some give and take and maybe not always looking as sharp when you put all 11 together but that’s a part of spring.
The home opener that kicks off SIU’s season is set for 6 p.m. Saturday Sep. 9 against Mississippi Valley State in Saluki Stadium.