Saluki quarterback Kory Faulkner said when he goes to high-five fellow quarterback Paul McIntosh, he uses his left hand, though neither is left-handed.
The action is actually a joke between two teammates, because McIntosh’s injured shoulder has left him unable to even lift
his left arm. McIntosh continues to suffer from a separated shoulder from last season and the multiple surgeries that followed to repair it.
Faulkner means no harm toward his close friend by the joke; in fact, it usually draws a chuckle out of his teammate. The action, however, is a stark reminder that the Salukis will be without their starting quarterback for the remainder of the spring.
“It’s unfortunate for Paul. Paul’s one of my good friends,” Faulkner said. “Seeing him not being able to participate is tough. But at the same time, it’s given me a lot of reps, so when Paul does come back in the fall we’ll have a good competition.”
SIU coach Dale Lennon said McIntosh will not be available to speak with the media until he returns from his injury, which Lennon expects to be in June.
As the second week of spring practice draws to an end, the SIU offense has started to come together, Lennon said.
“The biggest improvement that you see is execution,” he said. “We’ve got the majority of our installation accomplished. Now we’re trying to put the players in a competitive situation so we can see (which) guys are capable of stepping up and being playmakers.”
Faulkner said he has embraced the leadership role he was thrust into with McIntosh’s injury last season and relishes the chance to show how much he has improved.
“I was a captain in the offseason, so I’m trying to be a leader in the offense,” he said. “I feel a night and day difference between last season and where I am now, both mentally and on the field.”
Faulkner struggled at times during the ’11 campaign, passing for five touchdowns while throwing eight interceptions as the Salukis stammered to a 2-5 record with Faulkner as the full-time starter.
Lennon said McIntosh’s injury allows every Saluki quarterback to gain much-needed experience, but there is no mistaking whom the lead role belongs to.
“Kory is going to be our No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring, and it’ll be up to Paul to show that he’s a better quarterback than Kory,” Lennon said. “It also gives A.J. Hill a tremendous opportunity to really step up and get quality reps and show what he’s capable of doing.”
Hill saw limited action last year, serving as the backup to Faulkner when McIntosh went down.
“My goal is to be more comfortable in the offense and be able to make all the right checks,” Hill said. “I also want to start to lead more vocally than by example. I’ll be a junior (in the spring) and I’ve got to start being more vocal.”
Hill said McIntosh’s absence has led to the availability of more repetitions for himself and Faulkner, as well as for freshmen Matt Vincent and Matt Lipham. The four players are the quarterbacks on the spring roster.
Although the situation at quarterback isn’t ideal, Lennon said the extra time each healthy quarterback has had under center will provide added depth next season, when a season-ending injury can happen on any given play.
“I like the fact that we’re going to have some experienced quarterbacks next fall,” he said. “It makes us a little more bulletproof at the position.”