Salukis on the offensive

By Gus Bode

With a majority of the Saluki offense returning to the gridiron, head coach Dale Lennon expects to light up a few more scoreboards this season.

With the return of quarterback Chris Dieker, a stockpile of running backs and all but one receiver, Lennon said the team has increased expectations compared to last season’s question-mark-filled offense.

‘Any time you’ve got an experienced starting quarterback returning, that allows you to do a little more on the offensive side and it increases expectations that you have for your offensive squad,’ he said. ‘I think Chris Dieker is at the level where he should have high expectations.’ He has a strong arm and he can throw a lot of different types of passes for us.’


Last season, Dieker tossed 16 touchdowns with 2,083 yards while completing 57 percent of his attempts. Dieker said he is working on his overall throwing abilities in the offseason as well as his footwork and is also studying game tape with his coaches.

Larry Warner, last season’s offensive juggernaut, will be absent in the backfield after he graduated from SIU last semester.

Although the team will miss his leadership, the Salukis are confident in the returning running backs, Dieker said.

‘The loss of Larry is a big loss. He was a key to our offense and a team leader, but people graduate,’ Dieker said. ‘People are going to come in and fill (his spot). We got good running backs; Deji Karim, Richard White, that’s who I can think of that can come in and fill that running back spot.’

Dieker said he is also comfortable with his receivers next season. The team returns leading receiver Marc Cheatham, along with wideouts Joe Allaria and Bryce Morris and tight end Ryan Kernes.

‘They’re out there working hard, they’re ready for the season, they want the ball thrown to them and they’ll want more catches this year, so I’ll try to do that for them,’ Dieker said.

In the trenches, the offense is returning three starters, including preseason All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection Shawn Smith.


Smith has started 39 consecutive games for the Salukis, all at the guard position, but will block as a tackle during the 2009 season as a senior. Sophomore Bryan Boemer is expected to start as the team’s center.

Place kicker and MVFC preseason honorable mention Kyle Dougherty is also returning. In 2008, Dougherty converted 15-of-23 field goal attempts.

Senior inside linebacker Ryan Patton has seen this offense grow on a daily basis and expects it to be ready for the 2009 season.

‘You can tell, plain and simple, the comfort level with them and the communication is so much better and I think they’re going to have the opportunity to surprise some people this year,’ he said.