Saluki football ready for new challenge

By Gus Bode

Head coach Dale Lennon and the rest of the SIU football team is ready for a challenge that is not wearing maroon.

After months of preparation, which included pitting a pair of new schemes against each other, the Salukis are ready to take on the challenge of competing in games that count in the standings.

Lennon said the team is tired of playing against each other and is ready to compete in a real game situation.


“We can’t get any better by practicing against each other,” Lennon said. “We need to go against a different color jersey, and we’re ready to do that.”

The success the offense has seen in the team’s first two scrimmages was nonexistent in the team’s most recent scrimmage, Lennon said. The Salukis’ passing and running attacks struggled to consistently move the ball down field and pick up first downs early in the scrimmage. But quarterback Chris Dieker, whom Lennon selected as the team’s starting quarterback, led the team to a pair of touchdowns on the final two possessions.

Dieker will make his first career start in the season opener Saturday against Hampton University.

Lennon said the offense will focus on roughly a third of the playbook, even though the entire playbook has been completely installed. Narrowing the team’s playbook could allow the team to focus on details such as timing and execution as game day inches closer.

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Bubba Schweigert said he was encouraged to see how the defense has progressed throughout training camp.

In SIU’s most recent scrimmage, the defense forced three turnovers and tallied eight sacks as it constantly applied pressure on the offense, which was held scoreless on its first 11 possessions.

Schweigert said despite the defense’s success at the scrimmage, the Salukis have a lot to work on before Saturday’s opening kick.


“We’re going to watch tape and be very critical,” Schweigert said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we have to get a good game plan for an opener against a very talented group coming into our stadium.”

Junior Chauncey Mixon and the rest of SIU’s linebackers have helped lead the defensive charge in recent scrimmages.

Mixon, who recorded 118 tackles last season, including four against Hampton in the team’s final regular season game, said he is excited to get the regular season underway.

“We haven’t even got a chance to hit a quarterback yet, so I’m ready,” Mixon said. “We’ve been waiting to hit somebody since last season. We’re tired of banging on our own guys.”

No player should feel more relieved to see another team than sophomore quarterback Joe Allaria, who has been facing the teeth of the defense since camp began.

Allaria, who was Dieker’s main competition in the starting quarterback position, said the team is hungry and ready to compete in week one of the regular season.

“We have a lot to prove with the changes that have been made throughout the program,” Allaria said. “We’re just going to come out and demand respect out of our opponent and get as many wins as possible.”

Luis C. Medina can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected].