Salukis’ quest for a quarterback begins

By Gus Bode

While the Salukis have replaced their leader on the sidelines, the search for a new field general has just begun.

With the second week of spring football in progress, coach Dale Lennon’s search for a quarterback has started to accelerate. Lennon’s choices include incoming sophomores Joe Allaria and Chris Dieker along with red shirt freshman Bobby Brenneisen.

Whoever steps under center will have high expectations as the heir to last season’s quarterback Nick Hill. Hill threw for 3,175 yards and ran for 357 while tossing 28 touchdowns. His impressive statistics and leadership have led to interest from the Chicago Bears in this year’s NFL Draft.

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But one week into spring ball, there are already promising signs from the trio of hopeful hurlers, Lennon said.

“They’re hard workers,” he said. “They have been putting in the time and effort in the film room and I have been impressed with their ability.”

Allaria has the most experience out of the group as he appeared in 10 games last season. He finished with 106 passing yards on 11-for-21 passing with one interception.

The running game of Allaria was on display last season as well when he finished with 188 yards on 30 attempts. His average of 6.3 yards per carry was third best on the team.

Allaria said practices have had some similarities to last season, but new drills have also enhanced his game.

“We have a new drill where we throw into these nets,” Allaria said. “It really helps with accuracy and getting a consistency.”

Dieker is literally the biggest competition as he towers over the other two quarterbacks at 6-foot-5. Dieker appeared in only two games last season and completed one pass on two attempts.

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The Topeka, Kan., native has brought an impressive resume to SIU with all-state honors and a 25-1 record during his high school career.

Changes to the offense have Dieker excited about next season whether he starts or holds the clipboard. The play-action-focused passing attack of former coach Jerry Kill has been replaced with more focus on the drop-back pass with quick releases.

“We have been working on footwork and technique and I think it’s helped me fit well with the drop back,” Dieker said. “But I’m excited for the no huddle stuff we’re doing.”

The final starting prospect is Brenneisen, who wore a red shirt last season. During his high school career, the Springfield native had a 68 percent completion percentage and ranked eighth all-time in Illinois with 6,409 passing yards while throwing for 75 touchdowns.

Lennon said the statistic that stood out the most for him was Brenneisen’s 28-0 record and back-to-back state championships.

“At the quarterback position you can’t get caught up in looking at the paper stats,” Lennon said. “I think there is something to be said about going undefeated.”

Lennon said he is in no rush to name a starting quarterback, but fans will be able to see them in action during the spring game April 19.

Jeff Engelhardt can be reached at 536-3311 ext.269 or [email protected]

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