Football: Salukis gear up for final spring scrimmage

By Gus Bode

Saluki football coach Jerry Kill brought the concept of a hard-hat, lunch pale team to SIU, and this spring he’s turned it up a notch with more intense practices.

The purpose of the rougher spring practices, Kill said, is to propel the Salukis – the Gateway Football Conference champions in 2003, 2004 and 2005 – to new heights.

“We’ve never had this much contact and been this physical since I’ve been here and I felt that’s what we needed to maybe turn the corner and get to the next level, so to speak,” Kill said. “The kids are responding well, they haven’t complained and moaned, they’ve come to work every day and got a great group to work with.”

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The spring football practices finish up at 11 a.m. Saturday with SIU’s third and final scrimmage at McAndrew Stadium. An autograph session will be held afterwards with the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams.

Kill said the final scrimmage and autograph session are for the fans.

“I think the accessibility that we give people to our program is a great thing,” he said. “I think it’s great for the area because it’s their team, it’s not my team.”

Kill will join SIU men’s basketball coach Chris Lowery, women’s basketball coach Dana Eikenberg and Athletics Director Mario Moccia on next week’s Coaches Caravan, which will be in Chicago, Springfield and St. Louis beginning Tuesday.

“You never know, you’ll run into somebody that hadn’t been to a football game and maybe they like what they hear and they come to a game,” Kill said. “We started six years ago and nobody cared, and this thing’s come a long way. We’ve never wavered and we’ve put a good football team out there every time we’ve went to war.”

The Salukis have added some depth this spring, Kill said, and freshman linebacker Brandin Jordan said the defense has also improved as a whole.

The defense played well in the first scrimmage but not as strong in the second, Jordan said, but the unit has bonded.

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“Everybody on the team’s real close and that’s always good,” Jordan said. “We’re building up a lot of trust and especially with the defense with the fits we have, you have to have a lot of trust in your teammates.”

The issue of trust, Jordan said, is present in another thing integral for the success of SIU: team unity.

Jordan, the Salukis’ leader on defense with 107 total tackles last season, said he’s worked on his pass coverage this spring.

He said he’s improved at being more physical with tight ends coming across the middle and hitting wide receivers, although he could get better.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Jordan said. “I don’t care how good you are.”

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