Little room to improve

By Gus Bode

SIU’s top-ranked defense looking to be even better

So how do you better something that is already the best?

That is the job that has befell the SIU football team’s defensive unit. A year removed from the Salukis’ defining year defensively in which the led the nation in scoring defense, they are already looking for areas to improve.

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For two-year starter Jamarquis Jordan, it’s hard to find holes in such a cohesive unit.

“This is going to be the best year for our defense. This will be the best defense I’ve played on ever,” Jordan said. “They’re so much experience on the (defensive) line, the linebackers, the secondary. And a lot of people say we’re weak at corner, but I don’t believe so.”

Even with the suspension of expected contributor Brandon Bruner, the Salukis don’t expect to suffer in the backfield.

Having depth at the position is something defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys is pleased about. He said he has so many options; it will be hard to sort through the field of candidates.

“The most competition’s at corner. And I’m really pleased there because they’ve really done well,” Claeys said. “… And it’s actually a good problem. Because it’s not where we’ve got two. We feel like there’s four or five kids that can help us, we’ve just got to decide in what order.”

Jordan and Frank Johnson are a group of senior safeties expected to lead the SIU secondary. After a successful 2004 regular-season campaign was tainted by a couple missed tackles in the playoffs, Jordan said the senior-laden group is even more determined this year after the experience.

“As far as the secondary, we have to make those tackles,” Jordan said. “We’re the last line of defense. If I miss a tackle, there’s a chance that they could go to the house. And I’d hate to be that man to let the team down.”

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Jordan and Johnson aren’t the only two bashing the dreams of the opposing quarterback.

Patrick Jordan and Kyle Colburn will contribute behind Jordan and Johnson.

Brad Brachear and Larry Taylor are being labeled as players to watch at the cornerback position. Also, at the free safety position, Marlon Heaston and A.J. Wallace have the duty of replacing three-time All-American Alexis Moreland.

With all the senior leadership and experience, Claeys said the secondary will be the best it’s ever been.

Even better than last year.

“Whether the results end up the same or not, I believe from the end of last season on, we will be better on the defensive end this year because it’ll be the best group of seniors we’ve had,” Claeys said. “They’ve been through a lot. They take great pride and a lot of them have three years starting experience. And you can’t replace that experience.”

The plethora of talent swarming in the backfield will all be centered around Jamarquis Jordan and Johnson, though.

What they say goes, and the rest of the pass coverage follows their lead.

“(Jordan and Johnson) are great players,” said head coach Jerry Kill. “The bottom line is they’re division one athletes, division one players, outstanding young men. There’s no question that they’re the leaders of our secondary.”

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