How SIU football’s new faces could fill the void left by seniors

Saluki football players celebrate on the sidelines after their 38-31 overtime victory against Youngstown State University at the homecoming game Oct. 24, 2015, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Saluki football players celebrate on the sidelines after their 38-31 overtime victory against Youngstown State University at the homecoming game Oct. 24, 2015, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

The Saluki football team will be under the direction of Nick Hill this season and members of his first recruiting class could play right away.

SIU finished last season 3-8, with six losses by less than a touchdown. This year’s recruiting class and transfer total, as of Wednesday, is 23.

Here’s a look at the offense and my predictions for the starters:



PREDICTED STARTER: Josh Straughan | BACKUP: Sam Straub

The Dawgs have to replace senior quarterback Mark Iannotti, who led the Football Championship Subdivision in total offense with 355.6 yards per game. He also set single-season SIU records in passing yards and total offense.

Jhakari Harrison, the lone high school quarterback recruit this year, had more than 100 throwing and rushing touchdowns in his time at Coconut Creek High School — including eight touchdown passes in his final game.

Fifth-year graduate senior Josh Straughan transferred to the team from Division II Stillman College where he threw for 5,470 yards and 53 touchdowns.

Sophomores Matt DeSomer and Sam Straub return with limited experience under center at SIU. They combined for 40 passing yards last season.

Hill and offensive coordinator John Van Dam also have freshman Tanner Hearn at their disposal this season. He redshirted last season.


All but DeSomer, who is listed as a wide receiver, are pocket passers. Iannotti offered a scramble option last season and led the team with 716 rushing yards.

Hill said DeSomer would get another chance at quarterback, his preferred position, and his athleticism will let the team continue to use a wildcat formation at times.

Straub had the best arm of all the quarterbacks last season, including Iannotti. I predict he and Straughan battle for the spot while Hearn and DeSomer offer much-needed alternative help behind center. With such depth at quarterback, the Dawgs should redshirt Harrison  unless he shows everyone else up during workouts.


PREDICTED STARTERS: Jaylin Carter (TE) | Isreal Lamprakes, Billy Reed, Jimmy Jones (WR)

SIU will be without two of its tight ends, Adam Fuehne and Josh Skadeland, from last season. Fuehne was fifth on the team with 25 receptions.

The Dawgs will likely turn to incoming freshman Jaylin Carter at the tight end spot.

“He kind of has that look MyCole [Pruitt] had and he’s taller than MyCole,” Hill said.

SIU has junior John Gardner, no game experience, and Hunter Cooper and Jacob Varble, redshirt freshmen, on roster as tight ends.

The Dawgs also welcomed three new wide receivers joining the nine still on the team.

Incoming freshman Sam Bonansinga shows the most upside on paper, even though he’s the smallest of the three at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds — the same weight and height as Lamprakes.

Bonansinga played every down on both sides of the ball during the Illinois State Championship game his junior year, securing back-to-back state championships at Sacred Heart-Griffin. As a senior he recorded 1,034 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

Senior Israel Lamprakes is applying for a sixth season through medical redshirt from missing the 2012 season due to injury. Last season he had 31 receptions for 381 yards and four touchdowns.

SIU will also have senior Billy Reed and sophomores Jimmy Jones and Darrell James returning after accounting for 48 percent of the team’s receiving yards and half of the touchdowns last season. 

Even though Landon Lenoir and Mason Wilfong may be factors in future seasons, look for Bonansinga to be only freshman to get regular playing time.


PREDICTED STARTERS: Austin Olsen (LT) | Reid Sealby (LG) | Devin Brunetti (C) | Hayden LaPointe (RG) | Adam Clay (RT)SIU’s offensive line lost five of last season’s regular players, including tackles Ethan Wirth, David Meyerhoff, Jake Notario, and centers Garrett Clark and Matt Griffith.

They were all part of the line that blocked for the No. 1 total, scoring and passing offense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They also allowed the fewest sacks in the Valley, despite having the most pass attempts. The five players combined for 39 starts last season.

The recruiting class included two offensive linemen: Hayden LaPointe and Matt Chmielewski.

Hill said LaPointe is one of the best lineman recruits he’s seen at SIU, but the team will have to develop him. Chmielewski blocked for a Lockport team that totaled more than 1,000 rushing yards last season and he finished as an honorable mention All-State selection. 

Junior center Devin Brunetti transferred to SIU from Mesa Community College (Arizona) where he played in two games as a sophomore, according to the team’s website.

SIU will return eight offensive tackles and redshirt freshman center Jacob Marnin.

Junior Austin Olsen returns after starting all 11 games at left tackle last season and senior Reid Sealby returns after starting four games at left guard and one at right guard.

None of the other returning guards started a game and Adam Clay joins Sealby as a returning senior


STARTER: Nico Gualdoni (K) | Nicholas Neidig (P)

The Salukis retained senior kicker Austin Johnson, junior punter Nicholas Neidig, redshirt freshman kicker Josh Haynes and incoming freshman K/P Nico Gualdoni.

Gualdoni could take over for graduated kicker Chris Adams on kickoffs as Hill said he already kicks as far as Johnson does. The Johnston City native will battle with Herrin native Haynes for the kickoffs while Johnson stays focused on field goals and extra points.

Johnson took all the field goals last season, finishing 14-22 with a long of 51 yards.

Adams took all 71 of the team’s kickoffs last season, averaging 58.4 yards and 14 touchbacks with the opposition averaging 19.8 yards per return.

Graduated punter Derek Matthewson took all 46 of the team’s punts, averaging 43.1 yards and kicking for six touchbacks and 17 fair catches. He landed 13 inside of the 20-yard line and nine went for 50 or more yards.

Neidig did not play last season but was the primary punter the season before. As a redshirt freshman he averaged 39.4 yards per punt with five touchbacks, 14 fair catches, 13 inside the 20-yard line and six longer than 50 yards.

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333