Redshirt freshman no underdawg in SIU quarterback battle

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

For SIU football’s redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Hearn, starting over a fifth-year transfer isn’t out of the question.

“I don’t feel like an underdog at all,” Hearn said. “Coach [Nick Hill] knows what I can do.”

On Jan. 14, a Football Championship Subdivision scout tweeted that the quarterback battle between fifth-year transfer Josh Straughan and sophomore Sam Straub will be an intense fight. 


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Football fans, like this scout, may believe that a sophomore, and certainly a fifth-year transwer, would have the leg up on Hearn.

Hearn takes exception to this assumtion and said tweets like that motivate him.

“I want to see them tweeting about me instead of others,” he said. “But it’s OK, it makes me work harder.”

Hearn spent his redshirt season learning from then-senior quarterback Mark Iannotti, who led the FCS with 355.6 yards of total offense per game.

Hill said Iannotti was a good example of what he calls “knowing when to punt” — knowing when it’s time to make a throw and when not to, knowing if it’s early in the game and not worth turning the ball over.

“That’s when you become a good quarterback,” he said. “Those are things [Hearn will] learn and we’ll put him in those situations at practice.”


Hearn said learning the game while redshirting was critical. He worked with the first-team defense during practice last season as part of the scout team. During games he helped call out the defensive coverage.

The Orlando native said he learned to react to different game situations and got to sit around with Iannotti, Straub and sophomore wide receiver Matt DeSomer — who was used sparingly as a quarterback  and learn the game of football as a whole from them.

Straub said he tries to act as a role model for the younger quarterback, who became Hearn’s roommate for road games during the second half of last season.

“I don’t know if it’s really my job to teach him anything … but I try to be a great example of how to work hard,” he said. “Quarterbacks don’t take a back seat in conditioning and we stand tall, the basic stuff about being a good leader.”

Coming out of high school, Hill said Hearn was exactly what he was looking for: an athletic passer who can run, make the first guy miss in the pocket and has the arm strength to make all the throws. Despite this, he said Hearn needed the redshirt not only to improve, but to save a year of eligibility as the team had two senior quarterbacks.

While Hearn doesn’t consider himself a scrambling quarterback, he said he can move a little better than his teammates. He also said all the passers have strong arms — a trait Hearn would prefer to show off when spring practices roll around in about a month. He said he likes to sling the ball down field, but he can run when it is needed.

Hearn has an added incentive to win the starting job as the season kicks off 150 miles from his home when SIU plays Florida Atlantic on Sept. 3. His family made the nearly-900 mile trip to Carbondale twice last season.

“I want family to be there,” he said. “I want to be starting in my home state. I want to be able to play in front of people I know.”

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