Several in-house candidates could replace Lennon

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

SIU football has a vacancy for its head coaching position and Athletic Director Tommy Bell may not have to search too hard to fill it.

Two Saluki assistant coaches have head coaching experience at the collegiate level, and another is on the rise as a college coach.

Bill O’Boyle, who served as assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator in 2015, posted a 57-21 record at Division II Chadron State College from 2005-11 as head coach.

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Former Saluki quarterback Kory Faulkner, who played from 2010-13, tweeted in support of O’Boyle following the announcement of Lennon’s dismissal.

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Colorado Mesa University head coach Russ Martin said he noticed O’Boyle’s knack for bringing out the best in his players during O’Boyle’s tenure at CSC.

“Their guys played with a tremendous passion,” he said during an interview in October. “They played with more passion than anybody I’d ever seen.”

O’Boyle may not profile as a head coach at the Division I level after shying away from media this season by deferring questions to co-offensive coordinator Nick Hill. 

Defensive coordinator David Elson is the only SIU assistant with experience as a Division I head coach. Elson was the head coach at Western Kentucky from 2003-09.

In Elson’s first five seasons, the Hilltoppers went 37-22 and made two NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances.

WKU moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2008, resulting in a 2-22 record in Elson’s final two seasons in Bowling Green, Ky.

The Saluki defense was historically awful in 2015, which was Elson’s first season as defensive coordinator of the team. The Dawgs gave up more than 5,000 yards for the first time in school history.

Despite having just two years of experience as a college coach, Hill is another candidate to replace Lennon.

Former Salukis including Deji Karim and Brandon Jacobs voiced their support of Hill on Twitter following the announcement of Lennon’s ouster.

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Hill coached Carbondale High School to the Illinois High School Association playoffs in 2013 before joining the SIU staff as the quarterbacks coach in the 2014 season.

Current CHS Athletic Director Mark Albertini said in an interview last year he would not be surprised if Hill was a collegiate coach in five to 10 years.

Quarterback Mark Iannotti threw for 22 touchdown passes last year, which at the time tied him with Joel Sambursky and Scott Gabbert for the third-highest single-season total in Saluki history.

Hill was promoted to co-offensive coordinator after his only season as quarterbacks coach. SIU offense put up 5,479 yards this season — the third-highest single season total in history and the most since 2007 when Hill was a senior quarterback for the Salukis.

Hill will be 31 next season. His experience may work against him, as Bell may opt for a more seasoned leader for 2016. 

However, Bell would be mistaken to not consider external candidates for the job also. A possible replacement for Lennon could be Western Illinois coach Bob Nielson, who guided the Leathernecks to the playoffs this season. 

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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