Daily Egyptian

Front five paving the way for Saluki offense

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

They do not get a lot of love in the box score, but the big Dawgs up front have put together a solid season so far for SIU football. 

The Saluki offensive line blocks for the top rushing offense in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and has allowed the fewest sacks in the MVFC.

SIU has rushed for an average of 222.7 yards per game, leading the conference and 17th in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Salukis have given up four sacks, tied for fourth-fewest nationally.

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SIU’s offensive line has been consistent in its composition all year. Saturday’s 38-31 overtime win against No. 16 Youngstown State was the first time all season a week one starter sat out for a game. Junior Reid Sealby stepped in at left guard in place of junior David Meyerhoff as a result of a decision by the coaching staff.

Sophomore left tackle Austin Olsen, senior center Garrett Clark, junior right guard Jake Notario and senior right tackle Ethan Wirth have started all seven games for SIU this season. Meyerhoff started the first six.

Co-offensive coordinator Nick Hill said the line is one of the most important position groups to keep intact.

“Going into the season, if you could pick one position to stay healthy, you’d like it to be your starting quarterback and your offensive line,” Hill said. “We need to continue to stay healthy, and they’ve been doing a good job.”

The 2014 Salukis had only two offensive linemen, senior center Tanner Crum and senior guard/tackle Cory Boemer, start every game. Seven different linemen started at least three games.

Clark said this year’s consistency has helped build trust among the offensive line.

“It really helps us know how each other plays,” Clark said. “I can count on the guys next to me, and it just makes everything run smoother. Being the center, you make a lot of calls. Being able to say to the guy next to me, ‘Hey, I need you to do this,’ and him understanding really helps.”

The SIU offensive linemen have earned recognition from outside the program as well. Olsen was named the MVFC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week for his part in the Salukis’ 73-26 win over Missouri State on Oct. 10. The Salukis racked up 673 yards of total offense and did not allow a sack.

Wirth received the same honor after SIU’s 47-46 loss at Indiana Sept. 5. The Salukis gained 649 yards in the game, 248 of them on the ground, and allowed one sack.

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

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