With the loss of the Missouri Valley Conference career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions among tight ends, the SIU football team will look to the next man up to step in.
Senior Adam Fuehne has the chance to be the Salukis’ top tight end for the 2015 season with the departure of MyCole Pruitt. Pruitt, a three-time All-American who graduated in December, is a projected third or fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, according to CBS Sports.
Fuehne said he has embraced the first-string role.
“It feels good,” Fuehne said. “I like that my teammates look to me to make plays on third down whenever we need it.”
The 6-foot 7-inch 260-pound Fuehne has started 11 games in his career, compiling 19 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown. He has only missed one game in his career.
Fuehne has spent the majority of his career as the second tight end on the Saluki depth chart. He said he does not let Pruitt’s accomplishments overshadow his goals for this fall.
“I’m not trying to replace MyCole,” Fuehne said. “I’m just trying to be the best that I can be every day.”
Despite this, Fuehne said he keeps in mind that Pruitt has taught him about route running and blocking in the past three years.
Coach Dale Lennon said the SIU roster is built to handle the loss of Pruitt.
“We’ve always have good depth at the tight end spot,” Lennon said. “These guys coming back have experience. When you lose a guy like MyCole, that’s tough to replace, but fortunately we’ve done enough with the tight ends that we feel good about the four coming back.”
The other three tight ends on SIU’s roster have combined for 2 career receptions. Senior Josh Skadeland, junior Shaq Findlater and sophomore John Gardner will compete to be Fuehne’s primary backup.
Lennon said the lack of in-game experience is no excuse for those three to underperform when their chances come.
“They’re all very talented,” Lennon said. “There’s a reason why they’re still in the program. They’re familiar with the system. We expect that when they’re in there, they’re going to produce.”
Tight ends coach Keith Murphy said the Salukis’ offensive scheme would not be drastically changed with Pruitt’s departure.
“We had some things that we did specifically for Pruitt sometimes,” Murphy said. “But Adam and the backups are plenty capable of being part of the offense just like MyCole was.”
Murphy said in addition to the Salukis’ natural tight ends, another player could see time at tight end—sophomore fullback Hans Carmien.
Although Carmien was used primarily in the backfield as a redshirt freshman in 2014, he caught 6 passes for 15 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Murphy said Skadeland is currently No. 2 on the depth chart, but SIU does not play its first game until Sept. 5. Gardner and Findlater will have plenty of time to work their way up the depth chart.
As far as taking over the No. 1 spot, Murphy said they have less of a chance.
“[Fuehne]’s been waiting for a long time for this,” Murphy said. “So I don’t think he’s going to give it up.”
Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269