Daily Egyptian

Saluki football notebook: Scouting the Owls, SIU’s first opponent

Players+race+for+the+ball+during+SIU%27s+fall+football+scrimmage+Saturday%2C+Aug.+20%2C+2016%2C+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Ryan+Michalesko+%7C+%40photosbylesko%29
Players race for the ball during SIU's fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Players race for the ball during SIU's fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Players race for the ball during SIU's fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Jacob Gaertner

Saluki football will take the field for the first time under coach Nick Hill this weekend.

SIU football will face Florida Atlantic University on Saturday in a matchup between Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams.

FAU is coming off of 3-9 seasons in 2015 and 2014, behind third-year coach Charlie Partridge and a fifth-place finish in Conference USA’s East division. FAU is Partridge’s first head coaching gig.

Advertisement

In 2015, the Owls finished 10th out of 13 teams in Conference USA in scoring offense with 22.5 points while totaling 377 yards of offense per game — 81st out of 128 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Freshman cornerback James Ceasar attempts to block freshman wide receiver Mason Wilfong on Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016, during practice at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Freshman cornerback James Ceasar attempts to block freshman wide receiver Mason Wilfong on Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016, during practice at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

FAU’s starting quarterback is redshirt sophomore Jason Driskel, who started two games and passed for 965 yards with three touchdowns to four interceptions in 2015. Driskel’s brother, Jeff, was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Just like the Owls, SIU will enter the season with a new quarterback in senior Josh Straughan, who passed for 5,470 yards and 53 touchdowns in 24 games while at Stallman College in then-Division II in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Florida Atlantic lost its leader in all-purpose yards in 2015, wide receiver Jenson Stoshak, who totaled 972 yards. Stoshak also led the team with 820 receiving yards, 442 yards more than the next receiver.

FAU’s strongest asset is its run game, which finished fifth in yards in Conference USA in 2015. Both starting running backs from last year, junior Greg Howell and senior Jay Warren, will return. The two combined for 1,047 of the team’s 1,977 rushing yards.

MORE: Hill looks to get Salukis back to the top in MVFC

If the Owls prioritize their run game, it could cause major issues for SIU, which ranked 116th out of 123 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision in rush defense. They allowed 240.2 yards per game on the ground.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Owls finished as a middling defense in Conference USA. They were sixth in scoring defense (28.8 points allowed per game), sixth in passing defense (236.7) and seventh in rushing defense (168.4).

Saluki football players gather around a coach to study a play during practice Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Saluki football players gather around a coach to study a play during practice Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

In the offseason, the Owls lost cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, who led the team with four interceptions in 2015. It also lost safety Sharrod Neasman, who tallied three picks and was the secondmost prolific tackler with 74 tackles.

SIU’s passing offense was top-10 in the FCS last season, throwing for an average of 298.5 yards per game under First Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference quarterback Mark Iannotti.

The Owls will return star defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who finished second in the FBS with 13.5 sacks last season, most on the team.

MORE: How SIU football will reel in $1M in three games

Another key defensive player is sophomore linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.

As a true freshman in 2015, Al-Shaair started every game, leading the team with 94 tackles and was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. He was also named to the 2016 C-USA preseason All-Conference team.

FAU also boasts the top punter in the FBS, senior Dalton Schomp, who led the nation with 48 net yards per punt.

Sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Jones catches a pass alongside sophomore safety Jefferson Vea on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, during practice at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Sophomore wide receiver Jimmy Jones catches a pass alongside sophomore safety Jefferson Vea on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, during practice at Saluki Stadium. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Florida Atlantic has a 3-7 record in its past 10 season opening games, while SIU has 6-4.

The game will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.

Check back with dailyegyptian.com for live updates of the game.

Staff writer Jacob Gaertner can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JGaertnerDE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU football news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertisement

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




The student news site of Southern Illinois University