Daily Egyptian

Column: New SIU football players show promise for rest of season

SIU%E2%80%99s+Director+of+Broadcast+Operations+Mike+Reis+congratulates+newly-crowned+starting+quarterback+Josh+Straughan+alongside+senior+middle+linebacker+Chase+Allen+on+Wednesday%2C+Aug.+24%2C+2016%2C+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Athena+Chrysanthou+%7C+%40Chrysant1Athena%29
SIU’s Director of Broadcast Operations Mike Reis congratulates newly-crowned starting quarterback Josh Straughan alongside senior middle linebacker Chase Allen on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

SIU’s Director of Broadcast Operations Mike Reis congratulates newly-crowned starting quarterback Josh Straughan alongside senior middle linebacker Chase Allen on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

SIU’s Director of Broadcast Operations Mike Reis congratulates newly-crowned starting quarterback Josh Straughan alongside senior middle linebacker Chase Allen on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Sean Carley

Before SIU football’s season opener Saturday against Florida Atlantic, fans had multiple personnel questions across the roster.

The contest — which the Salukis lost 38-30 — provided an answer, one more positive than some may have expected.

Nine of the 22 starters in the game recorded their first as Salukis, and most proved effective.

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Picking a starting quarterback was the toughest decision new coach Nick Hill had to make in fall camp. When senior transfer Josh Straughan was chosen, it created another question.

Straughan answered loudly on Saturday, throwing for 367 yards on 36 completions with a touchdown.

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan launches a pass during SIU's fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Senior quarterback Josh Straughan launches a pass during SIU’s fall football scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Despite throwing 51 passes, he kept the ball out of opponents’ hands, which was a large issue last year, when the Dawgs turned the ball over 25 times.

Two other Salukis with strong first showings were the cornerback pair sophomore C.J. Jennings and junior Craig James.

The two combined for 10 total tackles, plus 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

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

Last season’s secondary got burned far too often. Saturday showed there’s still room to develop after the Dawgs allowed three 35-plus yard touchdown plays.

Overall, it appears that while not perfect yet, this year’s edition is improved.

But perhaps the most impressive newcomer was freshman running back D.J. Davis.

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

Players race for the ball during SIU’s fall football scrimmage Saturday at Saluki Stadium in Carbondale. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Two weeks ago, offensive coordinator John Van Dam said Davis, originally recruited as a cornerback, had been one of the most impressive Salukis during training camp. On Saturday, he showed why.

Davis provided in multiple facets of the game, picking up a big 20-yard run on a first quarter touchdown drive, averaging nearly 25 yards per kickoff return. He even recorded a special teams tackle.

The offensive line had three underclassmen make their first starts.

In terms of yardage, the Salukis won three quarters against a Football Bowl Subdivision team. The one quarter they didn’t is what did them in.

MORE: Two former Salukis cut by Detroit Lions

As time progresses, these new performers will mesh even closer with the mainstays of the team.

And as they do, this team could surpass expectations.

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

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

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