Saluki quarterback race wide open

By Thomas Donley, @TdonleyDE

After SIU football’s 6-6 2014 season left no clear-cut starter at quarterback, the Saluki signal callers are ready to get on the field and show what they can do this spring. 

Senior Mark Iannotti, junior Ryan West, and redshirt freshmen Matt DeSomer and Sam Straub are all vying for the starting spot for 2015. 

Despite spending most of last season as the starter, Iannotti does not think the starting job is his to lose. 

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“When you go 6-6, something obviously wasn’t working,” Iannotti said. “I don’t see it as anybody’s position. I feel like we’re all on an even level.” 

Iannotti started 10 games as a junior last year after transferring from Eastern Michigan. He threw for 2,241 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 12 games at SIU.

West started two games and saw action in four more in 2014. He amassed 599 yards, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions as a sophomore. The Salukis went 3-1 in West’s four starts as a redshirt freshman in 2013. 

West said he needs to be more conservative with the ball to win the starting job. The longest-tenured of SIU’s signal callers, he said his knowledge of the Saluki system and quick release give him an advantage against the other quarterbacks. 

DeSomer and Straub redshirted last year as first-year freshmen. 

DeSomer is the all-time leader at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., in rushing yards and touchdowns and second in passing yards. 

Straub is the career leader in completions, passing yards and touchdowns at Ames High School in Iowa. 

Iannotti closed last season with a 266-yard, 2-touchdown passing performance at FCS national runner-up Illinois State. 

Quarterbacks coach Nick Hill said although Iannotti played well in the season’s final game, he does not have the starting job locked down. 

“Iannotti is in with the [first string] right now,” Hill said Friday. “But they’re all going to get a shot. Nobody’s got a starting spot right now.” 

Iannotti said if he had to accept a backup role, he would do so graciously. 

“It’s a friendly competition,” Iannotti said. “The coaches have to put the best players on the field. If that’s not me, I have to evaluate myself. ‘What could I have done to win the starting job?’” 

West said the idea of carrying a clipboard this fall is hard to stomach. 

“That would be pretty hard,” West said. “I wanted [the starting job] pretty bad last year, but this year, I want it even more.” 

Coach Dale Lennon said even though no player has separated himself yet, he has been encouraged by what he has seen out of his quarterbacks. 

“All four have done really well, so it’s going to be interesting,” Lennon said. “Iannotti has the experience. Ryan West has played a lot of football. Sam Straub has a good look and DeSomer has a lot of intangibles. Right now, I like what I’m seeing.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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