Daily Egyptian

Column: Depth may be Saluki football’s greatest strength

Junior+cornerback+Craig+James+sprints+onto+the+field+Saturday%2C+Sept.+10%2C+2016%2C+before+the+start+of+SIU%27s+30-22+win+against+Southeast+Missouri+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Morgan+Timms+%7C+%40Morgan_Timms%29
Junior cornerback Craig James sprints onto the field Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, before the start of SIU's 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Junior cornerback Craig James sprints onto the field Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, before the start of SIU's 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Junior cornerback Craig James sprints onto the field Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, before the start of SIU's 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri at Saluki Stadium. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Sean Carley

Saturday saw football coach Nick Hill win his first game as a head coach, but what may have been most impressive was the personnel that got the job done.

Multiple players contributed in roles larger than expected.

The biggest surprise came from true freshman cornerback James Ceasar.

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With the two starters at cornerback out, Ceasar was plunged into the No. 3 cornerback role and proved himself.

Ceasar only finished with one tackle, but that’s because he wouldn’t let his receivers catch the ball.

With a game-high three pass breakups and a crucial fumble return for a touchdown, the freshman made an impact so huge Hill even called his performance “unbelievable.”

Freshman cornerback James Ceasar runs toward the end zone during the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Freshman cornerback James Ceasar runs toward the end zone during the Salukis’ 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

What made his performance so unbelievable is what can’t be found on a stat sheet. Multiple times yesterday, Ceasar dove around intended receivers and made things difficult for wideouts all night.

Another freshman cornerback, redshirt Kerwin McElvaney, made his presence felt in his first career start, blanketing receivers all night and earning a pass breakup of his own.

Even the special teams displayed some depth as freshman kicker Matt Sotiropoulos hit three field goals in Saturday’s contest, which tied an SIU record for field goals in a game.

MORE: From helmets to headsets: Nick Hill’s rise to SIU football’s head coach

None of them were longer than 40 yards, but the consistency was a sight for Saluki fans’ sore eyes.

If he can continue his strong debut, he can become a fan favorite quickly.

On offense, there were no breakout stars, just consistent performances throughout.

No Saluki running back had a rush for negative yards, and all three did what was expected.

Sophomore running back Daquan Isom takes the ball down the field during the Salukis' 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Sophomore running back Daquan Isom takes the ball down the field during the Salukis’ 30-22 win against Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Sophomore Daquan Isom sparked big plays all night, sophomore Jonathan Mixon delivered between the tackles to get tough yardage and senior Aaron Stanton threw the defense off as a change-of-pace back.

The wide receivers all contributed as well. Eight players caught a pass and none had more than three.

When a team wins with no one single player looking incredible compared to others, that comes as a result of good team play. If the Dawgs can continue to receive contributions two or three players deep on the depth chart, this season may reap more benefits than expected.

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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