Junior transfer will start at quarterback

By Tony McDaniel

SIU football has found its replacement for departed quarterback Kory Faulkner for the 2014 season.

Head coach Dale Lennon announced junior transfer student Mark Iannotti will start the team’s first game of the season against Taylor University. Iannotti has been engaged in a battle for the starting spot with sophomore Ryan West and junior Matt Vincent since the beginning of spring practices in March.

“Mark Iannotti has done everything we’ve been looking for in a starting quarterback,” Lennon said. “He’s earned the position.”

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Vincent was eliminated from the race for the starting spot when he entered camp with a laceration on his throwing hand.

Saturday’s scrimmage offered a showdown between Iannotti and West as both passers were able to take reps with the first string offense. Iannotti was 7 for 15 with 91 yards and a touchdown while West was 5 for 12 with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Iannotti said he has benefitted from the coaching style of first-year quarterback coach Nick Hill.

“I love coach Hill,” Iannotti said. “He brings so much energy to the practice field and you’re not afraid to fail. You’re going out; you’re playing to win instead of playing not to lose.”

Iannotti joined the Salukis in the spring after transferring from Football Bowl Subdivision school Eastern Michigan University. Iannotti attempted just one pass in his stint with the Eagles.

West entered camp as the only quarterback with significant starting experience at the collegiate level. West played in seven games last season throwing for 675 yards, 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions after Faulkner suffered a hand injury.

West said he was disappointed to lose the job to Iannotti, but will not change his approach on the field.

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“I’m still gonna practice like I am the starter, and also come game time I’m going to prepare like I am going to be the starter,” West said. “Mark’s the starter and as a position group we have to have his back.”

Iannotti said he and senior wide receiver Tay Willis have already started building solid chemistry as a passing tandem.

“We’ve been working out on our own all summer,” Iannotti said. “Whenever I want to come out here and throw I give him a call. So I can definitely say my timing and connection with him has been going really great. He’s definitely one of my go-to guys.”

The Saluki offense can boast its speed; Iannotti said he is excited about the offense’s potential.

“If we got a lot of one on one matchups with Tay (Willis) and LaSteven (McKinney) outsideā€¦ there’s not a lot of people who can cover them one on one.” he said.

Lennon compared Iannotti to former Saluki quarterback Joel Sambursky.

“He has that toughness. He can run the football, he’s not scared to run the football. That will be part of our offensive game plan,” he said. “Nothing scares him. Sometimes he’ll make a bad throw but he’ll bounce right back from it and come back with an even better throw. I just love his competitiveness.”

SIU football will kick off its season at 7 p.m, August 28th at Saluki Stadium against Taylor University.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282

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