Salukis yet to name 2014 starter

By Tony McDaniel

Replacing Kory Faulkner will be a big task for the Salukis to tackle, but the pieces are in place to do so.

The SIU roster has three players listed at quarterback: juniors Matt Vincent and Mark Iannotti, along with sophomore Ryan West. With the starting quarterback spot open, all three players could find themselves in that role in the fall.

Along with a new signal caller, the team has a new quarterback coach. Nick Hill joined the staff to pass on some of his knowledge. Hill played quarterback for the Salukis from 2004 to 2007 and is the single season record-holder at SIU for completion percentage, passing yards and touchdown passes.

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“It’s been an open quarterback competition,” Hill said. “They’ve all proved that they can go in there and get the job done, now somebody has just got to step up and take the job.”

Hill said the team would make its selection based on key characteristics that all Saluki quarterbacks have had.

“Number one, he’s got to be tough. The best quarterbacks here have always been tough, starting with Joel Sambursky,” he said. “They’ve got to be a leader, they’ve got to be able to get their teammates to follow them.”

West is the only quarterback on the roster with any experience at SIU. In 2013, West played seven games for the Dawgs during Faulkner’s absence because of a broken finger. West completed 63 of 127 passes for six touchdowns last year.

He said the competition this spring has been competitive, but still friendly.

“We always want the best for whoever is out there, we want them to do great,” West said. “When you get in there you just want to relax out there. Just trust what you see and go from there.”

Vincent will return for his senior season in 2014, and if he wins the starting job, will get his first taste of game action. Vincent passed for more than 5,000 yards during his high school career in Florida.

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Vincent said the main thing Hill has him working on are the fundamentals of playing quarterback.

“Footwork and mechanics, that’s it,” Vincent said. “He doesn’t care how hard you throw or how far you throw.”

The third and final quarterback on the team is also one of its newest members.

Iannotti transferred to SIU from Eastern Michigan University earlier this spring, he only attempted one pass in his sophomore season. Iannotti was part of a roster that contained five quarterbacks including Tyler Benz and Brogan Roback who split time at quarterback last season.

Hill said Iannotti has done a good job since joining the Salukis.

“He’s always got a positive attitude,” he said. “Being new, transferring in here mid-semester he came in and hit the ground running as far as doing what he needs to do with his teammates, and being a leader. He’s done a great job.”

In the three official scrimmages the Salukis have held this season, all three quarterbacks have stood out at least once.

In the first scrimmage it was Vincent who stood out, completing five of eight passes with two touchdowns. Iannotti also showed off his arm in that same scrimmage; he threw for 112 yards and a touchdown.

Friday night in the maroon and white game, it was West who threw for two touchdowns.

Head coach Dale Lennon said all three passers have played well this spring and he is not prepared to name a starter.

“Right now they are doing what we want them to do,” he said. “I’m not disappointed in any one of the three, so that’s what makes the choice right now a little difficult… It’s going to be a battle going into pre-fall.”

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

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