Stone Cold: Labanowitz wins quarterback battle

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

At the end of fall camp on Monday, Aug. 19, SIU football head coach Nick Hill announced the starter pick as junior Stone Labanowitz via Twitter on the Saluki football page.

SIU football is scheduled to play SEMO on Aug. 29 and throughout fall camp, three quarterbacks were battling it out for to be named the starter for Southern after they finished last season 2-9.

The quarterback battle had been ongoing since the spring and senior running back DJ Davis enjoyed the passion each player brought.


“They’ve got hearts of a lion, I love that when I see that in a player,” Davis said. “All of them showed me that they’ve got heart  and they’re willing to go and do what they gotta do to get that offense moving.”

Head Coach Nick Hill said he had been impressed with Labanowitz, junior Kare Lyles and freshman Nic Baker as they competed for the starting quarterback position. 

“I think they’ve all done a good job,” Hill said. “I do think really we found out we have three quarterbacks that I feel comfortable [with] them being able to lead SIU to a win.”

Despite the fact that Hill had been impressed by all three, he had said that he was going to choose one as the starter and not rotate between two.

“We’re going to pick one quarterback, they’ve all got to be ready to go,” Hill said. 

Hill  had said that he would listen to the seniors and the leadership council as to who they might choose as the new starting quarterback.

“I think […] seniors on your team, your leadership council, that’s part of their role [to evaluate the feel of the locker room],” Hill said. “Not per se as far as the play; I think that’s up to the coaches to see who’s playing better.”


After the finish to last year’s season, Hill hired almost all new coaching staff including a new offensive coordinator.

Davis said the offense has shown its potential to be a dual threat over fall camp.

“Obviously, I like that we can run the ball but throwing it as well,” Davis said. “We have to be able to do both. We have to be a dual offense.”

Last season the offense put up 30 points per game but the defense struggled, giving up 41 points per game.

“The defense is doing amazing this year with all the new things that they are doing,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a totally different defense this year.”

Senior linebacker Cody Crider has enjoyed the new scheme under the new defensive coordinator. 

“Personally, I love it. I think it’s simple [but] not too simple. We can mix it up a lot,” Crider said. “As far as the defense as a whole goes, I think we’re just coming together.”

This year marks the fifth year on the team for Crider, due to injuries, and he said he believes this team feels different. 

“I’ve never felt like more of this team as a family,” Crider said. “It’s a different feeling you know I can’t really explain it. There is just something different about it.”

Hill said he believes each team has its own challenges and every year the team takes on a different personality. 

“I think every team is different; for me, I’ve liked all of our teams,” Hill said. “They all create different challenges and positive things you miss from different ones.”

Hill agreed with Crider that this team has latched on to the idea of family and being one group of players.

“This team has bought into that, loving each other and a commitment to discipline and consistency,” Hill said. “Knowing that we need each other, maybe that’s more of what we’ve done in the offseason, emphasizing that.”

Hill said that the margin for victory could come down to that family mindset as Southern plays in the MVFC with teams like North Dakota State, who won the FCS championship last season.

“I truly believe that’s what separates teams, the margin for victory. Especially in our league; you play so many great teams,” Hill said. “You see our schedule: 12 games and two FBS schools. SEMO is ranked in the top 25.”

HIll said a lot of getting through a tough schedule well is leaning on your teammates and being disciplined.

“Trusting your teammates, loving your teammates— that extra accountability and discipline,” Hill said. “That’s what that extra three or four or five wins are in those close games in my opinion.”

The Salukis will begin their season Aug. 29 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri for the annual War of the Wheel game. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

Adam Warfel, Sports Editor, can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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