2016 MVFC Preview: Southern Illinois

2015 Record: 3-8 (2-6)

Key Returnees: RB Daquan Isom, WR Billy Reed, LB Chase Allen, LB Markese Jackson

Key Losses: QB Mark Iannotti, S James Kenny, S DJ Cameron, CB Ryan Neal

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Between 2003 and 2009 the Salukis were one of the biggest names in the nation. Jerry Kill build a program that went 70-19 with 5 conference titles over that time. Never once did they finish with less than 9 wins. Kill had the best of both worlds – a dynamite offense and a brick wall defense. Kill left after the 2007 season and in came Dale Lennon to ride the wave of Kill’s roster. The honeymoon quickly wore off as Lennon took one of the best programs in the nation and turned them into a “Yeah, they used to be good” type program. What’s the future hold for the Salukis and new head coach, Saluki legend, Nick Hill?

It’s a good thing Coach Hill knows the quarterback position as well as he does, as that is a major question mark for this season with the loss of Mark Iannotti, who was the best offensive player in the conference last season – I don’t care what the award lists said. Iannotti accounted for more yards than Missouri State (by a factor of two), South Dakota (by a full games worth of yards), and was about one half of football behind Indiana State….by himself. Hill has options as he has 4 quarterbacks on the roster, but only one has taken snaps at the D1 level, Matt DeSormer who spent more time at wide receiver and running back last season as he had 23 rushes, 10 receptions and just 3 pass attempts. The best option, that I can see, is a D2 transfer, Josh Straughan. In three seasons at Stillman College  he completed 468 passes, for 5,470 yards and 53 touchdowns. He appears to be of the same type of mold that Iannotti had been, but even getting to half of Iannotti’s numbers is going to be tough given the offensive line. A large part of what made Iannotti great was his ability to make plays when nothing else was there.

The bright spot, and focus, for the Saluki offense this year will be running back Daquan Isom. Last season he was a second-team all conference selection as a return specialist and started 5 games at running back. He finished last season 10th in the conference in rushing yards per game, 7th in receptions per game, and ranked 7th nationally in all purpose yards per game. He has the speed and shiftiness to get the end-zone on every single touch. I have some concerns regarding him holding up over the course of a season given his size, 5’8 178 lbs. We’ve seen other backs that size thrive in the MVFC, specifically Shakir Bell from Indiana State, but even he ended up a couple series per game, to entire halves or games, due to the beating he took from being the feature back. There is a stable with 7 other running backs on the roster, but none have the game breaking ability of Isom. The loss of Iannotti could hurt here as well. Defenses had to react so hard to every move Iannotti make that it opened up cut back lanes for Isom to hit. It will be interesting to see how he develops this season. He also appeared to have issues with Dale Lennon towards the end of last season, that saw him suspended. Maybe Nick Hill moving into the HC role straightens those issues out.

Whoever is throwing the ball will have plenty of option to pick from at reciever as well as 8 of the top 10 from last season are back, including leading receiver Billy Reed who had 56 catches for 805 yards last season. The two that are gone are both tight ends, Josh Skadlenad (12 receptions) and Adam Fuehne (25 receptions). Perhaps the biggest gain the Salukis saw here is the granting of a 6th year to Israel Lamprakes, who lost 2011 and 2012 to injury. In 9 games last season he had 31 receptions for 381 yards. I know it’s easy to see how many guys are coming back and glance past this, but the leadership and knowledge that a guy like Israel can bring, and just added depth, can’t be overlooked.

This is where the positivity train ends for SIU. The defense at SIU the last few years has been horrendous, and last season was the low point for any SIU defense I remember seeing. If it wasn’t for all the attention Missouri State got for their historically bad defense last year more people would be aware just how awful the dawgs were on defense last season. While the offense scored 36.1 points and gained 498 yards per game the defense gave up 240 yards per game on the ground, 230 yards per game through the air, and 35 points per game. For those that don’t want to do that math that’s 468 yards per game given up. Yep, SIU had a historically good offense and their defense match it yard for yard and point for point. On the plus side, it really can’t get much worse here, right? The concern I have with Nick Hill is how he will fix the defense. He was a quarterback in college. He coached quarterbacks the last few seasons, he has limited to no defensive experience. He has made a smart hire in Kraig Paulson as defensive coordinator though. Paulson might be be known for his run at Montana where he made three national title games and produced multiple NFL defensive players. It’s not going to get better this year, or even next. Can Kraig get enough done to keep the trust of Hill to build a defense, given his starting point?


9/3 @ Florida Atlantic – L 0-1 0-0

9/10 Southeast Missouri – W 1-1 0-0

9/17 Murray State – W 2-1 0-0

10/1 @ Northern Iowa – L 2-2 0-1

10/8 South Dakota State – L 2-3 0-2

10/15 @ Illinois State – L 2-4 0-3

10/22 Indiana State – W 3-4 1-3

10/29 @ Missouri State – W 4-4 2-3

11/5 South Dakota – L  4-5 2-4

11/12 @ Youngstown State – L 4-6 2-5

11/19 Western Illinois – L 4-7 2-6

I really, really, want to give SIU the nod at FAU. I just don’t know the quarterback situation well enough to give it to them. SEMO could be a toss up, but barring another 6 INT performance from the SEMO defense I don’t see another loss. The only other game i could be talked into a Saluki win is South Dakota, but I think USD is a more rounded team and by that late in the season I think that’ll be a tough out for SIU. Better days may be a head for Saluki faithful, but I think they might be way a head.


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2010 graduate of The University of Northern Iowa. Resident loudmouth and stat nerd on AGS. Follow me on the Twitter, @cdl1018, for random blasts of MVFC stats and thoughts. Want to contribute to The FCS Wedge? Drop me a line on Twitter or email me at [email protected].

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