#25 Southern Illinois FCS Football 2020 Preview

Southern Illinois Salukis
Overall Rank: #25
#5 Missouri Valley
Southern Illinois Logo 
Southern Illinois got off to a slow start last season and that even included a victory over Umass. But a 2-4 start made it difficult for the Salukis to get into the playoffs. Coach Nick Hill and company made a nice attempt at it though, winning their next five games before a tough 21-7 loss against North Dakota State kept them just out of their first playoff appearance since 2009.
2019 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2019 Postseason: None
Coach: Nick Hill (17-28 at Southern Illinois, 17-28 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Blake Rolan
Defensive Coordinator: Jason Petrino
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Javon Williams, RB, 1,038 yards
Passing: Kare’ Lyles, QB, 1.569 yards
Receiving: Avante Cox, WR, 617 yards
Tackles: Qua Brown, S, 105
Sacks: Makel Calhoun, LB, 7.0
Interceptions: Qua Brown, S, 1; Chance Bush, CB, 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Romeir Elliott, WR Landon Lenoir, OL ZeVeyon Furcron, LB Cody Crider, LB Bryson Strong, S Joe Patterson, CB Jonathan Thompson
Key Losses: RB D.J. Davis, OL Ernest Dye Jr, S Jeremy Chinn, CB Madre Harper, CB Tre’ Strong
The Salukis had a great ground game in 2019 with both Javon Williams and Romeir Elliott rushing for over 1,000 yards. Elliott is gone, but Williams is back after rushing for 1,038 yards and 17 touchdowns. He will be the main catalyst for the Southern Illinois offense, but Kare’ Lyles is an experienced senior quarterback who can move the ball as well. Lyles only threw for 1,569 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2019, but he proved to be relatively efficient and that was all SIU needed him to do. With receivers Avante Cox and Landon Lenoir, do not be surprised if this group looks to the air a little more often. Even if they don’t, they should be more dangerous when they do need to throw the ball.
Few teams in the FCS did better than Southern Illinois when it came to getting to the quarterback. Linebacker Markel Calhoun led the way with 7.0 sacks, but end Anthony Knighton added 6.0, Luke Giegling tallied 5.0 and Chucky Sullivan ended the year at 4.5. All four of them are back. That will be a difficult group on the outside of SIU’s front seven for any team to deal with. Qua Brown and his 105 tackles highlights the secondary. With players like Joe Patterson, Jonathan Thompson and Chance Bush, the secondary has some talent despite losing a few key players.
The Bottom Line:
The defensive front seven should be very good and the offense will be in decent shape too. If the pieces can fit together and the key players can stay healthy, the Salukis will be right in the mix for a spot in the playoffs. As always, the schedule will be tough in the MVFC and it remains to be seen what the non-conference schedule could actually look like. Their trip to Wisconsin has already been cancelled and they added a game at Kansas on August 29th. The margin for error will be very slim.
Projected Postseason: None
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 233.4 (12th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 185.2 (93, 7)
Total Offense: 418.6 (32, 3)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (53, 5)
Rushing Defense: 154.0 (55, 5)
Pass Defense: 200.6 (33, 7)
Total Defense: 354.6 (34, 7)
Scoring Defense: 23.0 (31, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (52, 5)
Sacks: 3.25 (6, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.58 (90, 8)
Madness 2020 Recruit Rankings:
#8 Antonio Smith
#152 John Volmert
#255 Colin Williams