#26 Southern Illinois FCS Football 2014 Preview

Southern Illinois Salukis

Overall Rank: #26
#4 Missouri Valley

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With games against Illinois and Eastern Illinois to start off the 2013 season, Southern Illinois quickly find themselves playing catchup when it came to attaining the eight wins they needed to have a realistic shot at reaching the playoffs. The Salukis were so close to winning both of those games, losing to Illinois by eight and EIU by just three points. But winning seven games was not the goal for SIU and it will not be the goal this year either.

2013 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2013 Postseason: None
Coach: Dale Lennon (42-28 at Southern Illinois, 132-52 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill O’Boyle
Defensive Coordinator: Dale Lennon

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Malcolm Agnew, RB, 888 yards
Passing: Ryan West, QB, 675 yards
Receiving: MyCole Pruitt, TE, 601 yards
Tackles: Tyler Williamson, LB, 66
Sacks: Tyler Williamson, LB, 4.0; Jordan Poole, LB, 4.0; Brandon Williams, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: D.J. Cameron, S, 2; Anthony Thompson, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: RB Tay Willis, WR LaSteven McKinney, CB Courtney Richmond, S Boo Rodgers, K Thomas Kinney

Key Losses: QB Kory Faulkner, RB Ken Malcome, WR John Lantz, LB Bryan Presume, LB Carl Bivens, CB Terrell Wilson, P Austin Pucylowski

The Southern Illinois offense did lose quarterback Kory Faulkner, but they found their next starter at the end of the 2013 campaign. Ryan West stepped in for an injured Faulkner and started the last four games of the season. He won three of those games and threw for 675 yards and six touchdowns. His sub-50 percent completion rate and five interceptions will need to be improved, but that will happen with experience. West will also have a talented group of receivers to work with and one of the best tight ends in the country. In ten games, MyCole Pruitt caught 48 passes for 601 yards and five scores. LaSteven McKinney is a great possession receiver and this team just needs a big play receiver to step up so West can at least appear to be a threat to go deep every once in a while. This was the best passing offense in the MVFC in 2013. That will not be the case in 2014, but there should not be much of a drop off. Ideally, SIU will be able to boost their ground game with Malcolm Agnew and Tay Willis returning.

Bryan Presume is a big loss for the defense. He was the heart and soul of the defense and totaled 104 tackles. The good news is Tyler Williamson and Jordan Poole are back to help pick up the slack. Those two each recorded 4.0 sacks and Williamson led the team with 13.0 tackles-for-loss. Still, the leadership at the middle linebacker position will be tough to replace and that responsibility will fall on Poole. The front line has experience, but could stand to be more productive, especially at the nose tackle position where Raysean Golden and T.J. Beelen split starts last season. Like the defensive line, the secondary returns most of the key players, yet it remains to be seen if that experience will result in better production.

The Bottom Line:
How effectively, and quickly, Coach Dale Lennon can replace Faulkner on offense and Presume on defense will determine how good this group can be. With eight starters back on offense and nine on defense, Southern Illinois does not lack in experience and this is a team that can go to Fargo or go to Youngstown and come away with a win. The schedule is not particularly friendly though. Non-conference games at Eastern Illinois and Purdue will be tough. However, EIU is not nearly as strong as they were last season and Purdue is pretty awful. But conference games at North Dakota State and at home against Northern Iowa gives this team four games where they probably will be the underdog. If the Salukis are to reach the playoffs, they will likely have to win at least one of those games.

Projected Postseason: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 153.1 (72nd in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 231.8 (46, 1)
Total Offense: 384.9 (58, 3)
Scoring Offense: 28.5 (46, 4)
Rushing Defense: 122.8 (17, 2)
Pass Defense: 239.6 (89, 9)
Total Defense: 362.4 (39, 6)
Scoring Defense: 25.2 (49, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.10 (54, 7)
Sacks: 2.00 (55, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.17 (22, 1)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#19 Tori Millender
#94 Sam Straub


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