Aug 19, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - The Saluki football team held its second and final scrimmage on Saturday, and here are some thoughts about the state of the team, now that camp is officially over.
1. The quarterback position is in good hands. Junior QB Kory Faulkner is developing a mastery of coordinator Kalen DeBoer's offense. In yesterday's scrimmage, Faulkner worked quickly through his reads and anticipated the throw. You often see him deliver the ball before a receiver makes his final break. Although Faulkner started the scrimmage a bit slowly, he completed eight-straight passes during one stretch. Behind Faulkner is A.J. Hill, who is also having a solid camp. He's much more comfortable with the offense in year two and gives Southern a reliable backup.
2. Hand-in-hand with the improved quarterback play has been better production from the receivers. DeBoer thinks he has enough playmakers between budding star TE MyCole Pruitt, plus receivers LaSteven McKinney and David Lewis. Faulkner is developing a nice chemistry with Lewis. He trusts the 6-foot-3 wideout to go up and make a play on the ball. WR John Lantz is steady, and Josh Sullivan and Adam Fuehne are having nice camps.
3. The offensive line was a weakness during the spring, but it is showing signs of coming together. LT Richard Wilson and C Tanner Crum are the cornerstones. DeBoer said they are seven deep on the line. Early last week, Clayton Melville emerged as a competitor for the right tackle job, but then he got banged up. Victor Craven has also had minor injuries. Corey Boemer has filled in at tackle, but coaches would prefer to play him at guard and have either Melville or Craven start at right tackle.
5. The Salukis threw the ball 39 times in the scrimmage and ran it 39 times. How's that for balance. Even more impressive was the absence of a fumble or interception. There were a handful of penalties and a blocked field goal attempt, but those were the only miscues on the day.
6. Both scrimmages began with Red Zone competition, and the defense prevailed both times. The offense struggled to run the ball in the shortened field, and the coaches are looking at personnel and scheme to make sure the offense is ready to produce once the season begins.
7. Even though the defense knew it was coming, the fast-tempo offense created problems on Saturday. The defense had to burn a couple of timeouts, and the offense rapidly moved down the field using the no-huddle. SIU's first opponent, Eastern Illinois, employs a similar scheme, so these scrimmages are excellent preparation for what awaits the team in Charleston.
8. It is looking more and more likely that true freshman NT TJ Beelen will not redshirt this year. Coach Lennon praised him after the scrimmage and DC Bubba Schweigert said Beelen has played consistently well in a backup role to Kayon Swanson. Schweigert is thrilled with the starters on the D-Line but wants to develop young guys like Beelen, Blake Miller and Adam Brandt as reserves.
9. Southern's linebacking corps is shaping up nicely in the team's 3-4 defense. ILB Joe Okon is a sturdy and productive veteran, and Schweigert said fellow ILB Bryan Presume is lighter and faster and having an excellent camp. Fifth-year senior OLB Jayson DiManche should have a big year, while OLB Cory Lee has locked down the other starting job. Schweigert said both Tyler Williamson and Kevin Reed are playing well, giving the team rotational depth.
10. The secondary should be much better in 2012 thanks to an infusion of talent. CB Emmanuel Souarin and S Carlton Lewis are excellent FBS pick-ups. True freshman Kaleb Humphrey has been impressive, also. The Salukis ranked near the bottom of the league in pass defense last year, but that should not be the case this season.
There is reason for optimism in 2012. Coach Lennon and his staff appear to be building a talented and cohesive team. You'll get a chance to meet them in person on Thursday night at the stadium at 7 p.m. when the team holds its second-annual FanFest. Don't miss it.