Aug 12, 2012
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - There were plenty of interesting developments from Saturday's Saluki football scrimmage. Here's a top 10 list.
1. There is no quarterback controversy this year. QB Kory Faulkner was poised and in command of the offense. He took all of the reps with the first team, and of the 38 passes attempted by the four quarterbacks, Faulkner accounted for half of them. A year ago, the coaches were trying to figure out who the quarterback would be. This year, they are simply giving Faulkner plenty of reps to help him develop timing with his receivers.
2. Any early concerns about Faulkner's health were alleviated. He had knee surgery and was limited during the summer, but he looked mobile in the pocket Saturday and had no trouble planting and throwing. Faulkner doesn't have a cannon like Chris Dieker, but he still gets plenty of zip on the ball and has enough arm strength to make all the throws required of him.
3. RB Mika'il McCall is a big-time talent. It's easy to see why he played at Iowa as a true freshman. At 6-foot and 228 pounds, he has power, speed and shiftiness. He seemed a little tentative at times during the spring, but he was a load yesterday, especially in the open field, finishing with 68 yards on nine carries against a pretty stout run defense.
4. RB Steve Strother is a guy who can be very productive in small doses. Only 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds, his max is about 10 carries per game, but if you can get him the ball in space, either as a rusher or receiver, he can make a big play.
5. The best tight end I've seen in 11 years covering the team is sophomore MyCole Pruitt. The only player who was close was Braden Jones, who had a few tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings, but couldn't stay healthy. Pruitt is a remarkable athlete for his size (6-3, 247) and really can't be covered by a linebacker. He had a team-high five catches Saturday, including a 70-yard TD. Opposing defenses will have to scheme to stop him.
7. Perhaps the most development of the scrimmage was the emergence of a couple of transfers in the secondary. Both CB Emmanuel Souarin (Florida International) and S Carlton Lewis (Clemson) made interceptions. Souarin's tackling has been especially impressive, and he's becoming a vocal leader. Coach Schweigert told me it's harder for a safety to learn the nuances of a new defense, but Lewis is making good strides. He's a guy who is used to playing against ACC talent, and they want him to respect the caliber of player at this level and not slip into cruise control.
8. Both the offense and defense can take solace in their red zone performance. The offense only had one touchdown in five trips, but they could have had a second if a Faulkner pass doesn't go off the finger tips of WR Luke Standiford. The defense created a turnover in Tay Grifin's pick of an A.J. Hill pass, but DeBoer said the throw was made to the correct spot -- the receiver simply mis-read the coverage.
9. SIU is still searching for depth on its defensive line. They have an elite group of seniors in ends Ken Boatright and Eze Obiora, plus NT Kayon Swanson. They need a young guy like DE Adam Brandt to step up and give the starters a breather. Brandt picked up a sack yesterday, and that was good to see.
10. P Austin Pucylowski was launching rockets off his right foot during yesterday's scrimmage. He also looks big enough to play on the defensive line for Southern. The kicking job is still wide open. Chris Adams has the strongest leg, so he's the guy to beat on kickoffs. Both Jackson MacLachlan and Austin Johnson get good height on their field goal attempts, and whoever proves to be most accurate will get the job. It also appears Adams has made an adjustment to his field goal technique and is getting better height on kicks, so he may be the mix for both spots.
Here are Tyler Wooten's notes from Sunday morning's practice:
"It was overcast in Carbondale this morning for the first of two Saluki football practices today, but the temperature stayed in the 70s and the heat will not be a factor for the upcoming week according to the forecast."
"Corey Boemer has been starting at right tackle this week, and today he held last year's sack leader, Ken Boatright, at bay. Junior college transfer Nate Haremza showed flashes of brute strength, bowling over true freshman TJ Beelen on a toss sweep. Also impressing in the trenches was sophomore C/G Tanner Crum, who on one play manhandled Kayon Swanson to open a large hole for Mika'il McCall to run through."
"On one play today, the front seven plugged up every available gap to run through, but McCall did a Reggie Bush impersonation and bounced it to the outside. He did so in the blink of an eye, turning the corner before the linebackers and defensive backs could locate him. McCall also showed off his pass-blocking prowess, stuffing Boatright on a Kory Faulkner rollout."
"There were several catches in this morning's practice that could have cracked Sportscenter's Top Ten on any given night. Redshirt freshman Josh Sullivan continued to show excellent receiving skills, including a play where he leaped and turned back to catch a ball over the DB's head, while keeping his feet in bounds. AJ Hill connected with Rutgers transfer Carl Harris on a beautiful inside seam route in double coverage for a touchdown today, and Kory Faulkner hit John Lantz on a fade into the endzone where Lantz snared the ball one-handed just out of reach of the corner, Kaleb Humphrey, who had Lantz smothered. Another great catch occurred when true freshman Billy Reed emulated David Tyree, the hero for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. On a rollout, Reed dove for a ball low toward the sideline and caught it in between his helmet and bicep."
The team will get a day off from practice on Monday.