March 24, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Saluki Football team held its first practice of the spring season on a chilly morning at Saluki Stadium on Monday.
Head coach Dale Lennon has five new assistant coaches on his staff, plus new coordinators. Second-year assistant Bill O'Boyle will run the offense, while Lennon himself takes the reigns of the defense.
SIU also has two new quarterbacks joining returnees Ryan West and Matt Vincent. Eastern Michigan transfer Mark Iannotti and Louisville transfer Andrew Risher both participated in their first practice as Salukis.
Q&A with Coach Lennon
Q: How much have you liked spending more time on the defensive side of the ball?
"I'm having fun right now and that's the fun thing about coaching. I get interaction with the players and I'm making defensive schemes. It does bring you closer to a group of players, but I still have to convince the offensive players that I'm still their head coach so they don't look at me as the bad guy, but for right now I've enjoyed the transition to defensive coordinator."
Q: How are you and the players adjusting to a new staff?
"With the new staff, there comes a lot of change. We spend more time in meetings where I'm trying to coach the coaches on things in practice, the styles I'm looking for. That'll be the first week or so and we will be adjusting. It's just good to get to this first practice and get back out on the field."
Q: What do you think will be the personality of this group?
"This is a fun staff -- good personality amongst individuals. The staff chemistry is very positive. We're a little younger than the previous staff so I might start thinking a little younger, too. Just a fun group to be around."
Q: What's important for you in evaluating quarterbacks in spring ball?
"I think the key for evaluating quarterback play is when we go live and just see how they manage the game, how they handle themselves, and confidence is going to be very important as well. Consistency in making sure that they have good practice after good practice and not just be a hit-or-miss player. It's going to be extremely competitive, and I think the four quarterbacks we have are all of top quality. It's going to be the most competitive competition we have this spring."
Q: Can you talk about the walk-on quarterback you added from Louisville?
"Andrew Risher was highly, highly recommended by (former Louisville OC) Shawn Watson. He was No. 3 on the depth chart last year, travelled. He walked on at Louisville but was in a position to earn a scholarship, and then that staff left. Shawn put us in touch with him and he came here and liked what he saw. We're fortunate with our connections that it all worked out. He's very athletic and throws a nice ball."
Q: What's the biggest area of improvement that this team must make?
"The thing now that we are focusing on with all of our returning players is that we stay solid. I want to make sure that there are no weaknesses, that our depth is good and that when you look through this roster you see a solid 2-deep. I think the key to this league is if you have a weakness it's going to come back and bite you. You just want to make sure your team is at a level where it can withstand some injuries and be at the level to overcome adversity."
Q: Do you have a motto for this spring ball?
"I like to tell the team to make a statement. There are individual players that I want to come out and prove to us that they are of the caliber to help us take the next step. Right now it's all about making a statement."
Q: What will you do differently as defensive coordinator?
"Bubba (Schweigert) runs the (3-4) defense a little differently than I do. We have different philosophies, and that's why I let Bubba run the defense. The stipulation he put on me was, `If I'm going to be your defensive coordinator, you have to let me run it.' So I did. Now that I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm going to run it my way."
Q: Does Coach (Bill) O'Boyle bring some new wrinkles to the offense?
"I think the combination of O'Boyle and Coach (Nick) Hill has been a very comfortable adjustment. Their philosophies are similar and I think you will see us have a little more of the Jerry Kill-offensive mentality. He spent some time in Minnesota with that staff and that's what we need to do. We have to be able to run the ball, and play action has to be a good play call for us. We need to throw the ball vertically and right now I think we are putting some plays together to help us do that. There will be a lot of similarities to what we did in the past but there will be a little more of a physicality present."