Football team holds first practice in full pads on Friday

    Dale Lennon speaks to the team after Friday's practice.

    Dale Lennon speaks to the team after Friday's practice.
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    March 28, 2014

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. - The Southern Illinois University football team had its first spring practice in full pads this morning at Saluki Stadium.

    Head coach Dale Lennon made several personnel announcements after practice. Mika'il McCall, the former Iowa transfer who was dismissed from the team last year, has returned, Lennon said. McCall, who rushed for 489 yards and eight touchdowns for the Salukis in 2012, will play fullback. He said walk-on quarterback Andrew Risher from Louisville has left the team due to an injury situation. Reserve offensive tackle Adam Clay will miss the rest of spring ball after sustaining a broken foot on Wednesday.

    The team will hold its first live scrimmage on Saturday, April 5.

    Media Q&A with Coach Lennon

    Q: What was your impression of today's practice?

    "I was happy with the practice. It was full pads so I was a little worried about it being a little too aggressive. I thought it was a good mix of give and take between the offense and defense. Defense has the upper hand and that's just the nature of the game at this point. Overall, I'm starting to see individuals step up and show that they are ready to compete."

    Q: What players are coming back on offense that you are excited about?

    "All the players that are coming back. We feel good about the backfield. With Malcolm Agnew and Ken Malcome, we have two quality running backs that we can establish the run game with. We have an offensive line with some experience. Unfortunately, two of them--Ethan Wirth and Tanner Crum-- aren't playing yet (due to injuries) and those are difference makers. MyCole (Pruitt) is, naturally, someone that teams will key on and that allows us to do some things offensively. LaSteven McKinney and Tay Willis are playmakers at the receiver spot. There is enough coming back where teams will have to be aware of our entire team."

    Q: Willis was used in the slot a lot last year. Do you like him as a wideout?

    "He will be a threat out of the backfield. He knows the running back plays, he just has to learn the receiver position. The best way to learn the position is to fully immerse him into it. He'll be that dynamic player who can do a little bit of everything."

    Q: What is the focus of spring training?

    "The main focus is to establish team philosophy in terms of what we do well offensively and defensively. Also, setting the depth chart is important. We also have to evaluate the young players who will be the guys who can contribute in the fall. You try to make those projections in the spring, although this is the first time they have been introduced to our offensive and defensive concepts."

    Q: How much of the defense do you have in place?

    "About 60 percent. Now, we'll be working on the specialized defenses and getting into pressure games. We will put a nickel and dime package in and short yardage or goal line packages as well."

    Q: What led to the decision of Bill O'Boyle leading the offense?

    "When I hired him that was always the intention that he could become the offensive coordinator. When I took the job in 2008, he was someone I was trying to bring in as a coordinator. Coach O'Boyle and I have known each other for a while and he is very comfortable with offensive schemes."

    Q: Does the passing game look more sharp than usual?

    "With me being on the defensive side now, I'm looking at everything through defensive glasses. I have to watch film as a defensive coach then I have to go back and look at it as head coach. It's a little more difficult to have an overall opinion because I'm looking at things defensively first."

    Q: Are you pleased with quarterback Mark Iannotti so far?

    "He's doing very well. Things didn't work out for him at Eastern Michigan because they had a different offensive philosophy they were pursuing. His skills are right-on with what we're doing. One of the schools that recruited him heavily out of high school was North Dakota State. That's a program with a good run game, power football and play action, and that's kind of what we want to do with our offense."

    Q: What's the biggest thing you want to see from the players in spring ball?

    "They theme I'm yelling at every break is `Make a Statement.' I want each player to show what they're capable of doing. We make tough decisions during spring ball and don't invite some guys back. It's an all-encompassing time when you set your depth chart and there's probably going to be 10-15 individuals I have to tell we're not going to bring them back."