By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois University senior tight end MyCole Pruitt is among the most successful pass catchers in school history, second only to Cornell Craig in career receptions with 140.
So it's big news when nearly two weeks into training camp, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound All-American seems equally excited to talk about the Salukis' running game. He's fired up about the potential of SIU's ground attack, which features a veteran offensive line and two powerful tailbacks in Malcolm Agnew and Mika'il McCall. New offensive coordinator Bill O'Boyle is instilling a smash-mouth mentality, he said.
"There's a whole new attitude on offense," Pruitt explained. "Coach O'Boyle is a hard-nosed guy. He wants to establish a physical presence throughout the whole offense -- not just the line -- but also the tight ends, receivers and backs."
The St. Louis, Mo. native ranks fourth in career receiving yards (1,740) and seventh in receiving touchdowns (12), and he's proud of those accomplishments, but he's also passionate about becoming the best blocker he can be.
"I've taken the attitude that nobody's going to beat me and I'm going to block my man five yards downfield," he said. "My goal is finishing the block to the end of the whistle, because when you make blocks downfield, you can spring a touchdown play."
With all of the preseason recognition he's received (he's on multiple All-America teams and watch lists), Pruitt knows he'll draw plenty of attention from opposing defense. That doesn't concern him, because he's confident Southern has enough other play-makers, such as wide receivers LaSteven McKinney and Tay Willis, to keep defenses honest.
As a fifth-year senior, Pruitt enjoys his role as leader and mentor.
"I'm not the kind of guy to yell to get the team going -- I'm going to lead by example," he said. "I come out every day ready to work and get better at something. I feel that if the younger guys see me fine-tune my route running and staying low off the ball, they'll bring the same type of attitude."
Pruitt makes no secret about his ambition to play in the National Football League, and says watching former teammate Ray Agnew succeed with the Cleveland Browns is inspirational.
"It's extremely encouraging," he said. "I watched Ray on TV last week and I was jumping and hollering every time he made a big block. Guys like Ray and Kory Faulkner inspire me every day. They make sure that I know I'm up next."
1. The Salukis will hold their second full-contact scrimmage at the stadium tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. The proven veterans will get fewer snaps in this scrimmage, and some of the younger players will get their last, big chance to make their case for playing time.
2. Backup QB Ryan West sprained his right thumb in practice yesterday, which allowed true freshman Sam Straub a chance to work with the second team today. Straub showed good pocket awareness and a powerful arm. West's injury is not serious.
3. QB Mark Iannotti was impressive in the two-minute drill at the end of practice today. He took command of the huddle and made an excellent throw on the run to WR Jimmy Jones and a deep ball WR LaSteven McKinney, who beat CB Courtney Richmond.