Coach Dale Lennon
Sep 2, 2013
By DeMario Phipps-Smith
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. SIU will host No. 14/16 Eastern Illinois in the home opener on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at Saluki Stadium.
Q: Last year you didn’t have any film on Eastern when you played them. How much of a difference do you expect that to have this time?
“Last year, we were walking through a dark room, and we were trying to figure things out as we went through the game. We stubbed our toe a few times. Hopefully, that experience will help us in our preparation. The experience factor is usually a big key. At the same time, Eastern has done a much better job in their execution of offense and defense. They’ve had some success, and the tables have kind of turned, where last year they were the team that finished lower in the conference. Now they are the favorites of the Ohio Valley, ranked nationally and we are the ones trying to make a statement.”
Q: You mentioned their rhythm. Is there a certain technique your corners are going to be using to get them out of that rhythm?
“Again, the word I used was timing. The thing with the high-tempo offensive is, one, you want to get the ball snapped as soon as possible. And the second thing is you want to get the ball out of your hand as quick as possible. It is a timing type of concept that those offenses use. They want to run 90 to 100 plays a game. Sometimes they will put the defense at risk, but they don’t worry about that. They just want the ball back. That’s the offensive mentality of the high-tempo offense. You have to be careful when trying to take away one component of their game. The other thing that looked good for them was the run game. They rushed for 172 yards over the course of the game. They had (Taylor) Duncan, who was a backup for them last year, run for 92 yards. (Shepard) Little, who was Duncan’s backup, ran for 60 plus yards. That’s something where you have to be respectful. If you take away anything specifically, you’ll give up big plays. If you look at their scoring drives, they score quick, and the big play can kill you. We forced them to punt the ball nine times last year. You wouldn’t be expecting that in that type of scoring game but that’s the type of philosophy of the game. It’s high tempo and it’s not the type of game where stats matter. They had 533 yards against San Diego State, but they only had a little over 20 minutes of possession time. These are numbers that don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but it’s a different concept.”
Q: How different is Eastern’s spread offense than some of the formations that Illinois was running?
“It’s not so much that it’s different, it’s the difference in tempo. Eastern’s very high-tempo, and they don’t want you to get adjusted defensively. There are times when their receivers are running wrong routes, but the emphasis on the quick release and quick snap that’s the key to their offense. They also have a quarterback who has improved since last year. He’s very comfortable in this offense and he has a quick release. It doesn’t take him long to fling that ball out there, and that’s why a lot of NFL scouts are taking notice.”
Q: Is their tempo even quicker than an Oregon offense?
“I’d say that they are along that line. They have a staff that came from Baylor, so they want to push the issue.”
Q: With the new defensive guys, how prepared do you think you are for a tempo like that?
“That’s one of the things I’m sure we’ll find out. We know what the challenge is. I’m not going to say anything more than we need to prepare and be ready for it. There’s a lot of factors that can affect our success, and this is a pretty good team coming in.”
Q: How would you describe EIU’s Erik Lora?
“I think right now he has the tools. He has enough speed and quickness to be dangerous. He has the physicality to back everything up and enough intelligence to be one the smart receivers. He just has the ‘it’ quality with playing the position.”
Q: How would you grade out the offensive line for the Illini game?
“We were very solid in pass blocking, which was our biggest concern coming into the game. The run game, to be fair, did a good job sticking to the game plan but weren’t very successful at moving the ball down the field. We need to get better at the run. We were creating some seams at times, and I felt we had good movement along the line of scrimmage. I think we fared well in some of the short yardage situations we were in, but I would have liked to have had a better run game in the second quarter. That’s when we needed it to step up and be a factor but we weren’t able to get quite what we needed there.”
Q: Do you consider Garappolo one of the elite quarterbacks in the country?
“I would put him in that category, but I haven’t seen the other quarterbacks.”
Q: How much have you been thinking about last year’s game against Eastern Illinois?
“It was a very disappointing loss last year. We weren’t prepared to the level that we needed to be, and that’s something that stays with you.”
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