Coach Dale Lennon
Sept. 23, 2013
By DeMario Phipps-Smith and Jordan Roberts
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki football coach Dale Lennon held his weekly press conference on Monday. SIU will be at home to open the Missouri Valley Football Conference season against Youngstown State on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. at Saluki Stadium. It will be the annual Black Out Cancer game.
Q: Does it feel like a new season with the conference schedule starting?
"It feels like the fifth game of the season. You don't want to knock the four non-conference games in any way because they are extremely important. I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a football team. We have been able to improve over the past four weeks. The non-conference schedule has allowed us to prepare and take care of some of our issues. We now have a pretty good understanding of who we are and what we would like to do when Saturday comes. The previous four games have served us well, but I wish we were better than 2-2. However, there are still eight games in front of us."
"Jarien is getting more comfortable with the tackle position. He's been watching film, and I didn't see as much hesitation from him this week as he showed in the past. Being able to move Corey Boemer to left guard really helps us with our athleticism on the offensive line. Jake is a young player who has all the physical tools. It was good to get him back this week. Our depth on the offensive line is pretty solid right now. We have nine players we could plug into a spot at any time. This is important to have if you want to compete in the Missouri Valley."
"They're very talented. When you look at who they have returning, it starts with the quarterback. Kurt Hess is a four-year starter and has played a lot of football. He has some good talent around him with some returning receivers. They lost their starting running back from last year, but they have about five running backs that can perform. Youngstown had to replace its defensive line, but returns its linebacker core and most secondary players. They're a little bit like us, and they are a pretty balanced team."
Q: How well has your team handled defensive assignments in the running game?
"Our numbers are good right now. We're always concerned about how we defend other team's rushing attacks. If a team is running at will against you, then you have some issues. I think we're pretty solid with our front seven, and we've been making some positive adjustments. As we get into the Missouri Valley schedule, we will be tested even more by the run. This is a physical football league, and our team is designed to match up against the type of teams in our conference."
Q: Any more concern with Kory Faulkner's shoulder?
"He took some hits, but I haven't heard anything negative. Sometimes it takes a day or so for things to pop up. So far--and I'm knocking on wood--we've been doing pretty well as far as injuries are concerned.
Q: Do you see any similarities between Kurt Hess and Kory's game?
"When you have fifth-year seniors, the expectations are higher. The offense should run more effectively because of the familiarity. Right now, Kurt is a big part of their offense just like how Kory is a big part of ours."
Q: Can you talk a little about the Black Out Cancer game?
"It's a great opportunity to be involved with, and it's a worth-while fundraising activity to be a part of while giving back to the community, especially now with this being a pretty significant game. The previous two years, we have had this game at the end of the season, and the attendance wasn't what we had really hoped for. We hope that we can benefit from an early-season game, the conference opener, and to really have an opportunity to raise some money for a worth-while cause."
Q: Was the decision to move the Black Out Cancer game to earlier in the season so that more people could attend?
"Mike (McElroy) and I talked about what we can do to make it better or what can we do to make it a little more beneficial for the fundraiser part, and that was something that was an obvious thing. It will be interesting to see how it all works out and see how much money we made to fight cancer."
Q: Was there a difference in the pressure you brought either half against SEMO or why was it more effective the second half?
"No we were fairly calculated in when we were bringing pressure, and I think the thing you might have noticed was when we got a couple of scores on them we were able to pin our ears back a little more."
Q: What are the challenges of guessing how good Youngstown State is or where they're at as a team if they haven't started conference play yet?
"Well, that's where you need to worry about yourself. Right now our focus is on us and where we're at as a football team and doing the things well that we do well. We've played against Youngstown enough that we know what they're going to try to do. You never really know about that first conference football game until you get there so you just have to wait and see."
Q: Do they run a spread offense and a 4-3 defense?
"They run a one-back offense. Against Michigan State they started with three tight ends, so you wouldn't put them in a spread category as far as their offensive scheme is concerned. They do have three very talented tight ends who have played a lot of football for them.
Q: Is it fair to say defensively that they don't beat themselves and they don't take a lot of chances?
"Well they are a 4-3 and again it depends on whom they're playing. If you watch the three wins that they have, in two of them they weren't challenged that much, so it's tough to get tendencies from them."
Q: Has the offensive line really been a big difference this year in your offense?
"That's a key component, and everything starts up front. It's true you have to be good up front to have a chance. It's still a work in progress."
Q: Brandon Williams made a really great sack that happened inside of the 10. How has his pursuit been this year?
"Brandon Williams and Adam Brandt have both done an excellent job in replacing Kenny Boatright. The comfort level that they have with the game is growing. Brandon is essentially still a pup. He's a true sophomore, so he has a lot of things that come naturally to him, and were hoping that he continues to make big plays for us because that will be important down the stretch."