Salukis salivating for some gridiron action
Michael Williamson Jr. knows there's a long week coming up this fall.
Southern Illinois University's director of operations for the football team said his squad will be chomping at the bit to take on its first opponent -- a week after most other teams have already played.
“We are ready for the first game to get here,” Williamson told the Southwest Illinois News. “We have a bye first, so we have to wait a whole week. When the rest of the country is playing football, we’re going to be sitting at home watching. I have a feeling that at the end of preseason there’s going to be some itchy trigger fingers and kids will just be ready to play.”
The Salukis have a young team, and Williamson said that as players grow and gain more experience he is looking forward to seeing SIU improve on last year’s 4-7 record.
“We’ve got young guys across the board,” he said. “Going into this year, there really is an emphasis for us on defensively containing big plays and being good on special teams. We have been really productive the past three of four years on offense.”
SIU will be led on offense by junior quarterback Sam Straub, who completed 73 of his 126 passes in the three games he started for the Salukis last year. Another offensive piece that Williamson is excited about is running back Daquan Isom, whom Williamson said put in a lot of hard work during the offseason and expects to have a good year. In a press release, SIU head coach Nick Hill echoed Williamson’s feelings on Isom.
“He's pound-for-pound the strongest guy we have, but now he weighs 190 pounds," he said. "(Strength coach) Meade Smith has done an outstanding job with him."
Isom will be joined in the backfield by senior running back Cameron Walker, who is looking to build off last year’s performance and finish his SIU career strong. The senior running back played in all 11 games and was the starter for five games last season. He also led the team with 335 rushing yards.
On the defensive side, Williamson said the Salukis are focusing on preventing big offensive plays. The defensive line will feature a number of young players, who could have a big impact on the season.
“On the defensive side, we’re going to have a super young d-line, and I think a few people are really going to pop out and surprise some people,” he said.
Williamson said he expects the conference season to be tough and feature a number of hard-hitting games.
“We’re in a conference that’s a rock fight every year,” Williamson said. “But we feel good about where we are because we have a lot of guys coming back, and we have an identity that we can build on.”
The Salukis will open up the football season on September 9, when they host Mississippi Valley State. A few highlights of the season include the September 30 game against the University of Northern Iowa and the October 14 homecoming game against Illinois State University.
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