HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Southern Illinois.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (4-7 IN 2017)
MVFC (SIU was 8th in 2017)
COACH: Nick Hill – 3rd year (8-14 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 27.4 ppg. (48th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 27.5 ppg. (74th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: SIU is going to make a big jump in the MVFC. It's coming. The question is when does it happen? This year? Next year? Coach Hill brings energy and excitement to the program. The last couple of recruiting classes shows that. But that needs to equate to wins now after back-to-back 4-7 (2-6 in the Valley) records. About seven starters return on both sides of the ball, so pieces are there. You have to like what the Salukis have on offense with quarterback Sam Straub being a veteran. Darrell James is set to be a top receiver in the Valley and Raphael Leonard isn't far behind.
Issues on defense needs to be addressed. The Salukis are going the transfer route to try and strengthen that side of the ball. They've brought in defensive players from Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Ball State, Michigan State and Illinois. SIU also returns stud safety Jeremy Chinn, a 2017 HERO Sports Sophomore All-American, as its top returning tackler.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: The Salukis make the playoffs. The MVFC routinely gets 4-5 teams into the postseason but cracking that Top 5 is incredibly difficult. No matter how your schedule shakes out, it's going to be a battle. It's not unreasonable to predict the Salukis to make the playoffs. However, strong conference play is going to be needed from start the finish. SIU opens the conference schedule with USD, YSU and Illinois State and ends it with WIU, SDSU and NDSU. Those are six teams who are also going to be in the playoff mix.
TOP RETURNEE: WR Darrell James (Preseason All-MVFC First Team)
THE NEXT BEST: QB Sam Straub (1,886 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INT. ); S Jeremy Chinn (Preseason All-MVFC First Team, 66 tackles); P Lane Reazin (Preseason All-MVFC First Team); DE Anthony Knighton (HERO Sports Freshman All-American); WR Raphael Leonard (530 yards, 5 TDs)
TOP NEWCOMER: DT Kyonta Stallworth (Michigan State transfer, former 4-star recruit)
DID YOU KNOW?: The SIU football program was in the FCS playoffs for seven straight years from 2003-2009.
THE QUOTE: "He is going to surprise a lot of people. He's going to have a chance to show what I know and believe he can do. He's faster than what people think. He is a stud. I wouldn't want to tackle him. He gets better and stronger the more he touches the ball. He will wear people out. He has no ego and will do anything you ask." — Running Backs Coach Nate Griffin said on Jonathan Mixon
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #Salukis
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @SIU_Football