HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Southern Illinois.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country with HERO Sports.
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Southern Illinois (2-9 IN 2018)
MVFC (SIU finished 10th in 2018)
COACH: Nick Hill – At School: 4th Year (10-23) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2009 (Second Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 30.1 ppg (38th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 40.7 ppg (114th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 19 vs. Youngstown State: The Salukis begin MVFC play against South Dakota State and Illinois State, two teams in the Top 10 in our preseason poll. Odds are stacked against SIU in those two matchups, but the team can get back on track with a Homecoming win against YSU. The Penguins look like they'll have an improved team from last year, and this is a quality win that SIU needs to gain some confidence.
SUM IT UP: SIU seems to be that program in recent years that's right on the verge of having a major breakthrough, but just can't get over the hump. Nick Hill has brought in impressive recruiting classes. And now in his fourth season, it's time for the Salukis to make that big jump forward instead of flirting with it.
This is a team that went toe-to-toe with the SEC's Ole Miss for three quarters in the second game of last season before the Rebels scored four times in the fourth. The next week, SIU narrowly lost to Southeast Missouri State, a team that got a first-round playoff win. But injuries eventually piled up, and the Salukis finished 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the MVFC.
Hill made some changes to his coaching staff entering 2019, including bringing in a new defensive coordinator (Jason Petrino) and offensive coordinator (Blake Rolan).
The offensive explosion has never been an issue for the Salukis. Just five starters return, though. The experience on the o-line is solid with Jacob Marnin, ZeVeyon Furcron and Ernest Dye Jr. returning. Running back D.J. Davis is one of the best all-purpose players in the FCS, averaging 140.3 yards per game last year. The quarterback position is unsettled with redshirt freshman Nic Baker and JuCo transfer Karé Lyles battling it out.
Defense has been SIU's Achilles heel for a while now. The unit was near the bottom of the FCS with 40.7 points allowed per game last year. But again, injuries took their toll. Ten starters return, which shows promise for much-needed improvements on that side of the ball. The talent is there at all three levels. Safety Jeremy Chinn is a HERO Sports Preseason All-American and a pro prospect. Linebacker Luke Giegling was a 2018 HERO Sports Freshman All-American and defensive end Anthony Knighton was HERO Sports Sophomore All-American last year.
OUR TAKE: SIU was picked to finish ninth in the MVFC standings this year. But people shouldn't forget about the level of talent here. SIU's 2017 recruiting class ranked 22nd in the FCS and the 2018 class ranked 18th. But we've been playing the potential card with the Salukis for a couple of seasons now. They need to show it on the field. A rematch at SEMO, who once again looks like a playoff team, is a massive season-opening game. SIU does play two FBS opponents (UMass and Arkansas State) but proved last year it can compete with the top level. Between those two games is a winnable game versus UT Martin. Then it's on to the MVFC schedule. If the Salukis can stay healthy and put everything together, going 4-4 in the conference is a realistic scenario.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DB Jeremy Chinn (HERO Sports Preseason AA, 55 tackles and 3 INT)
THE FOUNDATION: So./LB Luke Giegling (HERO Sports Freshman AA, 52 tackles); Jr./DE Anthony Knighton (HERO Sports Sophomore AA, 13.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks); So./WR Je'Quan Burton (MVFC All-Newcomer, 14 KRs for 339 yards); Sr./RB D.J. Davis (All-Conference 2nd Team, 1,118 rushing yards and 6 TDs); Jr./LB Bryce Notree (AC HM, top tackler with 78); Sr./TE Nigel Kilby (AC HM, 16 rec. for 230 yards and 6 TDs); Jr./WR Landon Lenoir (AC HM, 46 rec. for 440 yards and 2 TDs)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./LB Tim Johns (Purdue transfer, redshirted in 2018)
THE QUOTE: "My energy and enthusiasm for Saluki Football has never been higher, and the pieces are in place for us to have an outstanding season. With two FBS road games and three games against FCS Playoff teams, we recognize both the challenge and the opportunity that lies ahead of us in 2019." — Head Coach Nick Hill said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's SIU Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MVFC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast