State Of The Salukis (Oct. 2011)

Remember when we were a basketball school?

How about when we were a football school?

Oh, wait. Remember when we were a basketball and a football school?

SIU is a softball school, now. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if you ask me. The Saluki softball beat was my favorite to cover when I was on campus. This, coming from a guy who had several strong relationships with SIU men’s basketball coaches, and didn’t even get the stink-eye from Dana Eikenberg.

Still, the direction of the SIU men’s basketball and football teams is a bit of a concern for yours truly.

SIU Football

The Salukis are 2-4 overall, 1-3 in conference and far from the team many thought would be a virtual lock for postseason play. Saturday’s loss was a not-so-shining example of why it looks as if SIU will be on the outside looking in when the FCS playoffs begin.

Southern’s offense is a mismanaged mess. Remember when Phil Longo’s modified spread was fun to watch? Sighs. those were the days. Instead, the DeBoer offense seems to have little rhythm and clearly isn’t taking advantage of the team’s best assets. To further complicate matters, Dale Lennon has hitched his wagon to redshirt sophomore quarterback Kory Faulkner, who is replacing an injured Paul McIntosh.

Faulkner’s prep success and a year of being an understudy in the DeBoer system has yet to turn up anything vaguely productive. Not to anyone’s surprise, really. Faulkner redshirted his freshman year and threw all of two passes last season. Hard to expect much out of a youngster with minimal experience.

So, with that being said, why was Faulkner asked to throw 35 passes (and take 39 total drop backs, if you add in the four sacks he took) in the loss to Youngstown State?

Meanwhile, Jewel Hampton only received 20 carries — three of which resulted in touchdown scores.

Hampton is the big playmaker for this offense, especially with an ineffective and inexperienced quarterback under center. He is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 9 rushing touchdowns. Southern’s star rusher has accounted for 56 percent of the team’s touchdowns this year.

Again, only 20 rushes (and 22 total touches) for the team’s best offensive weapon?

Somewhere, Mike Martz nods in approval.

SIU Basketball

In the opening scenes of Major League, the Cleveland Indians front office and fan base is seen going through the listed names on the roster, which is a who’s-who of “who cares?” and “I thought this guy was dead.”

SIU’s roster resembles that somewhat.

Head coach Chris Lowery is set to unveil a new-look squad for the third consecutive year. Two years after the Return to Greatness was permanently postponed, Southern Illinois looks for a return to respectability. 

Good luck with that.

SIU has eight newcomers, but only seven will play as the ultra-talented Desmar Jackson sits out a year after transferring from Wyoming. Of the five returnees, Davante Drinkard will take a redshirt and Kendal Brown-Surles will be out for a while due to academic concerns.

(I know, I know. “Here we go again.”)

It’s hard to take anything out of a scrimmage highlighted by a fair share of missed dunks and absolutely no defensive intensity, but I drew a quick conclusion after watching the 20 minute scrimmage.

SIU better score in transition.

I know that it goes against the principles of Lowery’s motion offense, which preaches patience and smart shot selection — even if the players in said system haven’t followed its steps to success. But without a go-to presence in the post, coupled with the lack of a consistent perimeter shooting threat, the Salukis should try to get into transition as often as possible and score early in the shot clock at every opportunity. It might be their best chance to get the maximum amount of high-percentage shots.

If it’s any consolation, I brought that up to Coach Lowery in our post-scrimmage chat. He agreed with me, noting he’d have to adapt to that style because of how this team was assembled.

While the cornerstone programs of Saluki Athletics are on the skids, Kerri Blaylock (452-205, overall; 202-79 vs. MVC) has her softball team coming off a 36-win season.

Did I mention we’re a softball school now?