April’s spring game may feature March

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Chris Barron
Weekend Times

Don’t be confused dear readers, I haven’t lost my way on the calendar. SIU plays its spring game at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Saluki Stadium. 

It will be the culmination of about four weeks of intense springtime practice used to prep the Salukis for the upcoming 2017 season.

Part of the purpose of this spring practice is to find solutions to the holes left by the graduating 2016-17 senior class. One particular problematic area of concern for Saluki coach Nick Hill is defensive end.

Let’s be more specific here. We are talking about the defensive end targeted by coaches for pass rush duties. SIU lost their top two pass-rush defensive ends from this past season. 

The top pass rushing defensive end in 2016 was Kari Waithe-Alexander. The 6-3, 240-pounder recorded six sacks this past season, leading all Saluki defensive linemen. Next on that list was Deondre Barnett with five and a half sacks. It’s not that Hill didn’t have talent returning — but it is young, unproven talent.

“I’m very excited by our young guys progress,” said Hill Thursday. “All of them have shown promise, but they’re all very young.”

Three of four top guys that I have observed this spring are Jake Summer, Jordan Berner, and the 6-foot 3-inch and 250-pound Anthony Knighton. Certainly, those three look the part of a Division 1 defensive end. 

All three are great run defenders. Summers and Berner also seem to have some pass-rushing ability. They had a sack a piece at this past weekend’s scrimmage. But, in an unusual move to bolster his pass rush to the max, Hill has changed a player’s position to get him on the field.

Detroit Sophomore Kamahl March moved from a crowded outside linebacker position to defensive end because of his pass-rushing ability. March played defensive end in high school. 

Because of March’s relative size —6-foot 1inches and 190 pounds — coming out of high school, March was projected to be a linebacker in college. However, SIU already has two veteran outside linebackers — starter Whitney Simon and Airan Reed — returning for 2017. So Hill, wanting to maximize the pass rush, made the move a few weeks ago.

Hill believes that March can make an impact at the defensive end position, especially on pass-rush downs. 

“March is only about 215 pounds now,” Hill said. “But he is the best pass rush guy we have.”

Hill believes that the “undersized” March might spark a great pass-rush. It’s happened before.

Undersized but quick guys like Jason DiManche, — 220 pounds — Corey Lee— 210 pounds— and Tyler Williamson — 215 pounds — were dynamite. And March has a great history as a pass-rushers in his high school days. 

During his career, March had 203 tackles as a defensive end, but more importantly, 55 sacks and even 12 blocked punts. In the film I’ve seen, Kamahl literally jumps over an opponent pass blocker to make a sack.