SIU still gearing up for season opener

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Chris Barron
Carbondale Times

SIU head football coach Nick Hill will battle several foes in the next two weeks.
There is the upcoming opener with Mississippi Valley State University on Sept. 9 at Saluki Stadium. But there are other things about such a late start to the season that are problematic.
“With this practice (Saturday) it is the conclusion to fall training camp,” Hill said. “Now with school started, we fight a different type of animal. Players have to deal with school schedules, classes and we (coaches) have to deal with all that and also bringing in new players.”
There is also the fact the coaching staff has its season opener coming up in 9 days.
“We haven’t yet seen MVSU,” Hill said. “But we caught a break on that. They play North Dakota State this coming Saturday, so we will get to really game plan them then.”
Meanwhile, this past Saturday’s action at Saluki Stadium was more like a first week of practice in August.
“We’re trying to keep everyone healthy, so there was no full contact,” Hill said.
One exception to that non-tackling rule was two series near the end of the practice in which the ball was set in a fourth down and one yard to go situation twice.
“The first round (during the practice), the offense was winning by throwing the ball around a lot,” Hill said.  “But, the defense crashed in and stopped the offense twice in a row on our short yardage drills.”
The late start to the season also means Hill had more time to evaluate who will emerge as starters.
“This week we will solidify a lot of the positions,” Hill said.
However, there are still some battles raging. One of those fights is who will be the starting center for SIU when they step onto the field in two weeks for live-fire action.
“I’m not ready to name a starting center,” Hill said. “I’ve got two good ones and a lot of coaches would be envious of that situation.”
Hill is referring to Jack White and Jacob Marnin, who have both worked extensively at center during the preseason.
White played a lot of snaps at center Saturday. Marin played some with the first unit at guard because of some lingering injuries to other candidates. White can play guard, too, it’s possible both players will see the field this season.
Hill was cautiously optimistic about his young defense. SIU may start four guys who have little game experience. For example, the top two defensive ends are redshirt freshman Anthony Knighton and true freshman Sam Skinner. Yet SIU’s head man has seen enough progress to not be too concerned.
“In 2016, even though we gave up some points, we made teams work for them--for the most part,” Hill said. “But the 2017 defense has got to step it up and help the offense. We’ve got to get better at not giving up the big play, and at stopping teams’ drives, so the offense doesn’t get tired.”
All-in-all, a final problem Hill mentioned is player boredom.
“Players are ready to hit other colored jerseys,” Hill said.