Southern Illinois native and former SIU quarterback Nick Hill begins his third season as Salukis head coach when his team visits Murray State Thursday night to open the season.
Like nearly all coaches, Hill is excited to kick 2018 off.
"I really love this group of guys. Each team is different, but they’ve been a joy to be around. They come to work each and every day," Hill told Prairie State Pigskin. "I know a lot of the early season talk is about the same thing. Everybody feels good about their team, and everybody has worked hard, and everybody is in shape.
"It’s when that adversity hits that we’ll see what this team is really made of. You don’t really know until that comes, but every team is going to be hit with it. Some teams thrive in it, and other teams got beat in it."
Three key matchups
- Sam Straub vs. Murray State defense: Southern Illinois quarterback Sam Straub enters his senior year as one of 36 FCS players on the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) preseason watch list for its National Performer of the Year Trophy. Straub is the only quarterback in school history to complete 30+ passes in a game three times and is tied with Sherard Poteete for the most 300-yard passing games with five.
- SIU offensive line vs. Kenney Wooten: The Salukis went into a tailspin when Straub was injured last fall. Keeping him protected begins with a week one encounter with Wooten, Murray State's edge rusher who led the Ohio Valley Conference in sacks in 2017.
- Playing to their potential: Much has been made of Hill's first two recruiting classes. Many are picking the Salukis to be the surprise team in the Missouri Valley Football Conference race. "It’s nice to get guys that are developing in your culture and your ideas of what you want it to look like," Hill said. "It’s fun seeing the guys that you brought in develop and now getting their opportunity to play. We played a lot of young guys in spots, and those guys are grown now. I feel like the players that were in our first recruiting class, the one from 2016, can be program changers here."
SIU travels to Murray, Ken. to open the season with a nonconference game at Murray State. Kickoff is 6 p.m.