Salukis ready to get defensive - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Salukis ready to get defensive

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CARBONDALE -- Last year was a disaster defensively for the SIU Football team.  The Salukis gave up 41 points and nearly 500 yards a game.

"Oh we used it as motivation for sure," said junior linebacker Bryce Notree.  "I remember we came in for spring ball, we had the rankings for defense, they told us to put, because we were last in the rankings, they told us to that in the front of our binders for a reminder.  It's big motivation.  We have a lot to prove. We just can't wait to get out there and prove people wrong."

Exit Kraig Paulson as defensive coordinator.  Enter Jason Petrino as the new man with the plan on the defensive side of the ball.

"They came in with a game plan that was very unique to me that I haven't seen before," said Notree.  "It's really shaped around us as players. They came in with a mindset of watching us during winter conditioning, see how we moved, and they made a gameplan for us.  They made sure that the plays that we run are suited for us and how we attack the plays."

"One of the first things we did is just sit down and I just watched game from play one, season one, first game all the way through," said Petrino.  "I just wanted to watch personnel a little bit.  Like I said you get a chance to see guys that play a lot of reps a year ago.  Just kinda see where there might've been some things, or things that guys might've done well and where we can help them or what points of emphasis we need to make on defense that we can improve and take small strides in the spring and identify those."

Then Petrino's attention turned to the offseason workouts.

"As we watched guys move and guys in the weightroom, try to find ways to put them in situations to be successful," said Petrino.  I've just always believed that.  I took that from my cousin a number of years ago as an offensive coach.  'FTS' feed the studs--that's a defensive mentality too.  Hey let's get our best players in the best position where they can make the best plays for this defense."

"It's been great," said senior safety Jeremy Chinn.  "Coach Petrino is a great teacher.  It feels like I know this defense as well as the other one I played three years in a row, so he's definitely a great teacher."

One thing Petrino says he hasn't had to teach here at SIU--effort.

"That's the one thing I've noticed more than anything when I came in here, you always worry a little about that, what kind of attitude, negative energy you might see" said Petrino.  "But we have a lot of great kids.  They're eager.  They want to be successful.  They want to be successful in life.  They want to be successful in the weight room. They want to be successful on the football field.  So that part of it has been really, really nice.  They've been eager and very coachable." 

The Salukis' struggles a year ago were compounded by numerous injuries, particularly in the secondary where Southern lost its top five defensive backs.  That included preseason all-American this year Jeremy Chinn.

"That was tough," said Chinn.  "Just watching my team struggle, the safeties struggle and not having anything physically on the field to help it.  It was tough.  I'm happy to be back and playing football.  You know being separated from the game off injury, just makes when you are playing, it's appreciated so much more.  Don't take any play for granted."

While healthy bodies are a major plus for this year's Saluki defense, healthy minds could be the key.

"I feel like it's really a confidence thing, and we always have to be zeroed in at all times," said Notree.  "I feel like a lot of times last year, something would happen, and everyone would hang their heads. But now I feel like we've come so far as a defense that we're confident enough to take it and keep moving on.  I think that's a really big thing."

The Salukis will be tested right out of the gate as they will travel to Southeast Missouri State to open the season August 29th.

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