Daniels: Four keys for Illinois against SIU

Daniels: Four keys for Illinois against SIU

1 Get out to an early lead. Nothing will help a fan base eager for a win or any positive sign the program is on solid footing than a 28-0 halftime lead. Or 35-0. Something of that nature. Even if it’s against an in-state FCS opponent. Plus, it will give Tim Beckman a chance to rest his starters on a hot and humid day. “Our deal will be playing a lot of different guys,” Beckman said. “We are going to play guys that can get themselves ready for (later) on in the season. The only way you can do that is playing numbers.” The Illinois coach said each positional coach on his staff is responsible for the substitution patterns Illinois will use throughout the game. “You’re not going to wholesale substitute,” Beckman said. “You’re going to say, ‘OK, we’re going to put this corner in with this safety because that safety has a little more experience.’ ”

2 Contain Kory Faulkner. The Salukis starting quarterback opened last season with at least 290 passing yards in two of SIU’s first three games. Then he didn’t top 200 yards the rest of the way. But he did complete 68 percent of his passes in his final five games, four of which SIU won. In his first six games last year, during which SIU went 3-3, Faulkner only completed 53 percent of his passes. “He completes a lot of the intermediate and underneath stuff,” Beckman said. “He is probably a big reason why that program has made the strides I saw from Game 1 down to the last one. You could see the difference in that offense as he matured into a quarterback.”

3 Limit SIU’s running backs. Salukis coach Dale Lennon has three transfers who all went to BCS teams out of high school in Mika’il McCall (Iowa), Ken Malcome (Georgia) and Malcolm Agnew (Oregon State). Illinois is anticipating all three to get carries. McCall rushed for 489 yards last year in his first season with the Salukis, and Malcome and Agnew should make their SIU debuts today. “We’re not going to take anybody lightly,” Illinois linebacker Mason Monheim said. “They have tons and tons of talent, and they want to try to create edges on our defense.”

4 Offensive line produces. With Ted Karras (ankle) out at right guard, expect to see Michael Heitz at right guard and redshirt freshman Joe Spencer making his first start at left guard. “Last year at this time I was playing all five positions on the scout team,” said Spencer, who was a left tackle at Mason (Ohio) High School. “I’ll have a little bit of nerves, but that’s football. You have nerves every time you play football. I’m really looking forward to getting out there, play for the first time, put on my helmet and get on the field.” If Corey Lewis’ knees become bothersome — he’s undergone five knee surgeries at Illinois — Heitz could shift to right tackle, moving Alex Hill from center to right guard and putting in Jake Feldmeyer at center. The left side of the line with Spencer at guard and Simon Cvijanovic at left tackle should remain intact. “I’m real close with Teddy and all the starting five guys, and it was just sad to see Teddy get hurt,” Hill said. “We know it’s a part of football. You’ve got to look for the next guy to come until that thing heals for Teddy.”

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