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Saluki football adjusts to pandemic life

  • SIU head football coach Nick Hill speaks at a virtual news conference last week.

    SIU head football coach Nick Hill speaks at a virtual news conference last week.

By Marv Courson
Contributing Writer
updated: 8/7/2020 2:57 PM

I thought I was the only guy battling equipment difficulties during this darn pandemic because my eye glasses fog up continuously while I have my mask on. Never did I think of my poor brethren in the Saluki football world.

"My face shield has a tendency to fog up and be a problem when it rains," noted SIU head coach Nick Hill in a wide-ranging virtual news conference last week. "And when I blow my coach's whistle, it really echoes and hurts my ears."

But pity more the poor players who have to dress in a tent outside the stadium.

"Face shields during the rains which we have been having lately is kind of a problem and we have to remember to put on masks when we take our helmets off on the sidelines," said returning seenior Cody Crider. "But hey, I'm just feeling good to actually be able to practice once again."

The Saluki players had to stop after only two weeks into March's spring practice, and they also missed eight weeks of summer conditioning. For Crider, a team leader, there is no more slapping a player on the back for doing a good job or even having close quarters talk.

"Now I just yell (from a safe distance) at teammates to get them motivated," said Crider.

Nevertheless, Hill and Crider feel they have a vet group going into the 2020 season, which is slated to begin Aug. 29 at Kansas.

It looks like the once-contested Saluki quarterback spot is set with Kare Lyles, last season's end-of-year starter, to initially face the Jayhawks. That's if the game is still on. It's up to the big wigs at the Big 12 Conference to decide whether they will play non-conference teams, too. (Big Ten is only playing in conference.) That will be known sometime this week.

"Whatever will be, will be," said Hill. "We'll deal with that if it comes. But I'll tell you one thing: We aren't going to sit around and complain, one way or the other."

There have been no known COVID positives so far on the team, but that does not mean that COVID hasn't taken a toll, of sorts.

"We do have some players choosing to not participate in practices," noted Hill. "But we respect their right to make that health decision."

One positive sign Hill has seen so far is the ability shown by last year's signed transfers.

"All the JUCO and D-I transfers have been impressive in the first few days of practice," Hill said. "And we're always looking to add talent even at this late date."

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