With one week before the team’s season opener, members of the Saluki football team are confident they are prepared for a successful season.
However, the rest of the league’s opinion differs.
SIU was picked to finish seventh in the 10-team Missouri Valley Football Conference in a poll released Wednesday and conducted by the conference’s coaches, sports information directors and media.
Junior starting quarterback Kory Faulkner said the poll is nothing but opinion at this point.
“The best thing about the poll is that nobody has played any games yet,” he said before Wednesday’s afternoon practice. “The number one ranked team can go 0-10, and we can go 10-0. It’s really no different.”
Tight end MyCole Pruitt said the team is using the low ranking as a means of motivation.
“We’re definitely talking about having a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “We want to come out and prove everybody wrong because we feel like what we’ve showed in the past isn’t really us. We want to come out and show people the new Salukis.”
Pruitt said the new Salukis are more focused and better teammates. This year’s team will be more willing to do the little things to succeed, which is something last season lacked, he said.
The most important plays a team can make are sometimes the ones that don’t appear in the stat sheet, Pruitt said.
Coach Dale Lennon said the polls are merely a reflection of the previous year, when the team finished seventh and ended with a 4-7 record.
“Last year we were the seventh best team, and that’s where we deserve to be this year,” he said.
Along with the preseason poll, the MVFC announced its preseason team, of which four SIU players were featured.
Those players include senior defensive linemen Kenneth Boatright and Kayon Swanson as well as senior kick returner Steve Strother and Pruitt, a sophomore. The Salukis tied Illinois State and Youngstown State for the second-most players on the team.
Pruitt said the four Salukis on the preseason team will be expected to lead on the field. When the season begins, however, he said everyone on the team must be ready.
“Leadership is one of the things we’ve been working on this offseason,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people stepping up in that role. Once we get into games, everybody that is on the field needs to step up.”
The Salukis will continue to prepare until Thursday’s opener, which will be on the road at Eastern Illinois University.
“We’re still seven days away from game day,” Lennon said Wednesday. “We’ve still got work to do. We’re not game-ready yet, and that’s a concern.”
Thursday’s kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Charleston.