CARBONDALE -- The terminology and the scheme may be different, but SIU's 3-4 defense still revolves around its linebackers' ability to get to the football.
And, redshirt freshman Carl Bivens can get to the football.
The 6-foot-1, 244-pound inside linebacker tied for fifth on the team with 50 tackles last season, getting 13 against Illinois State in his first career start. Bivens also started in place of an injured Jordan Poole at Indiana State and came up with one of his two sacks on the year.
"I think Carl really has had a good spring," SIU coach Dale Lennon said. "He's stepped forward, and really has a chance to be that all-conference type guy to replace Bryan Presume. He just has a good sense for the football."
Presume, who started in front of Bivens most of the year, led SIU in tackles for the second straight season with 104 in 12 games. Bivens said he learned more from Presume's focus than watching his technique all season.
"He's mainly about focus, and just keeping a goal in mind when you're working, and it helps you get better," Bivens said. "I learned a lot from his work ethic."
Lennon, who took over defensive coordinator responsibilities, brought new terminology, new formations and more freedom for the players. The Salukis' 3-4 has always allowed linebackers some freedom as far as where they line up and their ability to call blitzes and coverages, and, the players are still adjusting. Bivens said he has focused on his footwork and using his hands more against oncoming blockers.
SIU returns three starters at linebacker, seniors-to-be Poole (inside), Tyler Williamson and Cory Lee (outside backers). Lee had surgery to repair damage to the meniscus in his knee earlier this spring and hasn't practiced much the last two months. He is expected back in the fall at or near 100 percent. Even with Lee sidelined, Bivens likes the skill set of his group.
"I feel like this year we're going to have a very, very interesting defense, especially at the linebacker position, because we're so versatile," Bivens said. "We do so much with the talents that we do have."
* Women's clinic tonight: Lennon and his wife, Chris, hosts the 11th annual Saluki Women's Football Clinic tonight beginning at 6:30 at SIU Arena.
Attendees will go out on the Saluki Stadium artificial turf and learn rules and calls of the game, visit with defensive coaches, watch game film with offensive coaches and interact with student-athletes throughout the evening. Proceeds from the event will be used to purchase football tickets for disadvantaged youth.