CARBONDALE — Freshmen defensive linemen Sam Skinner, Jaylin Wilson and Chucky Sullivan will play this season, SIU football coach Nick Hill said after practice Thursday.
Hill said some other freshmen would dress for next weekend's season opener against Mississippi Valley State, namely receiver Sam Thompson and quarterback Brandon George. The Salukis played 19 redshirt or true freshmen last season, mostly on defense.
Sullivan, a 6-foot-3, 222-pound defensive end, played with SIU in the spring after competing last season at Jireh Prep in North Carolina. He will be a true freshman, eligibility-wise, this season, but played well enough to compete right away, Hill said.
Skinner, a 6-2, 234-pound freshman from Valrico, Florida, rocketed up the depth chart at defensive end with some solid play during training camp. Skinner, a former wide receiver and quarterback at Bloomingdale High School, left with a school-record 28 sacks. Wilson, a 6-3, 247-pound lineman from Viera, Florida, had 99 tackles and 16 sacks last year.
Hill said he would have liked to redshirt most of his team this year, but that Skinner, Sullivan and Wilson proved they could help the Salukis this year. SIU doesn't return a starter on the defensive line this year, but has two players back that started at least one game in 2016, sophomore tackles Blake Parzych and Malik Haynes.
"Every year you hope you recruited well, and two or three guys will come here and be able to help your football team," Hill said. "It's always good to redshirt 'em, because you see, the guys you redshirted are just so much ahead, and they're different players than they were last year. I enjoy watching guys go from Year 1 to Year 2."
Thompson, a 6-foot, 172-pound freshman from St. Petersburg, Florida, could see time after the injury to Landon Lenoir. Lenoir tore his meniscus, Hill said, and had surgery to repair it Thursday in Carbondale. He is expected to miss between six to eight weeks.
Lenoir was pulled into action last year about midway through the season because of injuries. He originally only played on special teams, but also caught nine passes for 47 yards in seven games. Lenoir was one of the team's best receivers during the spring and was expected to be a top-five receiver this year.
SIU does not have a bye week this year, so, at best, Lenoir could return for the road trip to South Dakota State Oct. 7 or the Homecoming game against Illinois State Oct. 14.
"People have gotta step up," Hill said. "Luckily, that's a deep receiver room, so, it's been like that ever since I've been here, going back to last year, Jimmy Jones, Billy Reed, and Connor (Iwema)'s missed games. It's next man up, and in our offense, they all know their spots and people gotta step up and make plays. He'll bounce back. He's a competitor, and, hopefully, we have him down the stretch and we're having a good season where we can keep it going."
George, the Gatorade player of the year in Oklahoma, will dress for games as SIU's third or fourth quarterback or at least travel with the team on the road. Junior Matt DeSomer, a backup quarterback who switched to wide receiver last year and safety this season, will start the season as the Salukis' third quarterback, Hill said.