Redhawks move quarterback to defense

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anderson moves to safety after an effective return of injured quarterback Houston Lillard.

When Houston Lillard was healthy this year, he and Victor Anderson split the quarterback duties in every Southeast Missouri State football game.

But the signal caller job is now Lillard's as long as he performs well.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel said during his weekly media briefing Monday that Anderson has been moved to safety in order to take advantage of his athletic ability and also help shore up a position that has been hit hard by injuries.

The move was made because it has become apparent that Lillard, who returned Saturday from an injury, gives Southeast its best chance of having a balanced offense.

Anderson, a junior college transfer, is Southeast's No. 2 rusher with 339 yards (averaging 4.5 yards per carry), and ranks third among OVC quarterbacks in rushing.

But Anderson has struggled with his passing all season. His 36.9-percent completion rate (31-of-84) is by far the lowest among OVC quarterbacks who see fairly regular action.

Anderson has thrown for 281 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

With an average of 108.6 yards passing per game, Southeast ranks last in the 10-team OVC and 109th among 116 Division I-AA squads. The Redhawks are 114th in passing efficiency.

"He's got great athletic ability. He's a big, strong kid," said Samuel of Anderson, who is listed at 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds. "We're losing people on defense. We've got him at safety right now. We're trying to figure out where to put him.

Southeast Missouri State junior quarterback Victor Anderson passed during Saturday's loss to Murray State. The junior college transfer has been moved to safety after stuggling with his passing most of the season. Southeast averages an OVC-low 108.6 yards passing per game. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

"We're basically going to see what he can do. We're hoping he can help us this week [at Tennessee-Martin]."

Samuel said moving Anderson to defense is something he had thought about for a while, but officially made the decision after Anderson approached Samuel about it Sunday.

"He actually came to me and wanted to do it," Samuel said.

Anderson will join his twin brother and fellow junior college transfer, Vincent Anderson, as a player who has moved to defense after starting the year on offense.

Vincent Anderson played the first five games at wide receiver and still leads Southeast in receptions with 12.

Vincent Anderson was moved to safety during the week of Southeast's open date and has played the past two games in the defensive backfield.

During Saturday's 31-17 home loss to Murray State, Vincent Anderson made nine tackles and broke up two passes.

"He made some nice plays," Samuel said. "It takes a while ... the difference with him, he moved during the bye week."

With the Andersons playing different safety positions, there's a good chance they'll ultimately be on the field at the same time for good portions of games.

"I think it could grow into something if they feed off each other," Samuel said.

Lillard, after missing two games and most of a third because of cracked ribs suffered Sept. 22 at Samford, saw his first action in about a month against Murray State.

Although the original plan was to give Lillard one more week off, he was called upon early in the fourth quarter with Southeast trailing 17-7.

Lillard led two scoring drives that produced 10 points. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 139 yards after Anderson and Steve Callanan had combined to complete 9-of-19 for 78 yards through three quarters.

Although in limited attempts, Lillard is tied for second in the OVC with a 66.7 percent completion percentage (30-of-45).

Lillard, who missed all of last season with a knee injury after transferring from junior college, has accounted for 379 of Southeast's 760 passing yards. He has thrown for one touchdown and been intercepted twice.

"Our offense is different with him back there," Samuel said. "He's able to throw with a good degree of accuracy."

Southeast leads the OVC and ranks 21st nationally in rushing offense (215.6 yards per game), but primarily because of their struggling passing attack, the Redhawks are next-to-last in the league in total offense (324.1 yards per game) and last in scoring offense (17.9 points).

Samuel said opponents were starting to load up the line of scrimmage with defenders in order to try to take away the run. Lillard's presence should make that strategy more difficult to employ.

With Lillard now the Redhawks' clear-cut No. 1 quarterback, redshirt freshman Callanan moves up to second team, with true freshman Jared Van Slyke No. 3 on the depth chart.

Callanan has completed 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) for 100 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Van Slyke, whose only action so far has consisted of two series against Samford after Lillard was hurt and Anderson suffered cramps, had his lone pass attempt intercepted.

"We still have three quarterbacks we can go to," Samuel said.

But when the last-place Redhawks (2-5, 0-4 OVC) try to snap their four-game losing streak Saturday at ninth-place Tennessee-Martin (1-7, 1-4), Lillard will be the quarterback in the spotlight.

Noteworthy

* Southeast senior linebacker Adam Casper, who suffered a knee injury late in the third quarter against Murray State and did not return, is listed as probable for the Tennessee-Martin game.

Casper leads the OVC and ranks 16th nationally in tackles per game. He has 74 tackles.

* Southeast sophomore kicker/punter Doug Spada ranks high nationally in both his specialties. He is tied for 10th in field goals made (11-of-13) and is 11th in punting (42.4-yard average).

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