CARBONDALE — With experience comes confidence.
With a year in SIU’s defensive system under his belt, color redshirt freshman D.J. Cameron confident.
The 6-foot, 187-pound safety started all but one game last year, finishing fifth on the team in tackles with 58. His two interceptions led the Salukis, who are returning four defensive backs that started at least one game in 2012.
“I know the defense now,” Cameron said. Last year was my first spring ball. This year, coming back, I know the plays more so I don’t think as much as I used to. I just see the formations, I know the stuff, make my play, and play.”
The Florissant, Mo., native had 58 tackles last year, 29 assists and 29 solos.
Three of the five returning defensive starters are in the secondary: Cameron, junior cornerback Terrell Wilson and junior safety Luke Thuston.
Thuston started the first game at strong safety and the last five at free safety.
Wilson, a likely four-year starter this fall, has the most consecutive starts on the team (24) and five career interceptions.
SIU also returns safeties Anthony Thompson, a redshirt-freshman UCLA transfer who returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Youngstown State last year, redshirt freshman Q’Niko Thomas and sophomore David Boatright.
SIU coach Dale Lennon signed three transfer cornerbacks to compete with Wilson and sophomore Courtney Richmond.
One of the transfers, Keith Suggs comes from Toledo, a Football Bowl Subdivision program. Suggs, a 5-10, 180-pound sophomore, made 15 tackles in 22 games with the Rockets.
Brandon Willingham, a 5-10, 170-pound transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, led the team with three interceptions last year and was fourth with 52 tackles.
Chris Davis, a 5-11, 180-pound sophomore from El Camino (Calif.) Community College, had 28 tackles, four pass breakups and an interception in eight games last year. Suggs, Willingham and Davis will all be juniors this fall and have two years of eligibility with the Salukis.
“We’re just all competing, sharing reps, and trying to make the best of what we got,” Cameron said.
Kyle “Bubba” Schweigert, SIU’s associate head coach/defensive coordinator, said last year’s experience could allow the secondary to play even faster this fall. The Salukis scored 10 non-offensive touchdowns last year, three on interception returns and three on fumble returns.
“D.J. Cameron played last year, Anthony Thompson, playing for a year. David Boatright got some reps in the fall,” Schweigert said. “They’re just so far ahead of where we were a year ago in the spring, as far as learning our system, so, you hopefully can do more things, and you can get more plays out of them because they can play faster when they feel comfortable with what’s going on.”
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