CARBONDALE — SIU safety Jeremy Chinn watches highlights of some of his favorite players before every game.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound sophomore could spend some time watching his own after less than two seasons. Chinn's 25 tackles through four games ranked fourth on the team. His two interceptions led the Salukis going into Saturday night's game at No. 8/9 South Dakota State, and gave him five for his career.

Chinn, 19, has helped lead a big defensive turnaround for SIU in the second year of defensive coordinator Kraig Paulson's 4-3 scheme. Heading into Saturday's game, SIU's defense was allowing 8.7 points per game less than last season, an average of 72.9 less yards a game, with just under two more tackles for loss per game.

"We practice certain formations all week, and then, come the game, we might see a new one, but I feel like, with this team, we can rule everything out because we know the game more, and we know the defense more," Chinn said.

Alongside Ryan Neal, a 6-3, 200-pound senior strong safety, SIU allowed one offensive touchdown longer than 14 yards in its first four games. At 6-2, Chinn, a former cornerback in high school, can defend smaller running backs and guys like Northern Iowa's 6-1 Daurice Fountain.

"Being my size and my height, I feel like I can go up against anybody," Chinn said. "No matter if they're 6-8 or 6-4, I feel like I can high-point a ball just as good as anybody."

Chinn's drive comes partly through tragedy. Dijon Anderson, an SIU recruit from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, played 7-on-7 ball with Chinn. Chinn helped the defensive back get recruited by the Salukis, mentioning him to recruiting coordinator Nate Griffin.

Anderson was killed in a shooting May 6 in the 5600 block of West 38th Street just after midnight. He was 18 years old.

"That drives me constantly. Every single day I think about him," Chinn said. "Every time I step on the field. Everything I do, I think about Dijon. Threes up. It really taught me not to take anything for granted."

Anderson and Angel Mejia-Alfaro, a fellow student at Warren Central, died from their wounds. Another student, Darius Moore, 19, was seriously wounded but released from the hospital in late May. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police released surveillance photos of two men wanted for questionining in connection with the shootings, according to the Indianapolis Star.

There have been no arrests in the case, according to Detective Daniel W. Smith of the Indianapolis Police Department, and the investigation is ongoing.

Chinn, more than most, understands how every play could be his last. In football, and in life.

"You never know how fast something could be taken away from you," he said. "Even looking around at my teammates that have injuries, and stuff like that. Obviously that's not the same, but you can't take anything for granted. You tell your family you love 'em."

todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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