CARBONDALE — Wide receiver Landon Lenoir played in seven games last season as a true freshman, mostly on special teams, and said this spring was all about consistency and doing whatever his team needed him to do.
Saturday, that included turning back in after going out to snag a 38-yard touchdown pass from Sam Straub between two defenders.
"It was really a wrong route by me, so I kind of messed that up, but I came down with it," said Lenoir, who turned out near the 15-yard line but came back to beat two defensive backs and fellow receiver Raphael Leonard in the middle of the end zone. "I saw it in the air, it was coming down really slow, so I just went up and grabbed it. When I came down with it I knew nobody else was going to try to grab it out, so that was kinda good."
Lenoir has been better than kinda good this spring. The Crete native caught a team-high seven passes for a team-high 85 yards at Saluki Stadium to lead a big morning by the wide receiver corps. Darrell James caught four passes for 72 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown for the first score of the day, and Leonard snared two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Leonard, a 6-3, 190-pound junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College, made the catch of the day when he caught Tanner Hearn's lob to the left corner of the end zone from 24 yards out.
"Darrell made one. Landon made one really tough catch, and then Ralph made a tough catch in the other corner," SIU coach Nick Hill said. "Those were all contested balls. I like the defense that we played, but I like that everybody's there, but, it comes down to making plays sometimes like that in the game."
Lenoir, who caught a team-best eight catches in the first scrimmage of spring ball, said his timing with starting quarterback Sam Straub has helped his production as much as anything.
"I feel like we're hot right now," he said. "We've been working ever since winter conditioning, and ever since we've been out here we've just been building chemistry."
Jonathan Mixon, a 5-11, 222-pound junior who is pushing to be an every-down back, led the ground game with 71 yards on 10 carries. Mixon also caught one pass for five yards.
Straub completed 12 of 17 passes for 163 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hearn completed 5 of 16 passes for 53 yards, the score to Leonard, and one interception.
The defense had two sacks, one interception when safety James Ceasar caught an overthrown pass, and seven quarterback hurries. Linebackers Markese Jackson (six tackles) and Cody Crider (five) and cornerback C.J. Jennings (four) had the most stops during the 60-play workout.
SIU is scheduled to practice Tuesday and Thursday before Saturday's spring game at Saluki Stadium. Admission is free for the spring game, which is set to start at 2 p.m.