CARBONDALE — Injuries to two cornerbacks opened the door for Johnston City native Coleton Jeralds to run with SIU's No. 1 defense this week.
Jeralds had a tackle in last week's first scrimmage of spring ball and broke up a jump ball intended for wide receiver Darrell James in the middle of the field Saturday. James beat him on a 29-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline later in the day, but never deterred the three-time all-conference defensive back.
"You make the play or you don't make the play, they score," Jeralds said. "That's how it is every time. It was that way all the way through high school. I've learned to take it. You win some and you lose some. You gotta get back up the next play and keep fightin'."
At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Jeralds is lanky but a bit undersized against the likes of James, a 6-foot, 184-pound fifth-year senior. Jeralds also drew 6-2, 194-pound senior Raphael Leonard on a few assignments during SIU's second scrimmage on Saturday.
With Madre Harper, a transfer from Oklahoma State, and C.J. Jennings coming back from a knee injury, Jeralds has tried to make the most of his opportunity to earn some reps in the fall.
"The coaches tell me they like my effort. That's why I'm getting some reps with the 1s right now," Jeralds said. "We don't have a lot of corners right now, because a lot of them are hurt, so they put me out there because they like my effort and they like me playing hard."
Jeralds has also practiced with the Salukis' field goal block, punt return and kickoff return. The 18-year-old has some wheels — he qualified for state with the Indians' 800 and 1,600-meter relay teams as a sophomore and junior — and learned the defense as a redshirt last season.
Every corner had trouble keeping up with Leonard Saturday, as he made a one-handed catch with a defender on his inside hip and another off a jump-ball inside the 10-yard line. SIU's defense tightened up and forced a 26-yard field goal.
"In that situation, you like that the offense got it down there. Now you want to score touchdowns, but you also want to be smart with the football and not turn it over down there so you get away with points," SIU coach Nick Hill said. "You get a field goal, but, then then the defense bows up. If you do let 'em get down there, don't give them touchdowns, you're telling them if they kick a bunch of field goals we're going to win the football game, so, it's good to see on both sides."
Harper started running at practice this week and could get more reps leading up to the spring game. Jennings probably won't see any contact reps until the fall. Fourth-year junior Tory Lewis and Wisconsin transfer Titus Booker are the Salukis' other cornerbacks in camp.
Booker intercepted a pass in his second scrimmage.
The spring game is set for Saturday, April 6 at noon. There is free admission to the event at Saluki Stadium.