Young Salukis deserve more playing time

Then-redshirt freshman wide receiver Darrel James runs with the ball while fending off a block on Sept. 12 during SIU football’s loss to SEMO. ( file photo)

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

In football, the freshman year is typically reserved for building and developing skill sets. 

SIU football has its share of young players who deserve more than that.

The first is redshirt freshman running back Jonathon Mixon. Running back coach Larry Warner said early in the season that Mixon would be in the rotation, but he has been used sparingly. 


Mixon has eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown in seven games, but Mixon’s best ability will never be seen on a stat sheet. He has proved he has the potential to be an excellent blocking power running back or possibly a fullback.

Most notably in the Indiana game on Sept. 5, Mixon had multiple seal blocks to break off long runs for other runners.

In the same game and also Saturday’s game against North Dakota State Mixon had runs where he stayed on his feet after initial contact.

The rise of true freshman Daquan Isom and his explosiveness has probably limited Mixon’s usage in some form, but at 6 feet, 215 pounds, Mixon has the frame to be an excellent short yardage back. 

At the very least Mixon could be used as a change-of-pace back for when opposing defenses begin to get used to Isom. 

Another redshirt freshman who should have more playing time is wide receiver Darrell James. 

James has 18 total receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.


These stats may appear like he earns adequate playing time, but in his breakout game against Southeast Missouri State, he had two spectacular catches where he rose above coverage and came down with the ball. 

In an offense that sometimes lacks a vertical deep threat, James showed he can fill that role against SEMO. 

Against Indiana State, he had three plays of 15 or more yards, including a 56-yard touchdown reception; these are the big plays James is capable of. 

The emergence of fellow redshirt freshman Jimmy Jones, who has 31 receptions for 437 yards and six touchdowns, didn’t help James’ playing time this season. James will likely become a starter next year after senior Israel Lamprakes’ eligibility is up. 

James had no receptions against Youngstown State and did not play against North Dakota State, but was dressed for the game. He appeared to have a slight limp, so injury may have played a part. 

These players would not have changed the season completely, but likely would have had impacts in larger roles.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE