HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Illinois State
ILLINOIS STATE (6-5 IN 2017)
MVFC (ISU was 6th in 2017)
COACH: Brock Spack – 10th year (68-40 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 26.1 ppg. (53rd in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 19.4 ppg. (22nd in FCS)
SUM IT UP: No doubt about it, the Redbirds are coming off a disappointing season. Their run of three straight playoff appearances, kick-started by a national title runner-up finish in 2014, ended last year at 6-5. ISU was 6-2 at one point. One more win would have sealed a spot in the tournament. But three straight losses against eventual playoff teams spelled doom. That leaves a motivated team with about half of its starters coming back. The defense does lose a lot of talent, but always is a tough unit to score on under Spack and is being filled out with some transfers. On offense, the No. 1 key is quarterback. The offensive line remains mostly intact with preseason All-American running back James Robinson and Second Team All-MVFC receiver Spencer Schnell back. Jake Kolbe has started since the 2016 season with some up-and-down performances. Malachi Broadnax began to play more and more late in the season last year as a freshman. And the Redbirds brought in Memphis transfer Brady Davis this summer. If whoever wins the QB battle can provide stable play, this team will return to the postseason.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: A Top 2 finish in the MVFC typically earns a playoff seed. With the number of questions surrounding multiple teams in the Valley, ISU can slide into that No. 2 spot behind North Dakota State.
TOP RETURNEE: RB James Robinson (Preseason Second Team All-American)
THE NEXT BEST: OL Drew Himmelman (Preseason Third Team All-American); WR Spencer Schnell (2nd Team All-Conference); TE Tylor Petkovich (23 rec., 244 yards ); S Mitchell Brees (Leading returning tackler, 46 total)
TOP NEWCOMER: QB Brady Davis (Memphis transfer, 2014 Mississippi HS Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year)
DID YOU KNOW?: Former ISU defensive end Colton Underwood is on the latest season of The Bachelorette.
THE QUOTE: "Overall, I loved what I saw out of this team this spring. We seemed to improve each day and we certainly got better from the start of practice until today. We got some things figured out personnel-wise, but there are still some questions that need to be answered when we get back to camp this fall with our new players." — Head Coach Brock Spack said after spring ball
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #BackTheBirds
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @RedbirdFB
FCS QB TRANSFERS: Who Tops The List?