HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Idaho State.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
Big Sky (Idaho State finished T4th in 2018)
COACH: Rob Phenicie – At School: 3rd year (10-12) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 1983
2018 OFFENSE: 35.3 ppg. (14th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 33.0 ppg. (87th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 9 vs. Eastern Washington: EWU is coming off a national title game appearance and looks to be the preseason favorite to win the Big Sky. Idaho State hosts the Eagles late in the season and can shake up the conference and national landscape with a win here.
SUM IT UP: Last season was a tremendous step forward for Idaho State. But the team ended the season unsatisfied. The Bengals improved their record from 4-7 (2-6 Big Sky) in 2017 to 6-5 (5-3) in 2018. A 4-1 start had Idaho State eyeing the playoffs. A 2-4 finish left the Bengals on the outside of the bracket, though.
There's plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2019. Around seven starters return on offense and six return on defense.
The offense was one of the more explosive units in the FCS last year. Replacing 3,101-yard passer Tanner Gueller is going to be key. But the supporting cast around the new QB is strong. The top two pass catchers, HERO Sports Preseason Third Team All-American Mitch Gueller and All-Big Sky Second Teamer Michael Dean, are back. Idaho State's top rusher is gone, but Ty Flanagan wasn't far behind in production and he returns for his senior season.
The Bengals have four offensive linemen back who started every game last year: Dallen Collins, Preston Holfeltz, Jacob Molenaar and Dakota Wilson.
There's work to be done on defense after allowing 33 points per game. Improvements appear to be coming with two of the three top tacklers back and seven of the top 11. Linebacker Kody Graves and safety Adkin Aguirre are the top guys coming back on that side of the ball.
OUR TAKE: Key pieces are back for Idaho State to continue progressing forward. After its 4-1 start, the next two games saw a 44-37 loss to eventual quarterfinalist UC Davis and then a 48-41 loss to FBS Liberty. This is a program that's right there on the cusp. The challenge in 2019 is finding seven D1 wins to get into the playoff bracket. A win against D2 Western Colorado University does nothing. The nonconference slate also features games at FBS Utah and BYU along with at Northern Iowa, a routine playoff participant. The Bengals take on 2018 playoff teams Eastern Washington and Weber State along with traveling to Montana. We ranked it the 19th toughest schedule in the FCS. Depending on the QB situation, Idaho State looks to be a better team this year. But it will have to knock off some strong opponents to reach the postseason.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./WR Mitch Gueller (HERO Sports Preseason All-American Third Team, 62 rec. for 1,259 yards and 9 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./WR Michael Dean (All-Conference Second Team, 49 rec. for 863 yards and 10 TDs); Sr./LB Kody Graves (AC Third Team, No. 2 tackler last year with 83); Sr./OL Dallen Collins (AC HM, 3-year starter); Sr./TE Austin Campbell (AC HM, 14 rec. for 131 yards and 5 TDs); Sr./RB Ty Flanagan (AC HM, 132 rushes for 844 yards and 8 TDs); Jr./DL Kainoa Fuiava (AC HM, 50 tackles); Sr./DB Adkin Aguirre (No. 3 tackler last year with 77, 3 INT)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DB Keithan Gooden (No. 43 ranked FCS recruit in 2019)
THE QUOTE: "The team has a tremendous amount of urgency. They're not fulfilled with last year and still want to show the town, show the city, and show the University that we're still moving in the right direction. That was not a flash in the pan last year." — head coach Rob Phenicie said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Idaho State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Big Sky
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast