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 … Indiana 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.
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MVFC (Indiana State finished T3rd in 2018)
COACH: Curt Mallory – At School: 3rd year (7-15) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2014 (Second Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 31.7 ppg. (30th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 28.2 ppg. (T58th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 14 vs. Eastern Kentucky: It's early, but this matchup has big playoff implications. Both of these teams finished 7-4 and were on the playoff bubble last year. And both have a ton of returning starters and are preseason Top 25 teams. When it comes to being on the bubble in November, these are the type of games the playoff committee looks at.
SUM IT UP: The Sycamores were one of the best stories in the FCS last year. From 0-11 in Curt Mallory's first season as head coach in 2017 to 7-4 and 5-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2018. Unfortunately, that story ended on Nov. 18 when Indiana State was left on the bubble of the playoff bracket.
No doubt there's a fire and a drive with the team this offseason. Especially when you consider a majority of the team is coming back and doesn't want that gut punch of a feeling again. Expectations are high. And if the Sycamores can make that kind of jump from 2017 to 2018, there's a lot they can accomplish this year. That's why we have them preseason ranked No. 18.
The offense is loaded and remains mostly intact. Indiana State needs to find a new starting left tackle, but every other starter is back. You have to begin with QB Ryan Boyle, the 2018 MVFC Newcomer of the Year. The dude's a gamer and was a huge boost for the team after transferring from Iowa. Boyle can make a defense hurt with his arm and legs. He should have plenty of help in the running game, though, to maintain his health. RB Titus McCoy got valuable reps last season due to injury and is set for a big season. There's also excitement around Toledo transfer Nick Sims.
The biggest area of improvement last year was the play of the offensive line. Indiana State ran for 241.5 yards a game in 2018, which ranked 14th in the FCS. Isaiah Edwards, Wyatt Wozniak, James Lang and Kevin Kcehowski return up front. Expect the passing game to make strides as well. All of the top pass catchers are back, led by Dante Hendrix, who's just a sophomore and has a bright future.
There are a few more holes to fill defensively with six starters returning. It's a unit that wants to get its 28.2 points allowed per game to go down. HERO Sports Preseason Second Team All-American Jonas Griffith leads that side of the ball as one of the top linebackers in the FCS. He's racked up an amazing 239 tackles in the last two years. Clayton Glasco is another solid linebacker that's returning. The Sycamores have two holes to fill in the secondary with strong safety Denzel Bonner and cornerback Kaelub Newman coming back.
There is a concern in having to replace both starting defensive tackles, especially in a conference that has plenty of physical rushing attacks. Defensive ends Cade Peratt and Inoke Moala do return. Moala being back in the lineup is a huge deal. He suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game last year and the pass rush took a noticeable hit. Overall, there's plenty of talent on this side of the ball and depth is being built through recruiting.
OUR TAKE: The Sycamores want to be that under-the-radar, "no one respects us" team in 2019. No doubt last year's playoff snub added some extra motivation and this team wants to play with a chip on its shoulder. So I don't envision this part being posted on the bulletin board: we expect Indiana State to be a pretty damn good football team in 2019. They won't be sneaking up on us. What coach Mallory has done from Year 1 to Year 2 is easy to notice in the wins and losses column. But he's also changed the culture, changed the offensive and defensive schemes, improved the recruiting and has gotten the upperclassmen from the old regime to buy into his vision.
No one should be sleeping on this team anymore. The Sycamores play four nonconference games: at struggling FBS Kansas, winnable games versus Dayton and Eastern Illinois and then a key game vs. EKU that was talked about above. Then it's onto MVFC play, where Indiana State avoids North Dakota State and gets South Dakota State at home. It's a favorable schedule for a team that looks to improve greatly off a playoff-bubble season. The postseason is not only a possibility for this team, it should be an expectation.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./LB Jonas Griffith (HERO Sports Preseason Second Team All-American, 132 tackles)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./QB Ryan Boyle (Second Team All-Conference, 1,627 yards passing with 12 TDs and 3 INT, 610 yards rushing with 6 TDs); Sr./OL Wyatt Wozniak (Second Team AC); Sr./K Jerry Nunez (Second Team AC); Sr./OL Isaiah Edwards (AC HM); So./WR Dante Hendrix (AC HM, 47 rec. for 681 yards and 4 TDs); Sr./DB Denzel Bonner (MVFC All-Newcomer, 63 tackles)
TOP NEWCOMER: So./RB Nick Sims (Toledo transfer)
THE QUOTE: "It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to lead this team and represent Indiana State University. Our family loves Terre Haute, and I look forward to leading our football program into the future. Through academics, athletic development and through recruiting, we are building a championship culture that our fans can be proud of." — head coach Curt Mallory said about his contract extension
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Indiana State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MVFC
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast