#20 Indiana State FCS Football 2015 Preview

Indiana State Sycamores

Overall Rank: #20
#5 Missouri Valley

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Indiana State completed an epic turnaround from a 1-11 record in 2013 to a trip to the playoffs in 2014. The Sycamores quickly showed that they would be a force in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. After losing to Indiana, Indiana State knocked off Tennessee Tech, FBS member Ball State and playoff participant Liberty. In their MVFC opener, Indiana State kept the momentum going by beating Northern Iowa. Coach Mike Sanford only needed three other conference wins to make the playoffs. And once in the playoffs, his team wasn’t done. They went to Eastern Kentucky and won 36-16 before falling at Chattanooga in the second round.

2014 Record: 8-6, 4-4
2014 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mike Sanford (9-17 at Indiana State, 25-60 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Sheppard
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Cabral

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LeMonte Booker, RB, 367 yards
Passing: Matt Adam, QB, 201 yards
Receiving: Gary Owens, WR, 815 yards
Tackles: Kendall Walker, LB, 123
Sacks: Connor Underwood, LB, 13.5
Interceptions: Mark Sewall, DB, 4; Travis Starks, DB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Dimitri Taylor, WR Robert Tonyan Jr, LB Jameer Thurman, DL Conlan Cassidy, DB Dejuan Lang, P Osborn Umeh

Key Losses: QB Mike Perish, RB Buck Logan, WR A.J. Johnson, WR Kyani Harris, OL Aaron Jelovic

While the offense recovers from some major losses, the defense will pick up the slack. Linebacker Connor Underwood is one of the bests players in the conference. Last season he tallied 13.5 sacks, 25.0 tackles-for-loss and 11 quarterback hurries. During his three years in Terre Haute, Underwood has 27.5 sacks and 52.5 tackles-for-loss. Kendall Walker, who led the team with 123 tackles, and Jameer Thurman, who added 82 tackles, are back to make this one of the best linebacker groups in the country. But the secondary may even be better. Cornerback Travis Starks is an all-conference caliber player and Alex Stowers and Dejuan Lang have plenty of experience. Safety Mark Sewall was second on the team in tackles with 114 and picked off four passes in 2014. The Indiana State pass defense ranked fourth in the conference a year ago, but expect them to be even better this time around.

The offense has a little work to do. They were the best passing offense in the MVFC, but that was with Mike Perish under center. He threw for 3,515 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year. His backup, Matt Adam is the heir apparent but former Cal Bear Zach Kline, who spent last season at Butte College, will be in the mix as well. Whoever is at quarterback will have wide receiver Gary Owens to work with. Owens led the team with 69 catches for 815 yards and five touchdowns. The ground game, which ranked dead last in the MVFC with just 88.6 yards per game, will need to replace Buck Logan. LeMonte Booker, who rushed for 367 yards and three touchdowns and has shown his explosiveness as a return specialist, will likely get a bulk of the carries.

The Bottom Line:
Indiana State’s schedule is a bit back heavy, so they should have some time to find a quarterback before they play North Dakota State, Illinois State and Northern Iowa in a three game stretch starting in late October. That three game stretch, along with a trip to Purdue in week two, leaves little room for error for Indiana State. Road trips to Missouri State, who took the old hidden ball trick on a kickoff to beat at home last year, and South Dakota State to open up MVFC play are practically must wins if Indiana State wants to return to the playoffs.   

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 88.6 (115th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 269.8 (20, 1)
Total Offense: 358.4 (83, 8)
Scoring Offense: 25.3 (73, 7)
Rushing Defense: 172.2 (59, 7)
Pass Defense: 203.6 (46, 4)
Total Defense: 375.9 (50, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.2 (44, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.64 (20, 4)
Sacks: 2.36 (41, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.86 (97, 9)


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