#36 Indiana State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Indiana State Sycamores
Overall Rank: #36
#7 Missouri Valley
Indiana State got off to a pretty good start in 2015. They began 4-2 with the two losses coming at Purdue and South Dakota State. But after that the schedule got even tougher and the Sycamores could not get past North Dakota State, Illinois State or Northern Iowa. Those are the types of games this team needs to win on occasion if they want to make a serious run towards a playoff berth in 2016.
2015 Record: 5-6, 3-5
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Mike Sanford (14-23 at Indiana State, 30-66 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Sheppard
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Cabral
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Roland Genesy, RB, 582 yards
Passing: Robert Tonyan, WR, 56 yards
Receiving: Robert Tonyan, WR, 601 yards
Tackles: Jameer Thurman, LB, 75; Marcus Gray, DB, 75
Sacks: Antonio Broadus, DL, 2.5
Interceptions: Jameer Thurman, LB, 2; Marcus Gray, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB LeMonte Booker, WR Sampson Levingston, OL Dakota Vermillion, DB Tsali Lough, DB Lonnell Brown, LS Joshua Appel
Key Losses: QB Matt Adam, WR Gary Owens, DB Travis Starks, LB Kendall Walker, LB Connor Underwood
Quarterback Matt Adam is academically ineligible this season and that is a huge concern for the offense. Sophomore Isaac Harker is the only quarterback currently on the roster that has any experience. He was the heir apparent to Adam, but it was not expected that he would have to take over this soon. Harker is a good quarterback and threw a few passes last season and the bigger issue will be depth at the position. Harker will have plenty of weapons to work with, including 6-5 receiver Robert Tonyan, who caught 40 passes for 601 yards and six touchdowns. He will make some amazing catches. Also back are Sampson Levingston and promising sophomore Kelvin Cook. But while the passing game adjusts to life without Adam, the Sycamores will likely look to their experienced stable of running backs to help ease the transition. Roland Genesy rushed for 582 yards and three touchdowns last season and LeMonte Booker and Marlon Fleming could both see an increase in carries as well. Booker is also a dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield. As long as the offensive line can give Harker some time, this offense will be solid.
On the whole, the defense was not too bad last season considering the difficulty of the schedule. They gave up 59 points to Northern Iowa and 37 the next week to Western Illinois, but other than that the defense did enough. The secondary is in good shape with Marcus Gray, Tsali Lough and Lonnell Brown returning. Gray, along with linebacker Jameer Thurman, is the team’s top returning tackler with 75. Despite a non-existent pass rush, the secondary was pretty good last year and should be again this year. Thurman will be asked to help spearhead an effort to improve the run defense. With Kendall Walker and Connor Underwood gone, the group at linebacker will have some new faces. The front line has to get better too. They need to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback and help make life easier for the linebackers against the run. Antonio Broadus is the only returning linemen to tally more than one sack last season and players like Alec Lyons, Conlan Cassidy and Tyshon Waller need to step up.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule in the MVFC is always difficult. It helps that Indiana State misses South Dakota State, but traveling to Youngstown State and North Dakota State and hosting Illinois State and Northern Iowa makes for very little margin for error. After hosting Butler and traveling to Minnesota and Southeast Missouri State in non-conference play, both Illinois State and Missouri State travel to Memorial Stadium. Starting with two home games in MVFC action should help get the new quarterback settled. Beating Illinois State probably is not going to happen, but if the Sycamores get off to a 3-2 start, they can have some momentum down the stretch and at least look for another 6-5 campaign.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 176.0 (45th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 204.6 (59, 4)
Total Offense: 380.6 (60, 8)
Scoring Offense: 27.7 (57, 7)
Rushing Defense: 198.5 (90, 8)
Pass Defense: 207.8 (52, 6)
Total Defense: 406.3 (81, 8)
Scoring Defense: 31.5 (84, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (34, 5)
Sacks: 1.27 (108, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 3.91 (121, 10)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#102 Nick Derheimer