#13 Illinois State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Illinois State Redbirds
Overall Rank: #13
#4 Missouri Valley
Illinois State did not make as deep of a run as they had hoped in the 2015 playoffs. After getting past conference foe Western Illinois, the Redbirds lost 39-27 at home to Richmond. For a senior heavy team that played so well during the regular season, that was certainly a disappointment. But now Coach Brock Spack needs to reload and prove that his team was more than running back Marshaun Coprich and a handful of other seniors who have moved on.
2015 Record: 10-3, 7-1
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Brock Spack (38-14 at Illinois State, 38-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Clark, Billy Dicken
Defensive Coordinator: Spence Nowinsky
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jamal Towns, RB, 164 yards
Passing: Jake Kolbe, QB, 264 yards
Receiving: Anthony Warrum, WR, 1,290 yards
Tackles: Alejandro Rivera, LB, 83
Sacks: Dalton Keene, DL, 5.0; Brannon Barry, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Alec Kocour, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Christian Gibbs, OL Mark Spelman, OL Kyle Avaloy, DB Davontae Harris, DB DraShane Glass, DL Matt McCown
Key Losses: RB Marshaun Coprich, QB Tre Roberson, LB Pat Meehan, DL David Perkins, LB Alex Donnelly, DL Teddy Corwin, DB Josh Burch
With Coprich and quarterback Tre Roberson gone, the focus on offense shifts to star receiver Anthony Warrum. He caught 58 passes for 1,290 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. That is an average of 22.2 yards per catch and there are not many bigger play receivers in the country than Warrum. A very experienced offensive line, led by Mark Spelman and Kyle Avaloy should provide some consistency for the offense while they break in a new quarterback and a new running back or two. On the other side of the ball, the front seven must get by without linemen David Perkins and Teddy Corwin. Dalton Keene and Brannon Barry will have to get to the quarterback. They will get help from Matt McCown and Adam Conley, so the front line may look a bit different without Perkins and Corwin, but they should be pretty good.
The rest of the defense could be in for a tough year though. Linebackers Pat Meehan and Alex Donnelly have been starting for three years and replacing them is not going to be simple. Alejandor Rivera is the only returning starter. The secondary lacked experience last season and should be a little bit better this time around. Davontae Harris emerged as a solid player and La’Darius Newbold is an experienced corner who should be ready to step into a starting job. The star of the secondary is safety Alec Kocour, who recorded 78 tackles and led the team with three interceptions. The unit ranked ninth in the conference in pass defense though and there is a lot of work to do, especially if the pass rush is not quite as effective as they were last year. On offense, replacing Coprich will be nearly impossible. Coprich carried the ball 321 times last season, while Roberson rushed 123 times. Nobody else had more than 34 carries. Jamal Towns and George Moriera figure to split carries, but do not expect this team to run for 234.2 yards per game again in 2016.
The Bottom Line:
Quarterback Jake Kolbe will take over under center. Last season he completed 26-of-40 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns as Roberson’s backup. He has some big game experience too, coming in for Roberson in the playoff game against Richmond and running for a 17-yard touchdown. The passing game should be alright in the hands of Kolbe, but he is not as dynamic as Roberson is and is not going to consistently run for 50 yard touchdowns. That puts even more pressure on the new running backs to keep the offense balanced. Without a ground game, the grind of the MVFC is going to catch up with Illinois State by November.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 234.2 (14th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 191.5 (69, 6)
Total Offense: 425.6 (26, 2)
Scoring Offense: 34.7 (17, 3)
Rushing Defense: 146.4 (37, 3)
Pass Defense: 228.5 (85, 9)
Total Defense: 374.8 (53, 6)
Scoring Defense: 21.2 (29, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.54 (24, 3)
Sacks: 2.08 (58, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.77 (52, 5)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#46 James Robinson
#105 Ade Kilpatrick