Monday, August 8, 2011

Missouri Valley 2011 Preview

Illinois State Redbirds
2010 Record: 6-5
The Redbirds boast the return of the conference's best QB in Matt Brown, who passed for 2670 yards and 22 TDs last fall. Brown completed over 64% of his passes, so the offense is in solid hands. Erik Smith and Ashton Leggett both return at RB after combining for 1255 yards and 12 TDs last fall. Tyrone Walker was the 2nd best receiver in the MVC last fall after posting 59-974-12, and he is joined as a returning starter by Marvon Sanders, who caught 73 passes last season. ISU's offense will carry the day, but only if...
The defense can improve after giving up 446.3 yards per game last fall, along with 56 TDs. Josh Howe returns at LB after posting 112 tackles last fall, and he is an important piece in putting this defense back together. Austin Davis was the only other reliable tackler on the team, but he is a DB, making the front 7 a very vulnerable place to be. Eric Brunner led the team with 4 sacks last fall, so obviously the Redbirds have work to do in getting to the QB. Brunner also led the team with 9.5 TFLs. ISU lacks talent and play makers in the secondary, meaning that teams are likely to shred them through the air once again.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Eastern Illinois, 9/10 Morehead State, 9/17 @ Youngstown State, 9/24 South Dakota State, 10/1 @ North Dakota State, 10/8 @ Missouri State, 10/15 South Dakota, 10/22 Indiana State, 10/29 11/5 @ Southern Illinois, 11/12 Western Illinois, 11/19 Northern Iowa

Indiana State Sycamores
2010 Record: 6-5
There were fewer more impressive turnarounds in college football than the turnaround that took place with this football team in 2010. The turnaround will continue this season, as the Sycamores try to push their way into the upper half of the MVC standings. Ronnie Fouch was just what the doctor ordered at QB last fall, as he passed for 2252 yards and 20 TDs, while limiting himself to just 5 picks all season. Darius Gates is gone after rushing for 17 TDs last season, but sophomore Shakir Bell was impressive in relief of Gates, and he rushed for 649 yards, averaging 6.83 yards per carry. Brock Lough will back him up. Justin Hilton had a strong season at WR, as he was good for 7 TD receptions, and TE Alex Jones was good for 545 yards and 4 TDs.
As good as the offense was last season, the defense still had some issues, including against the run where they gave up over 200 yards rushing per game. Jacolby Washington was their most productive player up front, having collected 92 tackles, while the secondary is loaded with play makers, as Alex Sewall and Ben Obaseki both return. Obaseki collected 7.5 sacks from the secondary, and led the MVC with 16 TFLs last fall. Washington was good for 10 TFLs on the season. The Sycamores will need more help up front, where Washington basically played on an island surrounded by ineffectual teammates last fall. Calvin Burnett and Larry Carter both return to join Obaseki and and Sewall in the secondary. Carter and Burnett combined for 14 defended passes last fall. Burnett picked off 6 passes, and sophomore LJ Fort adds depth to the group, as he picked off 3 passes last fall. CJ Ullysse and CJ Cook also picked off passes as well, giving ISU the deepest and most talented secondary in the league.
If the Sycamores can solve their issues in the front seven, they may push as a dark horse team in the league for the title, as there is very little separation from 1 to 6 in this conference.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Penn State, 9/10 Butler, 9/17 @Western Kentucky, 9/24 Youngstown State, 10/1 @ South Dakota State, 10/8 @ Northern Iowa, 10/15 Western Illinois, 10/22 @ Illinois State, 11/5 North Dakota State, 11/12 @ Missouri State, 11/19 Southern Illinois

Missouri State Bears
2010 Record: 5-6
The Bears were incredible on offense, and yet were completely incompetent on defense last fall. The offense will go young this fall, as sophomore Trevor Wooden looks to have the lead in the QB battle. Chris Douglas will try to make the transition easy, as he was solid at RB, having rushed for 1051 yards and 11 TDs last fall. That was good for 27th in the country. Stephen Johnston also returns after having rushed for 752 yards and 5 scores. The top 2 targets will return for whomever wins the QB job, as WRs Jermaine Saffold and Cadarrius Dotson both come back for more. Saffold piled up 869 yards and 5 scores.
The Bears, as I had said, were heinous on defense last fall, giving up 438.4 yards per game. That being said, their top tacklers from last season all depart, leaving MSU in a bigger hole than they were in last fall. The Bears are essentially starting over again up front, as the front seven is decimated by graduations. Howard Scarborough and Jimmie Strong will return in the secondary, and both had strong seasons in 2010. Thee pressure will be immense for them, as they are the only recognizable big contributors returning.
The Bears could very well slip to the bottom of the conference in 2011, as this defense won't be able to stop a snail.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Arkansas, 9/10 @ Eastern Kentucky, 9/17 @ Oregon, 9/24 @ Southern Illinois, 10/1 Northern Iowa, 10/8 Illinois State, 10/15 @ North Dakota State, 10/22 @ Western Illinois, 10/29 @ South Dakota State, 11/12 Indiana State, 11/19 @ Youngstown State

North Dakota State Bison
2010 Record: 9-5
The Bison defeated FBS Kansas and lost to eventual champ Eastern Washington in the FCS semi-finals. You can say with confidence, that despite 5 losses that 2010 was a success. Jose Mohler returns at QB this season, but he is not the focus of the offense.  That is the job of RB DJ McNorton, who rushed for 1559 yards and 15 TDs on the season. McNorton averaged 111.36 yards per game over 14 games, finishing 14th nationally. Mike Sigers was solid in limited carries as the backup. McNorton also caught 25 passes and scores 4 times through the passing game. Warren Holloway returns at WR after catching 49 passes last fall and Justin Howard is the number 2 receiver.
Preston Davis and Chad Willson both return at LB, giving the Bison a solid corps in the middle of the field. They combined for 171 tackles last fall. Coulter Boyer returns up front at DE after collecting 6 sacks last fall. He was good for 12.5 TFLs on the season. The Bison return 3 of their top 5 play makers in the secondary, including Marcus Williams, who led the MVC in passed defended with 12. Daniel Eaves also returns after knocking away 6 passes. They combined for 7 picks last fall.
NDSU looks like they are in solid shape to push for the league title in 2011, as they have star power all over the field, and the one man wrecking crew in McNorton.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Lafayette, 9/10 St. Francis (PA), 9/24 @ Minnesota, 10/1 Illinois State, 10/8 @ Southern Illinois, 10/15 Missouri State, 10/22 @ South Dakota State, 10/29 Northern Iowa, 11/5 @ Indiana State, 11/12 Youngstown State, 11/19 @ Western Illinois

Northern Iowa Panthers
2010 Record: 7-5
UNI lost in the 1st round of the playoffs after stumbling their way to the MVC title. Tirrell Rennie returns after posting 1000 yards passing and rushing last fall. It's a good thing that he can run, because his passing game basically sucked. Rennie passed for 1526 yards with a terrible 8/11 TD to pick ratio. He only completed 55.9% of his passes, so like I said, thank God for his ability to run. Rushing is something that he did well, as he ran for 1291 yards and 15 TDs. Carlos Anderson rushed for 974 yards, but only scored twice. Jarred Herring returns at WR, but he is the only returning receiver from the starting corps last season.
LJ Fort and Jordan Smith return at LB to give the Panthers defense some support in the middle, while Andre Martin finished in the top three in tackles on the team from the secondary. Ben Boothby converted to defense last season, and he led the team with 9.5 sacks, which also led the league. Boothby, James Conley, and Fort all return up front after dominating the league for a combined 39.5 TFLs last fall. Will Eilert is also a fierce pass rusher, as he finished with 9 more. The secondary returns intact.
UNI is in strong position to win the league title again this fall, if they don't resort to head scratching losses like they did last fall.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Iowa State, 9/10 @ Stephen F. Austin, 9/24 Western Illinois, 10/1 @ Missouri State, 10/8 Indiana State, 10/15@ South Dakota State, 10/22 Southern Illinois, 10/29 @ North Dakota State, 11/5 Youngstown State, 11/12 Southern Utah, 11/19 @ Illinois State

South Dakota State Jackrabbits
2010 Record: 5-6
SDSU was competitive in league play, but was pretty awful outside of it. They will try to turn a corner this fall, but Thomas O'Brien will need to be much better at QB, as he tossed 15 picks to just 10 TDs. The Rabbits lose their top two backs from last season, so the backfield is in a state of flux going into 2011. Tyrel Kool and Brandon Hubert Both return as the top receivers, and they combined to catch 96 passes last season.
SDSU had issues stopping the run last fall, allowing 183.5 yards per game on the ground. Mike Lien returns at LB this season after collecting 98 tackles last fall. He'll be joined up front by Derek Kool, while Anthony Wise returns in the secondary after collecting 76 tackles. The Rabbits could not get into the secondary to save their lives last season, and were forced to make plays long after the line of scrimmage. Jake Stephen will join Wise in the secondary, but there is not much depth there.
SDSU will struggle once again, and could find themselves near the bottom of the league one more time.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Southern Utah, 9/10 @ Illinois, 9/17 @ Cal Poly, 9/24 @ Illinois State, 10/1 Indiana State, 10/8 @ Youngstown State, 10/15 Northern Iowa, 10/22 North Dakota State, 10/29 @ Missouri State, 11/5 Southern Illinois, 11/12 @ Western Illinois

Southern Illinois Salukis
2010 Record: 5-6
Last season was a rare struggle for the normally solid Salukis. They start over at QB, with FBS transfers Paul McIntosh (Army) and AJ Hill (Northern Illinois) battling for the job. Both may see time. Shariff Harris returns at RB after rushing for 8 scores. Steve Strother will push him for carries and yards this fall. The Salukis also start over again at WR, as they lose their top four receivers.
Joe Okon will return at LB, but there is limited talent around him up front. Jayson DiManche collected 5.5 sacks last season, and will join Okon at LB, but he was under productive in the every down scheme of things. DiManche was, however, the team leader in TFLs with 11.5. DE Chance Coda collected 8, but the Salukis need more fire out of him. The Salukis got very liitle big play ability from their secondary, and will be very young there again as they start a pair of sophomores in Boo Rodgers and Terrell Wilson.
It could be another long season for the Salukis.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Southeast Missouri State, 9/10 @ Ole Miss, 9/24 Missouri State, 10/1 @ Western Illinois, 10/8 North Dakota State, 10/15 Youngstown State, 10/22 @ Northern Iowa, 10/29 Illinois State, 11/5 @ South Dakota State. 11/12 Eastern Illinois, 11/19 @ Indiana State

Western Illinois Leathernecks
2010 Record: 8-5
The Necks made an even more impressive than Indiana State, as they went from 1-10 to the playoffs, where they fell in the 2nd round. WIU was slammed by losses after that, including at QB where Matt Barr departs. Caulton Ray and Bryce Flowers will both return at RB after combining for 1879 yards and 17 TDs. That's a plus. Terrian Crump moves into the number one WR slot after the loss of Lito Sinatus and his 14 TDs.
WIU loses incredible depth at LB and on the line. Kieran James, Tyler West, and Ryan Davis all return to give the Leathernecks something to build around in the secondary. WIU may start to slip closer to their 1-10 ways rather than stay at a playoff level. That being said, it will likely be more of a 5 or 6 win situation rather than 1.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Sam Houston State, 9/10 Jacksonville, 9/17 @ Missouri, 9/24 @ Northern Iowa, 10/1 Southern Illinois, 10/15 @ Indiana State, 10/22 Missouri State, 10/29 @ Youngstown State, 11/5 @ Illinois State, 11/12 South Dakota State, 11/19 North Dakota State

Youngstown State Penguins
2010 Record: 3-8
Waking up to see YSU sitting at 3-8 and in last place last season was like Charlton Heston finally discovering that the alien ape world he was on was actually Earth. It was just shocking to see how far the Penguins could fall, but it's obvious now that the Penguins are a shell of the program that was winning titles in the 90s. It's time to acknowledge that and move on. That being said, many of the YSU losses were close last fall, as the average margin of defeat was 8.625 points per game. A few of those games swing, and the season has a whole different look.
Also added to the equation, the Pengiins started a freshman at QB, which is not normally conducive to winning. Kurt Hess was not awful for the most part, as he passed for 2117 yards and 12 TDs. He also tossed 8 picks, which is not bad, but when you only toss 12 TDs against that number, the ratio isn't great. He will get better. Jamaine Cook is going to go head to head with McNorton of NDSU in the conference this season. Cook rushed for 1276 yards and 11 scores last fall, and actually finished with a better yards per game number at 116 yards per game, which was good for 13th nationally. Adaris Bellamy played solid numbers as a freshman last fall, and rushed for 11 TDs. Eli Ducatel will have to step up at WR, but losing Dominique Barnes will be tough.
John Sasson returns at LB to give the Penguins a solid leader up front, but the level of ability around him is lacking. The Penguins have virtually zero pass rush and do not do a solid job of defending against the run. The job is to develop a scheme that will allow defenders up front to penetrate the backfield, as the Penguins were dismal at that function in 2010. YSU also lost their only legit play maker in the secondary in Brandian Ross. The defense looks to be in trouble.
The offense has some ability to run the football, but the passing game is a big if, and the defense looks thin at best. We could be facing another down season in Youngstown. So get your damned dirty penguin hands off of me!
2011 Schedule: 9/2 @ Michigan State, 9/10 Valparaiso, 9/17 Illinois State, 9/24 @ Indiana State, 10/8 South Dakota State, 10/15 @ Southern Illinois, 10/22 St. Francis (PA), 10/29 Western Illinois, 11/5 @ Northern Iowa, 11/12 @ North Dakota State, 11/19 Missouri State

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