Tuesday Tidbits returns this week with a team-by-team look at the Missouri Valley Football Conference media day that was held Monday:
UNI: The Panthers seem to be sound offensively with starting QB Sawyer Kollmorgen and standout RB David Johnson back – they’re among six all-league picks. UNI also has a friendlier schedule – only one BCS foe – than it did last year. Coach Mark Farley thought that took a toll physically in the middle of the season.
The biggest need is at cornerback given the graduation of two senior starters.
Western Illinois: The Leathernecks have a new coach in Bob Nielsen, who won an NCAA Division II national title at Minnesota-Duluth.
Nielsen said WIU is a young club and that can be a problem in the Valley. Its strength lies in nine returning starters on defense – and the fact that it’ll retain the same scheme used last season. The offense struggled mightily last season and was able to install only the basics during spring ball. The QB job is up for grabs.
Missouri State: The Bears have some things in place with 21 seniors, 17 returning starters – 10 on defense – and a more manageable schedule than the last couple. They were picked in eight different spots in the preseason poll.
Coach Terry Allen said that Kierra Harris is the starting QB after splitting time last year. Promising RB Ryan Heaston is back, too. He missed time last season due to a rib injury. The biggest question is the development of the offensive line.
Youngstown State: The offense will be headed by senior quarterback Kurt Hess, a four-year starter and former Walter Payton candidate. Also, WR Jelani Berassa is back after missing last season due to injury.
Defensively, the Penguins seem to have bolstered a pretty solid returning group with several December transfers. Coach Eric Wolford said that DT Octavius Brown is a name people need to know.
Indiana State: Former UNLV coach Mike Sanford takes over for Trent Miles. He said his first task was to re-recruit All-American senior RB Shakir Bell in light of valid rumors that he might transfer or go pro. Standout offensive lineman FN Lutz is back after missing all of last year due to injury.
An offensive coach by trade, Sanford said that the Sycamores have new systems in all three phases and have a two-man race at quarterback. ISU will open the season by facing two Big Ten teams.
NDSU: The Bison boast 10 all-league picks and a bunch of experienced seniors as they embark on the voyage to win a third consecutive FCS title. That’s only been done once before by Appalachian State.
Coach Craig Bohl has a succinct to-do list for that: Attention to detail, execution, health and maintaining a competitive edge. He plans to try to ward off complacency.
SDSU: The Jacks are picked second in the preseason poll, their highest standing. But coach John Stiegelmeier doesn’t think this is the most talented team he’s ever had. That distinction belongs to the 2010 club – another one with lofty preseason rankings, but that fell short of its goals.
“When you say talent, I picture athletic ability and track times and power cleans and so on,” he said. “But you don’t win football games there. You win it by 11 guys doing their job 12 games all the time. I think we’re very team-oriented. We’re a really good football team. I’ll leave it at that.”
Southern Illinois: Coach Dale Lennon expects vast improvement on the offensive side given a large group of returning starters and potential impact transfer running backs Malcom Agnew (Oregon State) and Ken Malcolm (Georgia). He hopes that will help the team get over the close-game issues of last season.
The Salukis open at Illinois.
Illinois State: The Redbirds have some holes to fill from a team that reached the playoffs and advanced last season, losing four-year starters QB Matt Brown and WR Tyrone Walker along with five starters on the front seven. Coach Brock Spack hopes standout DL Colton Underwood will help the new guys acclimate.
ISU will debut its renovated home stadium this season.
USD: Coach Joe Glenn hit on a few things several times. He likes that this team is more experienced than the last one, which failed to win a league game. He also believes this bunch has added toughness – a couple juco LBs and redshirt freshmen RBs, in particular – and that several players look the part.
Ideally, that will translate down the stretch. USD lost a handful of games by one score last season.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.