We’ve got a special Missouri Valley Football Conference edition for you as the league held its annual media day Monday via teleconference. A few notes from each of the nine member programs in order of predicated finish:
1. Northern Iowa
Coach Mark Farley had to reschedule his time with the media because he was repping the school in a golf fundraiser hosted by PGA Tour player Zach Johnson … The Panthers will be searching for a new kicker … Farley on the prospects for the season: “When I go back and look at last year, I just felt that (QB) Tirrell Rennie, our football team did a phenomenal job putting together the season we did with an inexperienced football team. This year, we’re going in with the experience so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can put together on the field.”
2. North Dakota State
Brock Jensen has already been named the starting QB, putting the Bison ahead of where they were last year … Coach Craig Bohl called graduated DL Matt Gratzek arguably the best player in the Valley last year … NDSU is in search of a new punter, a point of concern.
3. Southern Illinois
The Salukis return all five starting offensive linemen and two of them are all-conference picks … Paul McIntosh is the favorite to win the QB battle, but the program landed a solid transfer in A.J. Hill from Northern Illinois. His brother, Nick, played the same position at SIU. … Coach Dale Lennon put the blame for last year’s lackluster season on inconsistency.
4. South Dakota State
The Jacks face another challenging non-league schedule as Southern Utah, Cal Poly and Illinois all finished above .500 last year … Turnover margin is going to be a point of emphasis … Coach John Stiegelmeier said this of embattled returning QB Thomas O’Brien: “He needs to play better, he needs to take care of the football, he needs to mature. He’s played a lot of football for us and this is the year he needs to put his foot down and make plays.”
5. Illinois State
Coach Brock Spack said this is the best team he’s had since joining the school and the previous two both finished over .500 … The Redbirds return 10 starters on offense … The defense struggled last year. How does Spack expect to fix that? “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it,” he said.
6. Indiana State
The Sycamores weren’t picked last for a change, but they were picked relatively low considering they have 19 returning starters and six all-conference individuals … The program has grown up under coach Trent Miles going from three seniors to five seniors to seven seniors to now 20 seniors … The team will place two FBS foes this year, a major change from when it used to play two non-DIs per season.
7. Western Illinois
Why are the Leathernecks tabbed so low coming off a run to the second round of the playoffs? Because they graduated stars QB Matt Barr and LB Kyle Glazier … WIU returns 12 starters … Wil Lunt and juco transfer Josh Hudson are competing for the QB job.
8. Youngstown State
Eric Wolford begins his second year as coach with seven returning starters on offense led by Walter Payton candidate Jamaine Cook … The Penguins are focused on finishing games after blowing a handful of fourth-quarter leads last season … Wolford is also changing the approach to road games because YSU travels a minimum of six hours for every away date.
9. Missouri State
Why were the Bears picked last? Largely because they play Oregon and Arkansas - two teams in the BCS Bowl Series last year - and have their first four games on the road. That’s followed by the home opener against UNI. “In the state of Missouri we’ve got a little financial problem,” coach Terry Allen explained. “We need the money for our athletic department. That’s something the football program can do and that’s why we took those games on.” … The biggest personnel issue will be replacing four-year QB Cody Kirby.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.