TERRE HAUTE —
The foundation stones are there for Indiana State’s football team. They’re spread out neatly and evenly over the offensive and defensive units.
There’s Shakir Bell, a rock at running back, a vocal motivator for his teammates, and perhaps, one of the best football players in program history.
There’s center FN Lutz, who returns from a knee injury that cost him his 2012 season, but who was never really away anyway given his leadership skills.
There’s cornerback Calvin Burnett, who has quietly been one of the better cornerbacks in the Missouri Valley Football Conference since 2010.
There’s defensive tackle Tyler Boyd, who has steadily gone about his business in the defensive line with even quieter aplomb than Burnett.
The Sycamores’ foundation stones are solid … the question that hangs over the 2013 season is whether the materials used to build around that foundation will be sound enough to keep ISU football on the successful course its blazed since the 2010 season.
There are other veterans — safety Donovan Layne, hybrid linebacker-defensive end Connor Underwood, defensive tackle Russell Jones, wide receiver Tanner Riley, quarterback Mike Perish — who provide hope that ISU can enjoy its fourth consecutive winning season and finally break through to earn a FCS playoff bid, the prize that has eluded the Sycamores since 1984.
On the other hand, there are new starters within every unit, save running backs. The linebackers are completely new and the punter, Jordon Stangler, replaces two-time All-MVFC punter Lucas Hileman.
Some of the units that return players aren’t dogged by inexperience so much as the need to improve. To wit, the quarterback-wide receiver combination needs to improve its 102nd place national passing rank. There is not a declared starting quarterback as incumbent Mike Perish and Robert Tonyan Jr. will share duties for now.
So for all of the foundation stones, there are question marks to match them.
“We have experienced guys who are the rocks and we have young guys who need to grow up fast. How fast we grow up and how fast we mature as a football is going to have a lot to do with how we play,” ISU coach Mike Sanford said.
The Sanford era at ISU begins unlike any coaching era since Dennis Raetz took command in 1980. Instead of being a building or reclamation project, Sanford has something to sustain at ISU. The program hasn’t enjoyed four consecutive winning seasons it put together six in a row from 1964-69.
Former coach Trent Miles, who took over a FBS school Georgia State in December 2012, used a core of players recruited in his first and second classes to build the team that went 19-14 in the last three seasons. The remaining foundation stones are the remnants of that group and the challenge for Sanford is keep ISU from taking a step backward before he puts the stamp on the program himself.
Sanford is confident the Sycamores will be ready and will be successful in 2013. But like any coach, he feels there’s always one more thing to do when it comes to improving the team.
“Any coach has a combination of two extreme emotions. One is excitement and the other side is uncertainty. Fear of the unknown. To say that I feel great about football team? I love our guys. I love our attitude, I love our preparation. I feel, though, like we have to continue preparing,” Sanford said.
Preparation, Sanford said, is most needed in how the Sycamores prepare themselves. A big part of how ISU prepares itself is mastering Sanford’s spread offense and an attacking defensive scheme, both having been changed from Miles’ regime.
In its formations, ISU won’t look altogether different than it did under Miles. Three-receiver sets were common and will be again under Sanford. The tight end will be utilized as it was before. Bell, of course, will be the focal point of the offense.
Defensively, ISU will have a similar look that it did a year ago. It’s a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense where a player (Underwood) sets up as a down lineman or a standup defender depending on the game situation.
The devil is in the details on both sides of the ball. The offense will be more diverse and will call for a different level of concentration from the players. The defense will be more aggressive, and as a result, will be punished more severely if a player misses his assignment.
“It’s a whole new scheme. It’s a whole new way of playing. Last year, we had a lot of zone. This year, we’re playing more man. It’s fun to go and do new things, but it’s a challenge too,” ISU safety Donovan Layne said of the defense.
ISU’s players have had time to get used to the new schemes as well as a different way of doing things by Sanford himself. Miles was fiery and his passion motivated many of the Sycamores and caused others to go into a shell.
Sanford is quieter, has more of a corporate approach, and allows the players’ actions on the practice field speak for themselves in terms of playing time or lack thereof.
Like Miles, Sanford will have more say on the offensive side of the ball — all but one season in Sanford’s assistant coaching career was spent on offense — than the defensive side. But he said, in general, he likes to leave many of the gameday details to his coaching staff.
“I leave a lot to the coordinators, but I’m involved in a lot of the decision-making, especially on offense. As far as going for it, what we’re doing in kicking situations, red zone, I’m very involved,” Sanford said. “I’ll have a conversation in-between series with our defense. I’ve learned it’s better to have an overall perspective than for me to call every play.”
So what’s a fair expectation for the Sycamores? Their nonconference slate will test them. It’s the first time ISU has played two Big Ten teams in a single season, and while the combined $800,000 ISU gets for the two games will do wonders for the athletic budget, it might not help ISU’s playoff hopes.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference is once again considered to be the best FCS conference in the nation. North Dakota State, the two-time defending national champion, returns everyone. South Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Youngstown State and Illinois State are all expected to be formidable. ISU was picked sixth in the MVFC preseason poll.
On ISU’s side of the ledger, it will not play UNI in the regular season and it plays two MVFC strugglers — South Dakota and Missouri State — in winnable road games. The FCS playoff field expands to 24 this season which will help ISU’s playoff odds.
“I never like to say how many games we’re going to win. Our goal is to win a championship, go to the FCS playoffs and win a national championship. We’ll be a hungry team that plays hard,” Sanford said.
That hunger was best articulated by Bell, who may have given a clue as to how the circle is squared to build a winning house around ISU’s foundation stones.
“The energy around here is crazy. There’s so many young guys who want to prove what they can do. There’s seniors here who are hungry to take this program to the next level and make the next step. We’re all so ready to go out and prove ourselves,” Bell said.
Sycamores need youth to contribute too
TERRE HAUTE —
The foundation stones are there for Indiana State’s football team. They’re spread out neatly and evenly over the offensive and defensive units.
Immense power: A leaner A.J. Reed making play as elite prospect
Reed took his talents to Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference in 2011 and hasn’t looked back in the baseball sense. After a standout career at Terre Haute South — he was Indiana’s Player of the Year in 2011 — area fans had an idea of the wind Kentucky was sowing when it coaxed Reed to Lexington, Ky.
METRO ROUNDUP: Odum shines in Portsmouth Invitational
Former Indiana State guard Jake Odum had a productive first night at the Portsmouth Invitational late Thursday.
The Terre Haute native scored 16 points, had six assists and three steals for the Portsmouth Partnership team in its 88-81 victory over Cherry Bekaert.
ISU falls to Canisius in first of three-game road series
The Indiana State baseball team fell behind early and never could get the lead as host Canisius posted a 3-1 victory in the opener of a three-game series Friday at Demske Sports Complex.
The Sycamores (24-11) and Griffins (21-13) will meet again at 2 p.m. today, but the venue will switch to Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, N.Y. The same two teams also will play Sunday back at Demske Sports Complex in a noon start.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods sweeps doubleheader over Rose-Hulman
Over the years, defeating its crosstown rival has not usually been easy for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods or Rose-Hulman when they’ve met in college softball.
But on Wednesday afternoon at The Woods, the home team made its doubleheader sweep look easy to first-year coach Mark Feller with five-inning decisions of 10-0 and 11-1.
Terre Haute North grad O'Leary to transfer from Loyola
Matt O’Leary is one of three men's basketball players at Loyola recently granted a release from his scholarship from the Missouri Valley Conference school.
The former Terre Haute North standout told the Tribune-Star he doesn’t yet know his next move.
Rose-Hulman, Woods to face off on softball diamond
The Rose-Hulman softball team will visit a familiar foe today when the Engineers take on crosstown rival Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in a nonleague doubleheader.
ISU baseball holds off Eastern Illinois for 24th win
Indiana State freshman left-hander Ryan Keaffaber won his first game as a Sycamore and senior catcher Mike Fitzgerald went 3 for 3 as ISU defeated host Eastern Illinois 6-4 in college baseball Tuesday.
Top returners lead Cream over Crimson in Hoosiers' spring game
The Cream team at Saturday’s Cream and Crimson intrasquad game had Indiana’s top returning rusher and receiver and the Hoosiers’ top-rated passer from last season.
No surprise, then, that Tevin Coleman, Shane Wynn and Tre Roberson guided the Cream to a resounding 24-14 win over the Crimson.
Rose-Hulman baseball gets wild doubleheader sweep
Host Rose-Hulman came back from an early six-run deficit in the first game Saturday and went on to a 13-12, 7-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball sweep over Mount St. Joseph.
The wild opener featured a Rose-Hulman comeback from an 8-2 deficit and included 18 hits and two school records for the Engineers.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU softball earns doubleheader sweep at Missouri State
Yvette Alvarez’s one-hit shutout capped a dominant day of pitching Saturday as Indiana State swept a Missouri Valley Conference softball doubleheader at Missouri State by scores of 6-1 and 4-0.
“We pitched well,” coach Shane Bouman said. “Both Taylor Lockwood in the first game and Yvette Alvarez in the second game threw great. When you pitch good and you play good defense and get some key hits, good things are going to happen.
ISU football set for first spring scrimmage
Thanks to a limited number of available offensive linemen — a group that will at least double in numbers in the fall with the addition of recruits and currently injured players — the Sycamores won’t have a full-scale scrimmage, but will still intersperse scrimmage plays (with officials) among other practice drills.
“We’re thin,” coach Mike Sanford admitted after practice Thursday. “The scrimmage will be part of practice — probably 30 or 40 plays altogether. We only have five to seven healthy offensive linemen, so we can’t go [in a scrimmage format] for long stretches of time.”
METRO ROUNDUP: Waltman's funeral Saturday at Indianapolis
Royce Waltman’s visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at St. Luke’s Methodist Church at 100 E. 86th Street, Indianapolis.
ISU baseball falls to Vanderbilt 6-2
The seventh-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores took control early to defeat the Indiana State Sycamores 6-2
ISU baseball sweeps doubleheader against Wichita State
Indiana State baseball coach Mitch Hannahs finally got what he’s been looking for from the Sycamores’ Friday and Saturday starters ... and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Wichita State is in town for a crucial series. With ISU 2-4 in the league, it was vital for the Sycamores to validate their better-than-expected form in nonconference play with MVC success in Saturday’s doubleheader at Bob Warn Field.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman's nine-game winnings streak snapped
Rose-Hulman had its nine-game winning streak snapped with two tightly contested losses at defending Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champion Manchester on Saturday.
Sycamores get commitment from junior-college point guard
Following Indiana State’s loss to Marquette in the WNIT, coach Teri Moren touched on the future of the program after the loss of Sycamore senior Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir.
Prusator gives ISU a shooter for 2015
Grant Prusator, a native of Rochelle, Ill., has made a verbal commitment to play basketball for Indiana State starting in the 2014-15 season. He will have three years of eligibility with the Sycamores as he played just one year for Highland Community College.
Metro sports: Locks of Love tournament today at Memorial Stadium
The Indiana State Women’s Soccer team will host its annual Locks of Love tournament today. The 4th annual event will begin at 9 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Indiana State secondary could be mending into a strength
During Indiana State’s injury-ravaged 2013 season, there wasn’t a unit on either side of the ball that was spared from the carnage.
But if one had to be singled out as hardest hit in the injury department, it would be difficult to out-do the Sycamores’ secondary.
Every player that started in ISU’s season opener at Indiana not only missed at least one game last season, but the entire starting unit was out of action by the end of September.
Reed named Midseason National Player of the Year
Half of the college baseball season is done and one prominent college baseball publication thinks Terre Haute’s A.J. Reed is best player in the land.
Reed, a junior at Kentucky, was named the Midseason National Player of the Year by Perfect Game USA, a website devoted to college baseball.
Laramie to transfer from ISU women's basketball program
Indiana State forward Marina Laramie averaged 9.9 points and started all 32 games as a sophomore for the Sycamores.
But the 6-foot-2 women’s basketball player will continue her career elsewhere.
Metro sports: ISU blanks Austin Peay in 6-plus innings
Indiana State’s baseball team posted another mid-week victory Wednesday night as four pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout and lead a 3-0 victory over Austin Peay State at Bob Warn Field.
Chicago guard commits to ISU women's basketball
The Indiana State women’s basketball team picked up a verbal commitment from Chicago guard Kiera Brooks on Tuesday.
The 5-foot-7 junior for North Lawndale College Prep visited ISU’s campus for the first time, met the team and chose her college home. Brooks averaged 18.7 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for coach Corey Morgan’s 15-11 squad.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU softball tops IU 7-5
The Indiana State softball team remained a perfect 13-0 when scoring in the first inning as it defeated Indiana (9-24-1) 7-5 Tuesday for its second consecutive victory over a Big Ten opponent.
Dedicated to helping others
It’s not like Marissa Stout is bored out of her mind and lacking for things to do.
Metro sports: ISU’s Stone, Riemenschneider honored by MVC
Indiana State junior Megan Stone and freshman Brooke Riemenschneider each earned Missouri Valley Conference Athlete of the Week honors, according to an announcement from the league office Monday.
ISU baseball shows mental toughness in win over Illinois State
When the pressure’s on, there’s nothing a coach likes more than to see his team double down on their approach and grit out a positive result.
Going the distance: Redbirds ace Savas allows just five hits while shutting down Sycamores
Indiana State’s pitchers weren’t their best in Friday’s series opener against Illinois State, but it seemed the Sycamores might get away with it. Through seven innings, ISU had issued six walks, gave up six hits and hit a batter, but still trailed by just a run. But ISU’s luck with its generosity would give out in the eighth, and even if it hadn’t, Illinois State standout starter Dan Savas had the Sycamores’ bats in a deep freeze anyway. The Redbirds defeated the Sycamores 5-2 at Bob Warn Field.
Woods softball team wins 4th straight
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods softball team swept Grace College with a pair of wins in its home opener Wednesday.
Devoted brothers: Mahurins relish chance to team up and win NAIA title
It wasn’t a great year for NCAA basketball in the Hoosier state outside of Indiana State’s 23-victory season.
But a team in NAIA Division II with eight Indiana natives — and coached by former Valparaiso point guard Greg Tonagel, an Indiana All-Star for his hometown of LaPorte — brought home a national basketball championship.
Tonagel, the scrappy point guard who played alongside Bryce Drew for that magical Valpo team, created more March hoops memories with the help of Rockville brothers R.J. and Lane Mahurin.
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