TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles is not usually one who has trouble finding motivation for his teams. With the 2012 season beginning today with ISU’s first official practices, Miles has turned to history as motivation.
During a Missouri Valley Football Conference teleconference on Thursday, Miles noted that ISU has not had three consecutive winning seasons since the Sycamores did it from 1967-69. This ISU team, which is coming off back-to-back 6-5 campaigns, has a chance to end 44 years of frustration.
While Miles focused on erasing a historic blot, he also wants the Sycamores — who were ranked 22nd in a national poll this week and who have been picked as high as 14th in the nation in one preseason publication — to keep their feet on the ground.
“I want to come in and get everyone on the same page. I don’t want them believing the hype. We just want to go to work. We want to be a disciplined football team that’s mentally tough,” Miles said.
While the Sycamores have enjoyed some national attention in preseason polls, they got a reminder on how difficult it will be to compete in a deep MVFC in 2012. ISU was chosen fifth in the conference preseason poll.
On the other hand, ISU has more preseason All-MVFC players than any other conference team. Running back Shakir Bell, center FN Lutz, defensive end Ben Obaseki, linebacker Aaron Archie, linebacker Jacolby Washington and punter Lucas Hileman were all honored.
It’s an interesting contrast for the Sycamores. The returning talent is mixed with unproven players at several key positions — most notably at quarterback.
“We lost a lot. We lost key guys, but we have a lot of key guys that are back. We’ve got guys, we just have to get them on the same page,” Miles said.
ISU’s quarterback situation became even more murky when junior college transfer Blake Loncar left the team on Thursday. Miles indicated that Loncar will no longer play college football.
That leaves ISU with Western Michigan transfer Mike Perish, redshirt freshman Trent Lancaster and true freshman Robert Tonyan Jr.
“We have to get a quarterback, that’s a huge one for us. Someone has to step up. We have to find some leadership and find guys who can take pressure off Shakir,” Miles said.
There is also no change in the current status of Lutz, who injured his knee during the last play of April’s Blue and White game. Lutz will be evaluated in the early part of fall practice and a determination on him will be made at a later date.
ISU will begin practice today with conditioning at 6 a.m. A regular practice is scheduled to occur at 6 p.m., but could be pushed back if heat is too extreme at that hour. Miles said the heat is a concern, but he tries to work around it as much as humanly possible.
“We don’t ever go in the middle of the day. If the heat goes to a certain index, we’ll go early in the morning. I’m not going out there at 105 degrees, but 95 degrees? You just deal with that at this time of year. You’re going to be playing in it too,” Miles said.
Aside from Lutz, Miles noted that defensive lineman Garrison McElroy (back) and running back Luke Harris (knee) will be limited when practice begins.
• FCS postseason to be expanded — MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito indicated during Thursday’s teleconference that the long-anticipated move to a 24-team FCS playoff field was to be voted upon on Thursday. Later in the day, the NCAA approved the 24-team field starting with the 2013 season.
The playoff field currently consists of 20 teams.
With that format, eight teams will be seeded in the playoffs instead of the current five. It will likely guarantee the MVFC champion a home game in future playoff fields.
MVFC preseason poll
1. North Dakota State (37) 379
2. Northern Iowa 300
3. Youngstown State 291
4. Illinois State (1) 287
5. Indiana State 228
6. South Dakota State 182
7. Southern Illinois 167
8. South Dakota 97
9. Western Illinois 90
10. Missouri State 69
MVFC Preseason Team
QB — Kurt Hess, Youngstown State
RB — Shakir Bell, Indiana State
RB — Jamaine Cook, Youngstown State
FB — Jordan Neukirch, Illinois State
WR — Aaron Rollin, South Dakota State
WR — Tyrone Walker, Illinois State
TE — MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
OL — Chris Elkins, Youngstown State
OL — Jimmy Holtschlag, Western Illinois
OL — FN Lutz, Indiana State
OL — Mark Pratt, Youngstown State
OL — Bryan Witzmann, South Dakota State
K — Tyler Sivertsen, Northern Iowa
DL — Kenneth Boatright, Southern Illinois
DL — Ben Obaseki, Indiana State
DL — Nate Palmer, Illinois State
DL — Kayon Swanson, Southern Illinois
LB — Aaron Archie, Indiana State
LB — Evan Frierson, Illinois State
LB — Tyler Starr, South Dakota
LB — Jacolby Washington, Indiana State
DB — Colten Heagle, North Dakota State
DB — Varmah Sonie, Northern Iowa
DB — Marcus Williams, North Dakota State
DB — Winston Wright, South Dakota State
P — Lucas Hileman, Indiana State
Ret — Steve Strother, Southern Illinois