TERRE HAUTE —
When it comes to establishing his new role, Indiana State wide receiver Donald Spencer isn’t wasting any time.
On the first day of practice Friday, when ISU coach Trent Miles lamented the drops made by the receivers in a talk with the team and to the media, Spencer had his fellow receivers on the field doing push-ups.
“I’ve got to lead these guys. I have to take this role to lead the receivers. From playing and my experience on the field, I have to get these receivers to be better,” Spencer said.
Much of the offseason spotlight regarding the ISU offense has been on the quarterback position. The race to replace two-year starter Ronnie Fouch has been all-consuming with Western Michigan transfer Mike Perish making his bid to solidify the position.
Lost in the shuffle a bit are the players Perish — or whoever plays quarterback — will throw to. ISU has a relatively green receiving corps. The expected starters — Spencer, Demory Lawshe, Tanner Riley and Chris O’Leary are the prime candidates — are not new players, but aside from Spencer, none have been starters.
Spencer could find life as a wideout a little different in 2012. He had 31 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 — his first ISU season after transferring from Michigan State. But current Cincinnati Bengals receiver Justin Hilton was considered to be the No. 1 target and former tight end Alex Jones was also a downfield threat.
Michael Mardis is expected to step in at tight end, but the kind of coverage Spencer will be blanketed with this season could be a lot tougher than he had in 2011 if ISU can’t establish anyone else on the outside.
“They have the talent, but we need to be more consistent catching the ball. Sometimes they’re thinking too much or trying to hard. They’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to do what Justin Hilton did,’ but they just need to play within themselves,” Miles said.
Past Spencer, the rest of ISU’s returning pass catchers have a combined three catches for 25 yards and one touchdown in their careers. Lawshe and Riley compiled those statistics during the 2010 season. Riley was hurt in 2011 and Lawshe didn’t have a reception. O’Leary, a converted quarterback, has not caught a pass.
“Some of us have played in the past, but the time has come for some of us to step up. We’ve got a great running game, we’ve got great quarterbacks, we just need to start making plays,” Lawshe said. “We’re ready to play, we’re excited about it.”
ISU’s revamped receiving corps has the benefit of experience to fall back on. Wide receivers coach Steve Watson played for the Denver Broncos from 1979-86 and was a Pro Bowl receiver. He is still evaluating whom he has to work with.
“We’re throwing a bunch of drills at ‘em to see what they can do. You get a general idea for the skill set each guy has,” said Watson, who also said he was “blessed” to be on the ISU staff after he didn’t coach in 2011.
Watson was most recently at Minnesota as wide receivers coach in 2010. He was the Broncos’ receivers’ coach from 2003-06 and associate head coach at Denver in 2007-08.
Neither Lawshe, Riley nor O’Leary have had the chance in a game situation to display the kind of downfield speed Hilton and Spencer combined to have in 2011. All have characteristics of possession receivers.
ISU also has a bevy of players who have never played a down for the Sycamores who could step up. Cory Fisher is a junior college transfer from Diablo Valley College. Redshirt freshmen Barry McCarter and DeSean Prentice will get their first chance. They’re joined by true freshmen Collyn Bennett, Jeff Burley and Dyris Haywood.
“We have a lot of young guys, but have a lot of vets too. We’re going to be a talented group. I have confidence in them,” Spencer said.
TERRE HAUTE —
When it comes to establishing his new role, Indiana State wide receiver Donald Spencer isn’t wasting any time.
- Indiana State University
Zurek, one of ISU's best defenders, also working hard off the court
Winning basketball teams need glue players, the term sometimes used when referring to someone who helps hold it all together.
In some cases, that means getting the ball in the right place at the right time. Or having a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
It’s more often than not coming away with a loose ball on the court. It’s deflecting so many passes that you become the player that most annoys the opponent.
For Indiana State, that’s Natasha Zurek. The junior athletic training major was inserted into the starting lineup for the past two games.
Zurek leads the Sycamores with 16 steals through six games, which isn’t surprising to anyone on the team.
Swift excels for ISU track in EIU Early Bird indoor track meet
The Indiana State men’s track and field team won the Eastern Illinois Early Bird meet by scoring 133 points.
Eastern Illinois placed second with 111 and Illinois State was third with 70.
The Sycamores started off the meet strong with wins in the mile run and 60-meter hurdles.
Freshman David Timlin won the mile, leading from the gun in a time of 4:15.20. In the hurdles, senior Greggmar Swift led a dominating performance by the Sycamores as they took the top four places in the event. Swift won the race in 7.74 seconds.
EIU might come at right time for ISU
Sometimes an opponent lines up just right on the schedule that suits a team’s needs.
That’s true for Indiana State as it travels to play Eastern Illinois at 8 p.m. today at Lantz Arena. And it’s not because the Panthers have struggled, even though they have.
Carmel firm’s brace a good fit for Manning
Local entrepreneur Rick Peters is a devoted Indianapolis Colts fan, but he jumped out of his living room recliner on the evening of Nov. 13 when he saw an ESPN report on Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s bad ankle.
ISU’s Underwood named first team All-MVC
Sophomore linebacker/defensive end Connor Underwood was named to the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team on Monday, heading a list of five Indiana State players honored.
Metro sports: ISU women play today at No. 15 LSU
Indiana State’s women finish a three-game road swing by playing nationally ranked LSU at 12:30 p.m. today at Baton Rouge.
From The Press Box: If ISU figures out defense, look out
The Great Alaska Shootout is not going to provide the Great RPI Bump that Indiana State’s participation in last year’s Diamond Head Classic provided.
Indiana State holds off hot-shooting Pepperdine
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is very much a work in progress defensively. Evidence of that came Saturday when Pepperdine shot 57.8 percent against the Sycamores in the fourth-place game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
But when it came down to winning time? Pepperdine’s Waves crashed on the rocks of ISU’s defense.
Sycamores outpace Seawolves
Indiana State wanted a better defensive effort in its Great Alaska Shootout consolation semifinal game against host Alaska-Anchorage on Friday, but the Seawolves weren’t going to give the Sycamores an orthodox offense to assess themselves with.
Humbled Sycamores want to make amends
The disappointment undeniably exists, but the bottom line for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is there’s nothing that can be done about its 63-62 loss to Tulsa late Wednesday night.
But the Sycamores want to remember it. They want to let the bad feeling they had simmer, but turn into something positive.
Uneven Sycamores fall 63-62 to Tulsa
Indiana State loses to Tulsa 63-62 in opening game of Great Alaska Shootout
Tulsa's switching defenses confounded Sycamores
Tulsa paid Indiana State the respect they feel the Sycamores earned with a 3-1 start and a win at Notre Dame on Nov. 17.
So the Golden Hurricane threw multiple defenses at the Sycamores.
On target: Sycamores spreading the wealth with their shooting
Indiana State’s men's basketball team did many things right during the 2012-13 season, but one thing it couldn’t get a handle on was its 3-point shooting. The Sycamores shot 32.1 percent from 3-point range, ranked 252nd in the nation. It was going to take a lot of work to improve ISU’s percentage. So far, hard work has had its own reward.
O’Leary eyes return to Hulman Center
Former Terre Haute North standout Matt O’Leary is hoping to help Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser turn the program into a new chapter of success in a new conference.
ISU wants to take Hawaii spirit to Alaska
Since Greg Lansing took over as Indiana State’s men’s basketball coach, the Sycamores have seen their frequent flier and hotel points skyrocket.
After a decade or so prior in which the Sycamores mostly stayed in the Midwest to play tournaments, if they played them at all, holiday trips to Florida and Hawaii were on the docket during the last two seasons.
Sanford vows to get ISU football back on track
Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford said that the Sycamores’ just-concluded 1-11 season was a learning experience for everyone.
Free throws seal win for ISU women in 20-point comeback
Two free throws by Lashonda Littleton with 1.7 seconds left Sunday enabled visiting Indiana State to overcome a deficit that was 20 points at one time and earn a 68-67 nonconference women’s basketball victory at Marshall.
METRO/PREP ROUNDUP: ISU volleyball barely misses MVC tournament
A 15-13 loss in the decisive fifth set at Southern Illinois late Saturday ended the Indiana State volleyball season one victory short of the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament.
ISU puts up fight, but can’t hold off SIU in football
Indiana State’s football team had nothing to play for aside from pride in its finale Saturday against Southern Illinois. The Sycamores also had an injury list that made it difficult to cobble together a starting unit at all.
Given the circumstances, ISU put up a very good fight against the playoff-hopeful Salukis, but the task was too much for the Sycamores as they fell 31-9 at Memorial Stadium.
ISU women play today at Marshall
The Indiana State women’s basketball players put their hands together at the end of practice Thursday, shouting a collective “do work.”
On the heels of a 90-74 loss at Stetson, the Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorites are 2-2 and not content with losing, especially when giving up 90 points.
Weather forced move of start line at NCAA
Indiana State coach John McNichols made the decision early Saturday morning to move the starting line up about 100 meters. The reason was to ensure every team in the NCAA Cross Country Championships would have a fair start. Sticking one team directly in front of a large puddle of standing water and another in front of a relatively dry area would not have provided fair conditions.
ISU defeats Truman
What do you expect when a Division II team pays a visit to a Division I arena?
In Truman State’s case, you can expect a pretty good showing. Indiana State had some nervous moments against the Bulldogs, but the Sycamores prevailed 80-69 on Friday at Hulman Center.
ISU football closes out season against SIU
Indiana State’s football team had its last practice of the 2013 season Thursday and it had a jovial climax.
Favorites look to win at NCAA cross country championships
Two consensus thoughts prevailed in the hunt for the NCAA cross country individual championships: Kenyan Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech is the heavy favorite to repeat as men’s 10,000-meter champion and Dartmouth senior Abbey D’Agostino, last year’s runner-up, will be tough to stop from winning the women’s 6,000-meter race.
ISU’s Underwood family affected by Illinois tornado
Indiana State defensive end Connor Underwood can be forgiven if football wasn’t the biggest thing on his mind this week as the team prepared for its season finale against Southern Illinois today.
New officiating edict could help ISU's Odum
For ISU, one player immediately comes to mind as far as who might benefit most from the new rules -- senior point guard Jake Odum.
Gant looms large in ISU's 2013-14 improvement
It’s no overstatement that as Justin Gant went in the 2012-13 season, so did the Indiana State’s men’s basketball team.
- ISU women have options in the post
John Mascari’s sights set high in NCAA cross country championships
Big John is in the big show for the second straight year.
This time, Terre Haute’s own John Mascari, an Indiana State sophomore, has his sights on an All-American finish Saturday on the course he grew up racing as a prep standout at Terre Haute North.
Mascari was 60th in the NCAA championships as a freshman at Louisville, and after last week’s Great Lakes Region victory, he is confident he can crack the top 40 at LaVern Gibson Championship Course in front of hometown fans.
ISU basketball hopes to continue free-throw accuracy
Taking — and then making — free throws have been important in basketball from the beginning, regardless of changes in offensive philosophy or rules. But when the NCAA mandated that officials consistently call contact fouls, everyone in the game knew that making free throws would take on even greater importance than usual this season.
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- Zurek, one of ISU's best defenders, also working hard off the court