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July 30, 2013

Sycamore trio earn all-MVFC honors

League’s 2011 offensive player of year Bell is selected to first team

St. Louis — A trio of Indiana State seniors — Shakir Bell, Calvin Burnett and FN Lutz — have been named to the 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason team announced Monday by the league office.

ISU is picked to finish sixth in the 10-team MVFC race, with defending national champion North Dakota State a unanimous choice to win the league in a vote of head coaches, media members and sports information directors.

Bell, a member of the preseason all-MVFC first team, is a two-time all-MVFC selection and has already been named to numerous preseason All-America teams.

He was the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 as well as a finalist for that season’s Walter Payton Award. He was named earlier this month to the 2013 Walter Payton Award Watch List for the third consecutive season.

Bell enters the 2013 campaign with 3,794 rushing yards, third on the all-time Sycamore list. He needs just 542 yards on the ground during his senior campaign to become Indiana State’s all-time leading rusher and eclipse the total of 4,335 yards set by Vincent Allen from 1973-77. His 3,794 career yards ranks 11th all-time in the history of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and he needs 953 to top Herb Donaldson’s record of 4,746 set from 2005-08 at Western Illinois.

Burnett, a senior defensive back, is also a member of the preseason all-MVFC first team. He was a second-team all-MVFC selection in 2012 and was an honorable mention pick as a freshman in 2010, when he also was named to the league’s all-newcomer team.

Last season Burnett recorded 60 total tackles, which ranked third on the team, and added two tackles for loss and one quarterback sack.

Burnett finished second on the team with four interceptions for 53 yards in returns, had eight pass breakups and a quarterback hurry, and posted multiple interception efforts in back-to-back games at Southern Illinois and against Missouri State.

Burnett finished tied for sixth in the league for most interceptions, as well as tied for 23rd nationally. He was named the MVFC Special Teams Player Of The Week following his two punt return for 59 yards against South Dakota and had a season-high 10 tackles at Indiana and a MVFC season-best of seven at No. 1 North Dakota State.

Lutz, a senior offensive lineman, is an honorable-mention pick on the preseason team. He sat out the 2012 campaign after a knee injury in the spring game forced him to miss the entire season. Despite his injury — and based on the hope that he might be ready to play last year — he was named to the 2012 preseason all-MVFC first team and was a candidate for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.

As a junior in 2011, Lutz was a first-team all-MVFC selection as well as a first-team honoree on the league’s all-academic team. He started all 11 games at center and spearheaded the ISU rushing attack that averaged 181.9 yards per game with a league-best 5.3 yards per carry. Following his sophomore campaign in 2010, Lutz was named honorable mention all-MVFC and was on the conference’s all-academic squad.

The Sycamores are picked to finish sixth in the MVFC this season after amassing a 7-4 record one year ago as well as a 5-3 mark in league play, which tied them with Illinois State and Southern Illinois for third place.

North Dakota State got all 39 of the first-place votes for a total of 390 points. South Dakota State is second with 323 points and Northern Iowa is third with 269. In fourth is Illinois State (264), Youngstown State (253), the Sycamores (197) and Southern Illinois (188). Rounding out the league’s preseason poll for 2013 is Missouri State (123), Western Illinois (77) and South Dakota (61).

ISU opens its season at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Indiana, a contest televised live on The Big Ten Network. First preseason practice is Thursday.

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Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza 55 on the stop: Indiana State's Connor Underwood tackles North Dakota State's Sam Ojuri during the Sycamores' loss to the Bison on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

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