It’s safe to say that the 2013 season hasn’t kicked off the way that Illinois State would have liked. The most recent coaches’ poll released on the NCAA website has Illinois State ranked at 24. While the team has certainly slid since the beginning of the season, to still be in the top-25 after two rough losses is something to be optimistic about.
There is still plenty of time to climb back up in the rankings, and the fact that the FCS coaches seemed to have been fairly forgiving of the two recent losses only adds testament this team’s potential.
After setting numerous school records, quarterback Matt Brown left quite the legacy to live up to. Fortunately, ISU has found some strong replacements that have made impressive debuts. Jared Barnett, a junior, threw 20-29 for 289 yards with two touchdowns. However, he struggled against Eastern Illinois, throwing three interceptions and eventually having to leave the game with back spasms.
However, redshirt freshman Blake Winkler stepped in and threw 8-11 for a total of 144 yards and two touchdowns, most of which were in the second half. This could create some competition for the starting quarterback spot, but given both of these player’s strong performances, ISU should have no problem with the quarterback position.
The Redbirds have a ton of talent in other positions as well. Defensive end Rickey Simpson is off to a stellar season, with 10 tackles, three of them being sacks. Wide receiver Cameron Meredith has had a strong start, totaling five receptions for 76 yards in the loss to EIU. Transfer running back Collin Keoshian has also been excellent, scoring two touchdowns against Ball State.
This weekend is the Redbird’s home opener, and the game should be in their favor. The Redbirds will be playing in a newly renovated Hancock Stadium with fans and students alike filling the seats. The exciting atmosphere should provide plenty of motivation for a big win, especially after losing the previous two games.
Stating that the Redbird’s 0-2 start is less than ideal is by far an understatement, but that by no means represents all that this team is capable of.
The Redbirds have some incredible talent on their roster, with a coach who has shown that he can take ISU to the playoffs. As this team continues to grow, Redbird fans will begin to see an increase in wins and team confidence. With plenty of potential and much to prove, there should be no shortage of excitement and success for the Redbirds this fall.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.