The Illinois State football team has achieved the most success in program history over the last two seasons. The Redbirds have won a share of first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in both seasons, and had a birth in the FCS title game in the 2014 season.
ISU, led by head coach Brock Spack, also grabbed a two-seed last year in the playoffs, after posting a 9-2 record in the regular season, with a 7-1 MVFC record. One of those losses was at Iowa, which had a birth in the Rose Bowl after finishing second in the Big 10.
This season, the Redbirds will return hungrier than ever. Quarterback Tre Roberson and All-American running back Marshaun Coprich will not be back, but Naperville native Jake Kolbe is ready and poised for success.
Kolbe, a 6-foot-three redshirt sophomore got into a few games last season and played well. Kolbe led the ’Birds to a victory at home against Northern Iowa in his first start of his career. Kolbe finished last season 26-40 (65.0 percent) and threw for two touchdowns. Kolbe had a pass efficiency of 131.94. In the playoff last against Richmond, Kolbe made a great decision to pull the ball down and run, and ended up in the end zone.
Third-team All-American wide receiver Anthony Warrum returns for his junior season in the fall. Warrum had 15 touchdowns last season, the most by any Redbird receiver in one season. Warrum lead the team with 1,290 yards and caught 58 balls. The Fishers, Ind. native averaged 99.2 yards per game. Warrum also was the teams punt returner, averaging 11.3 yards per return.
On the defensive side, the Redbirds return a couple of key players. One is the senior to be, safety Alec Kocour, who led the team last season with three interceptions. Kocour played nine games last season before suffering an injury that ended his sophomore year, but still managed to receive an honorable mention selection to the all-conference team. Kocour was tied for fourth on the team with 78 tackles.
Also returning for the Redbirds on defense is Drashane Glass. Glass finished 2015 with 62 tackles and one interception in the playoff win over Western Illinois. Glass also had 1.5 tackles for loss on the season, and recorded eight tackles in the loss at Iowa to open the season.
A mix of some new and some old faces up and down the roster for the Redbirds does not mean the team will not be ready to compete at the same high level as the previous two seasons.
The Redbirds open the season at home at 6 p.m. on September 3 at Hancock Stadium. This season’s schedule also includes a game at a Big 10 opponent. ISU travels to Evanston to play Northwestern in week two of the season.