|« Four days away at UNC||JSU's Therriault focus of ESPN special »|
Leathernecks a lot like their field: Facing a tune-up
Like its field, Western Illinois’ football team will be in a bit of a tune-up this fall.
Hanson Field, the home of the Leathernecks since 1950, is in the middle of installing a new Matrix Turf artificial surface that is expected to be finished by late August. The $1.3 million project also includes a renovation of the track and field events area, four new pits for the long and triple jump, and the installation of a javelin runway.
WIU will undergo a similar facelift this season, as the Leathernecks will have to replace two pillars of last year’s turnaround. Gone are quarterback Matt Barr, who finished second in the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the nation’s best Football Championship Subdivision player, and Buck Buchanan Award runner-up Kyle Glazier.
Barr, like Northern Iowa’s Tirrell Rennie and Missouri State’s Cody Kirby, was as much a threat on the ground as through the air. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in passing (262.3 yards per game), passing touchdowns (27), passing efficiency (148.7) and total offense (296.8 yards per game). Barr averaged 4.3 yards a carry running the football and scored seven touchdowns.
He struggled a bit against Southern Illinois University, throwing for only one touchdown in a 20-10 Saluki victory Nov. 13, but set the bar high for junior lefty Will Lunt. Lunt, the backup last year, is expected to contend for Barr’s spot in fall camp.
Glazier, a tackling machine in 13 starts at the Leatherneck position (middle linebacker in WIU’s 3-4/multiple scheme), he led the team in tackles (167), tackles for loss (13) and was second in sacks (four). Glazier had double-digit tackles in 10 of the team’s 13 games.
Seniors Ryan Carleton, Mike Garoppolo and Kevin Palermo appear to be the best candidates to replace Glazier at the Leatherneck spot this fall.
WIU finished 8-5 overall and 5-2 in the MVFC in Mark Hendrickson’s first official stint as head coach. He had served the team most of the previous two seasons as the Leathernecks’ acting head coach under Don Patterson, who was battling cancer. WIU’s seven-win turnaround from a 1-10 campaign in 2009 was the biggest jump in school history. The Leathernecks lost at Appalachian State in the second round of the playoffs and finished the season 17th in the final Sports Network/Fathead.com poll.
If WIU can reach the postseason this year, it will be the first time since 2003 that the Leathernecks made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
BY TODD HEFFERMAN, THE SOUTHERN