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Coach Spack says Illinois State will work on ball control offense this spring
Scoring 30.2 points per game certainly played a favorable role in Illinois State’s 9-4 season and advancement to the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Yet head coach Brock Spack has latched on to a less heralded statistic that reveals his offense was not as efficient as it could have been in 2012.
ISU punted 48 times in 2011. That number rose to 77 last season.
That increase, along with the graduation of four-year quarterback Matt Brown and the return of four offensive line starters, has Spack desiring a more physical, ball control offense.
“We need to establish a tough running game, one that can close games out when we have the lead and one that wears defenses out,” Spack said Tuesday. “It all starts with your front, and I think we have a pretty stout front on offense.”
Back for the Redbirds on the offensive line are tackles Josh Aladenoye and Jermaine Barton and guards Rocco Ammons and Mike Liedtke.
The graduation of 1,000-yard rusher Darrelynn Dunn prompted Spack to recruit 6-foot-3, 260-pound junior college tailback Collin Keoshian to complement returning tailbacks Cameron Hunt and Marshaun Coprich.
“He’s been pretty impressive so far,” Spack said of Keoshian. “He moves very well, a lot better than you would think for a guy almost 270 pounds.”
ISU fullback Jordan Neukirch is excited about the possibilities Keoshian brings.
“I’ve seen him in the weight room. He might be the strongest kid on the team,” said Neukirch. “He’s going to be a load back there. I can’t imagine too many third and shorts or fourth and shorts Coach Spack won’t let him carry the rock.”
The Redbirds also could have a transfer at quarterback. Jared Barnett came to ISU from Iowa State and joins a quarterback competition with sophomore Adam Pittser and redshirt freshman Blake Winkler.
“We have three very good candidates. We hope to have three guys ready to play,” Spack said. “As a coach, you hope it’s not very close and somebody really establishes themselves and there’s a separation.
“You would assume the older player (Barnett) would have a little better handle on things because he’s more experienced. But we don’t know that yet.”
Spring practice delayed: ISU did not open spring drills Tuesday as scheduled. Large rolls of artificial turf that had to be taken up for the construction of Hancock Stadium’s new east side remain on the edges of the field.
“We can’t practice with those there,” Spack said. “They are a danger to our players.”
This week’s snow complicated matters by making the Redbirds’ grass practice field unusable for an undetermined period.
ISU could hold its first spring practice Thursday if the turf rolls are removed in time.
Spack indicated the Redbirds’ live scrimmages could be held at Illinois Wesleyan because of the proximity of a construction fence to the playing field at Hancock.
All-Missouri Valley Conference defensive tackle Shelby Harris was kicked off the Illinois State football team.
Coach Brock Spack announced Harris’ dismissal in a brief news release Monday. The coach did not say why Harris is being removed from the team and said he wouldn’t provide further details.
Harris started all 13 games last fall for a Redbird team that made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. He had 85 tackles, seven sacks and 16 tackles for losses.
Harris played in a total of 33 games at Illinois State after transferring from Wisconsin in 2010.
The senior had one year of eligibility left.