The Statsy Preview Calculator is still shuffling about in front of the coffee pot murmuring something about being awake so early in the season, so we’re going to leave it be for another week until it regains its happy disposition.
And what are one game’s worth of FCS stats going to tell us, anyway? So, let’s just take a quick look at what Indiana State did last year just to see what, if anything, they did well at their own level.
The 2016-17 Indiana State Sycamores Offense
Offensive observations. What we’re looking at is a pass-heavy middle-of-the-road FCS team. The passing offense was decent, but the rushing game was non-existent, and if they didn’t get it done on first or second down, they didn’t get it done. That’s good news for a tired Vols defense looking to gain some confidence heading into the Florida game next week.
The 2016-17 Indiana State Sycamores Defense
Defensive observations. Not to pile on here, but apart from the apparent ability to take turnovers to the house, those numbers suggest that the Sycamores appear to play defense a little bit like trees on golf courses. Maybe they’ll present a problem if you try to run right through a bunch of them huddled together, but if you stay on the fairway, you should be fine.
The 2016-17 Indiana State Sycamores Special Teams
Special Teams observations. Indiana State actually looks like they could be a bit salty on special teams, however. They can block kicks and punts, and they do a pretty good job on kickoff returns, both returning them and covering them.
The 2016-17 Indiana State Sycamores – Turnovers and Penalties
Turnovers and penalties observations. I’m not sure exactly what to make of these turnover numbers. It appears that Indiana State had some excitement in the form of balls on the ground last season, as they recovered a whole bunch of them, but also lost a bunch of them themselves.
Players to Watch
As mentioned earlier, the Sycamores’ passing game appears to be the strength of the team, and the reason for that is quarterback Isaac Harker, who’s returning this season as a redshirt junior. Harker passed for 2,559 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Unfortunately for Harker, his top two receivers from last year — Robert Tonyan and Miles Thompson — are gone, and it showed in his first game of the 2017 season. Coaches actually benched Harker after the first half in favor of Cade Sparks, who also struggled. In all, four guys had a total of seven receptions the entire game.
The running game was a different story last week, though. The team lost running back Roland Genesy, their leading rusher from last year, but Lamonte Booker, who was a starter before missing the 2016 season with a knee injury, is back for a redshirt senior season. Booker had 154 yards on 31 carries last week against Eastern Illinois, so he’s no pushover.
On defense, no one really stands out. Defensive end Kenyota Rollins had three sacks and nine tackles for loss last season but didn’t even start last week. Senior defensive lineman Evan Gill did get his name attached to three assists on sacks, and two other guys — sophomore linebacker Inoke Moala and junior defensive back De’Jaun Tyson — each had a sack of their own.
Somebody’s in for a long day
As I wrote in the preseason magazine, Indiana State is staring down a major challenge. As an FCS team that went 4-7 overall and 2-6 in conference last season, they’re heading into Neyland Stadium with a new head coach and not enough returning starters to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. If the Big Orange struggles against the Sycamores, it will be cause for concern.