TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s football backfield is best described as a leap of certainty and a leap of faith.
Running back Shakir Bell — a Walter Payton Award finalist in 2011 — could be the best player in the Football Championship Subdivision, and if all continues to go right for the Indianapolis native, he could be the best player in ISU history.
There’s no denying that as Bell goes, so go the Sycamores. But the certainty that Bell brings to the table is contrasted by an unknown quantity at the quarterback position.
Quarterback Mike Perish — a sophomore transfer from Western Michigan — has never thrown a pass in anger for the Sycamores. After two years of steady quarterback play from Ronnie Fouch, Perish has big shoes to fill. Production from Perish is paramount, for as good as Bell is, there’s no desire to make ISU’s offense all-Bell, all-the-time.
The yin-and-the-yang of how these two Sycamores come together will go far to determine ISU’s fate. If Perish slides comfortably into the quarterback position, the sky is the limit for the Sycamores. If Perish struggles, then by proxy, Bell could struggle too if teams can load up the box to stop him. If that scenario plays out, the Sycamores could struggle.
For Bell, the 2012 possibilities are endless. Not only is Bell one of the most decorated Sycamores in recent memory, he’s done things no FCS player at any school has accomplished.
He was the first sophomore invited to the Walter Payton Award ceremony and was named to an ISU-record four All-America teams. He did it by rushing for 1,670 yards, good for 151.8 per game, best in the nation. His 256 rushing yards against Youngstown State on Sept. 24 was a school record.
Good as 2011 was, Bell isn’t satisfied. He admitted he isn’t an “accolades guy”, but coming second in the Payton Award race has made him hungry to get the prize in 2012.
“Last year was a great year for me and the offense. Coming in second for the Walter Payton Award was an honor, being the first Sycamore and the first sophomore there. But that’s not good enough for me,” Bell said.
“I’m not a second-place guy. I’m not an accolades guy either, but to have the Payton Award as a goal to work towards, to bring it home and show the o-lineman that’s what we grind for, that’s the motivation,” he added.
Bell knows success in the 2012 season is a matter of adjustments. More so than ever, teams are going to design their defenses to stop him. He’s cognizant of the fact that new wrinkles will have to be conjured to create space for him — such as incorporating him more into the passing game.
Bell relishes it all. He knows all eyes are on him. He takes it as a personal mission is to widen those eyes in amazement as he breaks into the open field or jukes a would-be tackler.
“I like all of the attention. For one, it just opens it up for the receivers, but I love the pressure of guys focusing on me. That makes my job harder, but it makes it more fun. If people want to stack the box, that’s just going to make it more fun for me. I’m playing with a pretty big chip on my shoulder,” Bell said.
Meanwhile, Perish has readied himself during spring and preseason practice for his opportunity. Perish played sparingly with the Broncos. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 42 yards in 2011. The Frankfort, Ill. native was ranked as a top 100 quarterback in high school by Scout.com.
His task isn’t easy. By now, Perish is comfortable with his teammates and had no competition for the starting role during the preseason. But Perish’s fate is tied into that of a mostly inexperienced receiving corps and an offensive line that has struggled to protect him at times during ISU’s scrimmages.
What Perish brings to the table is a unaffected calm. Like Fouch, Perish is rarely excitable and isn’t easily rattled. Perish has said that the responsibility of being a starting quarterback hasn’t fazed him.
“I could tell through camp I progressed as far as learning the system. I’m comfortable with the game plan, the players and the offense,” Perish said. “I’m looking forward to starting since I graduated high school.”
What is unknown is how much different ISU’s passing game will look with Perish. Nothing will change as far as ISU’s pro scheme is concerned, but it’s flexible enough to adapt to a player’s own strengths. Perish seems a bit more comfortable with the short passing game, but it remains to be seen whether that’s the direction ISU goes in.
ISU coach Trent Miles has faith in Perish.
“I’m completely confident in him or anyone we put in there,” Miles said. “His strengths are being a field general. His ability to think on the move and lead is where we’re at.”
While Bell and Perish are in the spotlight at prominent positions, it can be easily forgotten that one of ISU’s most productive players in the Miles era — fullback Brock Lough — has graduated. Filling his shoes is veteran Austen Wozniak.
Miles said he won’t overload Bell with carries. Former Warren Central teammate George Cheeseborough will be another option as will emerging redshirt freshman Richie Dyer, who will provide a contrast to Bell as a between-the-tackles gainer.
“Mike Perish can throw the ball. I believe in him. Woz knows the plays. Richie Dyer and George Cheeseborough are going to be good. I can’t wait for people to see what we have going on,” Bell said.
Projected starters — Shakir Bell (RB), Mike Perish (QB), Austen Wozniak (FB).
Reserves — Richie Dyer, George Cheeseborough, Luke Harris, Foluke Gordon-Lamar, Travis Johnson, Trent Lancaster, Ben Obaseki (DE, used as RB in goal line situations), Lucas Hileman (P, emergency QB).
True freshmen (may or may not be redshirted) — Robert Tonyan Jr., Aaron Bruning, Tyler Evans.
Player to watch — Mike Perish, 6-3, So.: All eyes are on Perish to see if he can continue the consistent play ISU got at the quarterback position from Ronnie Fouch the last two seasons. Perish seems more comfortable throwing short patterns and is still seeking consistency on long patterns. His success, or lack thereof, will play in a big role in ISU’s fate this season.
Analysis — With Bell, ISU has one of the best players in the country. ISU coach Trent Miles has been very careful not to over-use the diminutive Bell, but if the passing game doesn’t develop as hoped, Bell will have to be the meal ticket. The good news is that Dyer has ran well in preseason practice and Wozniak has experience at fullback.
— Todd Golden
TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s football backfield is best described as a leap of certainty and a leap of faith.
Manaea's shoulder causing him latest pain
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea has battled through so many aches and pains during the 2013 season that it can be hard to discern the serious pain from the pain he pitches through.
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Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU track sending record 22 to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
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Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
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Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
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ISU couldn’t do it.
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First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
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ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
Johnson, Lyke win MVC titles for ISU
Indiana State’s Felisha Johnson and Maurice Lyke were both crowned Missouri Valley Conference champions on Saturday during the MVC Track and Field Championships at Drake University.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
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ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
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ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
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To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Sycamores searching for answers after seventh loss in eight games
These are the bad times for the Indiana State baseball team.
The will is there for the Sycamores to pull out of their worst slump of the season, but the results are not. The suffering continued on Wednesday at Bob Warn Field as Eastern Illinois defeated ISU 5-3.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU men's track picked first in MVC Championships, women second
The Indiana State men’s track team has won the last two Missouri Valley Conference outdoor championships, but the women have not stood on the top podium since 1999.
That may change this year, but the Sycamores will face some stiff competition in their quest for the championships.
North grad Welker helps Whitson earn first NCAA bid as coach
Eastern Kentucky girls golf coach Mike Whitson, an alumnus of his employer, enjoyed his stay in Terre Haute as coach of Indiana State, where he started the women’s golf program.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman wins HCAC all-sports trophy
Rose-Hulman has won the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference men’s all-sports trophy for the fifth time in the past six year, the league announced Monday.
Rose tallied 66.5 points for its finishes in 11 men’s sports, just ahead of Franklin with 66. Hanover was third with 53 points.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose-Hulman tennis falls in HCAC semifinal
Rose-Hulman’s hot streak in men’s tennis came to an end Saturday in the semifinal round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament at the West Indy Racquet Club.
Manaea fights off bad hip, wet weather to toss four innings
Mother Nature has been the bane of the Indiana State baseball team’s existence all season. Eight games wiped due to weather are a testament to that. So it was no surprise, though no less disappointing, when she didn’t deal Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea the greatest hand on Saturday as he tries to recover from a hip injury.
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The Indiana State Sycamores either won or finished as the top collegian in 12 events, led by the record-breaking performance of senior Brandon Pounds at the 2013 Billy Hayes Invitational Friday at Indiana University.
Pounds broke his own school record to win the men’s hammer throw.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
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Secret weapon: Kelsey Rosselli finishing Woods career with a bang
At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, reporting game results to the Tribune-Star after a win or a loss is not always a high priority.
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In fact, her efforts almost seem like a government secret.
Rosselli’s name might sound familiar to longtime Terre Haute softball followers because she was a standout for North High School, from where she graduated in 2009.
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ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
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The Indiana State University athletic community, along with family, friends and fans, paused Tuesday night to honor the spring sports teams at the Terre Haute Savings Bank Spring Sports Banquet.
Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
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Rose-Hulman earned its third victory in its last at-bat in the last five days with a 6-5 win over Franklin in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball Tuesday night at Art Nehf Field.
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