There was never a memo sent, but Indiana State football fans should take note that special teams don’t exist on the Indiana State football team anymore.
The proper nomenclature at Memorial Stadium in 2012 is to call those units special forces.
That’s the edict put forth by ISU special teams coach Ronnie Lee. Or should I say special forces coach?
Lee is trying to create a new identity for the Sycamores’ kick, punt and return games. He wants the players on those units to have complete buy-in as to their roles in an important aspect of the game that often gets overlooked.
Lee — in his first season at ISU — demonstrated just how much devotion he’s already generated when asked how the special forces moniker correlates with its military connotation.
“Let me show you this,” said Lee, who summoned kickers Tanner Fritschle and Eric Heidorn.
“Special forces!” Lee said to ISU’s kickers.
Both raised their right hand into a fist and exclaimed, “make it happen!”
“Every time that [right] hand comes up … they know,” said Lee, who also coaches ISU’s running backs. “I could be anywhere on the field. If I put that hand up, always the right hand, never the left, I say, ‘special forces’. They say, ‘make it happen.’ I want it in every phase. If you have to block … block. If you have to tackle … tackle. If you have to catch … catch.”
The military overtone with the name “special forces” goes hand-in-hand with the message Lee is trying to get across. After all, “special teams” doesn’t have much of a zip. Special teams are often perceived as an afterthought, even a punishment for some players who take part in it.
But “special forces”? That sounds like something a player would want to be a part of.
“People talk about offense and defense and the third phase. That’s special forces. We want to be a force, we don’t want to be an afterthought,” said Lee, who was previously the co-defensive coordinator at Minnesota from 2008-10.
“We know during the course of the game that the pendulum swings and special forces play a big part in that. When we punt, we want to pin them down so our defense can breathe. When we’re returning, we want it across the 50 so the offense can be more imaginative in their plays,” Lee added.
It’s no joke for Lee and the Sycamores. Players are not allowed to refer to special teams anymore, but to use the term special forces. Even head coach Trent Miles has bought in as he has begun to refer to ISU’s “special forces”.
Lee’s enthusiasm is infectious and his reboot of ISU’s special, er, forces have had the desired effect.
“We want to emphasize that special forces are just as important as offense and defense. We want to own it and really take pride in it,” said ISU kick returner Taje High. “Coach Lee is a spirited guy. He’s really upbeat and brings a lot of energy to the table. He really helps us with special forces.”
It didn’t take long for ISU’s players to begin the buy-in process.
“Everybody was kind of like, ‘OK. It makes sense.’ We all bought into it really easily,” said Adam Masters, who is one of three off-line blockers for punter Lucas Hileman in ISU’s spread punt formation.
Miles appreciates the experience that Lee brings to the table. Before he was at Minnesota, Lee had stops at Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado State among other schools. Lee was a defensive back at Washington State from 1985-88.
“This guy’s been to the top level. He motivates the kids, but he’s knowledgeable. It’s the first time we’ve had somebody on special teams that was knowledgeable in all aspects, from schemes to techniques. It really helps us,” Miles said.
Lee has established “special forces” among the Sycamores … but why raise the right hand?
“I’m right-handed,” Lee deadpanned.
• Practicing halftime — Few details are left to chance at ISU practices. So when the Sycamores came out of the locker room a bit flat for Miles’ tastes during last Saturday’s 24-17 loss at Indiana, practicing halftime was added to the weekly to-do list.
Sure enough, ISU’s abruptly exited the field during Wednesday’s practice to get their halftime routine down.
“We didn’t start very fast at Indiana. We came out and made adjustments, but they didn’t happen on the field the way we wanted them to. We were sluggish before we got going,” Miles said. “You have to turn your motor off for a period of time and then turn it on again and go full-speed. Sometimes that’s why you start slow. We always want to practice game situations, so we threw it in there.”
• What if? — ISU had a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds at Indiana last Saturday, but Mike Perish’s Hail Mary pass was batted down in the end zone.
But what would have happened had it been caught?
If you thought ISU would play for overtime, banish the thought. Miles said he already had two play-calls ready to attempt what would have been a game-winning two-point conversion against the Hoosiers.
“There’s no question. Anytime you play a BCS conference team and you’re on the road and you have a chance to win? You go for it,” Miles said. “That goes for next year. That goes for when we play Minnesota [in 2016] and Tennessee [in 2017]. We’re not going in there to try and tie and go into overtime. We’re going to try and win the football game.”
ISU special teams coach trying to make things happen
There was never a memo sent, but Indiana State football fans should take note that special teams don’t exist on the Indiana State football team anymore.
- Indiana State University
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
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 sending largest group yet 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).
ISU's athletic treasure trove
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.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
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.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
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.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
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.
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.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
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.
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.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
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.
Metro roundup: ISU hands out spring awards
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.
Indiana State loses 2 in MVC softball
Indiana State aspired to upset Illinois State to get at least a doubleheader split in Missouri Valley Conference softball Thursday at Price Field as the Sycamores opened an eight-game season-ending homestand.
Paige Schreiner hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the fifth inning and junior Shelby Wilson delivered a sizzling RBI triple down the right-field line in the sixth as ISU ended the day playing well against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The result was still a 5-3 loss to the Redbirds (26-18, 11-6 Missouri Valley Conference) as freshman Halle Humphrey gave up four runs in the first two innings. Humphrey, called upon to pitch the opener as well — she’s the only full-time pitcher remaining on the team — gave up six runs and eight hits as the Sycamores dropped a 6-1 game to start the day.
ISU, MVFC brace for change at FCS football level
It seemed so far-fetched.
Internet rumors circulated that Indiana State had been approached by the Sun Belt Conference to bring the Sycamores’ football team into the Sun Belt’s fold.
The Sun Belt is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bowl football. Big boy football … and all it entails.
ISU football in good spirits after healthy Spring Game
Was Saturday afternoon’s weather an omen for Indiana State football as the Sycamores wrapped up spring practice with the annual Blue-White Game at Memorial Stadium? After several practices conducted in less-than-perfect conditions, they’d like to think so.
Loyola ready to take big step
Loyola University and the Missouri Valley Conference took their first steps together Friday and the MVC is hoping the Ramblers don’t have to take too many baby steps before they become a competitive part of the conference.
Sanford wraps up first spring with ISU
The final day of Indiana State football’s first Mike Sanford experience is upon the Sycamores.
Lansing excited about Etherington's signing with Sycamores
The spring signing period for men’s basketball is usually a time to use available scholarships to load up on junior college additions and transfers.
To find a diamond-in-the-rough at the high school level who can give you four years? That’s harder to come by.
Creighton sweep puts ISU in thick of things
In a difficult early-season Missouri Valley Conference schedule, Indiana State took its lumps. Unenviable back-to-back trips to contenders Missouri State and Wichita State had ISU reeling with five straight MVC losses eight days ago.
Second City in the Valley: Loyola joins the MVC
For the first time in its history, the Missouri Valley Conference will have a home in the Second City.
The Chicago Tribune confirmed Saturday via a Loyola University source that the Ramblers will replace Creighton as the MVC’s 10th team. Loyola — a member of the Horizon League — will join the MVC effective July 1.
Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman — who was part of the MVC search committee that scouted potential replacements for Creighton — confirmed Sunday that the Ramblers were in the MVC loop.
Sycamore baseball holds off Creighton rally
By his own estimation, Indiana State baseball coach Rick Heller has been involved in close to 2,000 baseball games. If anyone has seen it all on the field, he’d be as good a candidate as any.
Devin Moore pitches gem in 6-1 victory over Creighton
A hip injury suffered by Indiana State ace starting pitcher Sean Manaea shuffled the Sycamores’ starting rotation for the second weekend running as it opened a Missouri Valley Conference home series against Creighton on Friday.
Sanford gets 2nd look at Sycamores
In the immediate aftermath of a practice, game, or in Friday’s case for Indiana State, a scrimmage, most football coaches defer to the film to paint a true picture of what was and wasn’t done. ISU coach Mike Sanford is no different. With the flurry of activity on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to get a true evaluation of anything watching it live.
ISU center FN Lutz glad to be back in the middle of things
For someone who missed an entire season due to a knee injury, Indiana State center FN Lutz has certainly kept himself visible since then.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU's Brandon Pounds the top collegian in Sea Ray relays
Indiana State senior Brandon Pounds was the top collegian in the men’s hammer throw and fellow senior Felisha Johnson opened up the Sycamores’ three-day competition at the University of Tennessee’s Sea Ray relays with a second-place finish in the women’s hammer throw.
Stealing records: ISU softball’s offense gaining momentum
The Indiana State softball offense is no juggernaut, but the fog may be clearing on a program that has had a long history of struggles with few signs of consistent winning.
Explosive, dedicated athletes like Morgan Allee and Megan Stone are two reasons to believe this group of Sycamores can spark a turnaround.
The Sycamores are scoring an average of 3.1 runs per game while also ranking in the middle of the Missouri Valley Conference pack in hits and batting average. But the Sycamores are on pace to break the school record for on-base percentage as they lead the MVC in walks, hit-by-pitches, sacrifice bunts and stolen bases.
Allee, with 17 regular-season games to go, broke the school record for stolen bases in a season Tuesday against IUPUI and is among the 10 best in the NCAA. Her total of 30 makes up almost half of ISU’s 74.
“I’m so big [that] they think I won’t go. It works out well,” the stocky shortstop said.
ISU’s QB battle
Quarterback battles come in all shapes and sizes, but one could forgive Indiana State’s Mike Perish, Robert Tonyan Jr. and Trent Lancaster if they feel a bit more beleaguered than your average signal-caller.
Not only is the trio fighting for the right to be named ISU’s starter by the Sycamores’ football opener Aug. 29 at Indiana University, but all three also are trying to learn a new offense, they’re acclimating themselves to new coach Mike Sanford’s different way of running things, and they’re trying to maintain harmony amongst each other, so whoever the ultimate winner is can effectively lead the team without angst.
All of it is playing out during ISU’s spring practice, and so far, none of the quarterback candidates have separated themselves from the pack.
- More Indiana State University Headlines
- ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction