Prairie State Pigskin Notebook: Spring games, spring sports, spring league and ISU rug redo

Prairie State Pigskin Notebook: Spring games, spring sports, spring league and ISU rug redo
Southern Illinois quarterback Sam Straub is back in action five months after a broken wrist ended his 2017 season. (photo courtesy of SIU Athletics)

For all intents, this past Saturday closed spring camp for the Southern Illinois football. The Salukis concluded their spring practices with their annual spring game in Carbondale and a Monday walk-through. Meanwhile, the three other FCS programs in Illinois have a week and a half  of workouts left on their schedules.

"Any time you can get out of spring camp and not have any significant injuries, that is a positive thing," SIU head coach Nick Hill said.

Western Illinois, under first-year head coach Jared Elliott, wraps up with a Friday evening spring game April 20 in Macomb. Illinois State and Eastern Illinois conclude spring ball with their games April 21. ISU kicks off at 1 p.m., while EIU has scheduled a 4:30 start.

WIU (8-4 in 2017) was the lone state school to make the FCS playoffs last season. Head coach Charlie Fisher left Western to join Herm Edwards' staff at Arizona State. Elliott was promoted to WIU head coach after serving on Fisher's staff.

This fall marks the 10th season for Spack, a two-time finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award as the top coach in FCS. The Redbirds (6-5) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

SIU (4-7) enters its third season under Hill, the former record-setting Saluki quarterback. Southern last made the playoffs in 2009 with Dale Lennon as its coach.

EIU (6-5) begins its fifth season with Kim Dameron as its head coach. The Panthers last qualified for the playoffs in 2015.

Redbird rug redo

Illinois State will tear up its artificial turf surface and begin preparations to replace it for the 2018 season. The current surface was installed prior to the 2007 season. The university is targeting a June completion for the project.

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Dual sport duo

Western Illinois football standouts Steve McShane and Justin Fitzpatrick continue to play baseball for the Leathernecks. The duo are starters in both sports.

McShane, a running back from Freeport, has started 17 games in the WIU outfield. The junior is batting .279 and is 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.  Fitzpatrick, also a junior, plays center for the Leathernecks; he has yet to commit an error this season. The O'Fallon, Mo. native led WIU with five interceptions last season.

The Spring League

Over the course of two weeks, former college and NFL players will have opportunities to catch the attention of NFL personnel in The Spring League, a self-described "elite developmental league and scouting event for professional football talent." 

Last spring, Texas native and former Illinois State defensive back Josh Burch participated in The Spring League. This year, however, there are no players from ISU, Eastern, Southern or Western.

Twenty-three former FCS players are playing this spring, including four from the Missouri Valley Football Conference and two from the Ohio Valley Conference. ISU, SIU and WIU play in the MVFC; Eastern competes in the OVC.

In addition to practices, the players--divided into four teams--play a four-game schedule (two this past Saturday and two more Thursday) in Austin, Tex.

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