Illinois FCS spring ball recaps

Illinois FCS spring ball recaps
(photo courtesy of Tom Weber, SIU Athletics)

With spring practices now completed, the Illinois FCS programs will head into summer workouts with an eye on fall camps in preparation for the 2019 college football season.

Three of the four head coaches are Illinois natives:  Illinois State's Brock Spack (Rockford), Southern Illinois' Nick Hill (Du Quoin) and Eastern Illinois' Adam Cushing (Chicago). And, while Western Illinois' Jared Elliott hails from Franklin, Tenn., he has spent five seasons in Macomb, one as head coach and four as a Leatherneck assistant.

Here's a quick look at each of the spring camps.

Southern Illinois Salukis

"We're right on track with where we want to be as far as the progression of this team. We still have a long way to go and each step in the process is equally important."

--head coach Nick Hill, 4th year

Open competition:  All five quarterbacks got to play at least one series in the April 6 spring scrimmage. Hill declined to name a starter afterward, but the pair that took the most live reps were junior college transfer Karé Lyles and redshirt freshman Nic Baker.

Season opener:  Aug. 29 at Southeast Missouri State

FBS games:  Sept. 7 at UMass & Sept. 21 at Arkansas State

Western Illinois Leathernecks

"Throughout the entire spring, we made strides every single day. They took advantage of every moment, and we're carrying a lot of momentum heading into summer."

--head coach Jared Elliott, 2nd year

Breaking in a new QB:  Lost to graduation is quarterback Sean McGuire, a player Elliott calls "maybe, arguably, the best quarterback in Western Illinois history." Coming out of spring ball, McGuire's heir apparent appears to be redshirt junior Connor Sampson. "He has taken the reins, and it was fun today to see him run the show," Elliott said.

Season opener:  Aug. 29 at North Alabama

FBS game:  Sept. 7 at Colorado State

Illinois State Redbirds

"Best spring game I have been around. I thought our receiving corps was much better; our young receivers played well. Defense played well. Just a lot of good football all around."

--head coach Brock Spack, 11th year

Emerging star:  Receiver Andrew Edgar from St. Patrick High School caught four passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the annual spring game. Edgar, an FCS Freshman All-American by HERO Sports and Phil Steele made the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team, finished second in the voting for MVFC Freshman of the Year. The 6-foot, 190-pounder set the ISU freshman receiving record with 746 yards on 44 receptions.

Season opener:   Aug. 31 at Northern Illinois

FBS game:  Aug. 31 at Northern Illinois

Eastern Illinois Panthers

"The guys have done a great job, really thinking about raising the standard, about paying attention to the details all the time, and focusing on those little things that can allow us to be just a little bit better, to be one day better."

--head coach Adam Cushing, 1st year

Changing tempo:  Last season the Panthers averaged nearly 446 yards and 32.5 points per game running the Air Raid offense. This fall, Cushing and offensive coordinator John Kuceyeski will have EIU in a more conventional offense. A trio of experienced QBs--Jonathan Brantley, Scotty Gilkey Jr. and Harry Woodbery--all return.

Season opener:   Aug. 31 at Chattanooga

FBS game:  Sept. 7 at Indiana

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