A share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title in on the line with a win by the Redbirds.
The Redbirds will play a ranked opponent for the first time in 2012.
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Fall Camp Report: Defensive Line
Spring Camp - Defense Report
GoRedbirds.com features a positional breakdown of the defensive line during the 2010 Redbird football fall camp.
Spence Nowinsky is in his fourth season at Illinois State and will begin his second season as the team's associate head coach. In addition to those duties, Nowinsky works with the team's defensive lineman.
After a 2010 season that the Redbird defense ranked 112th in the country, Nowinsky and the rest of the defensive staff turned the ISU defense into one of the of best in the country in 2011. The Redbirds improved to No. 9 in the country in total defense, thanks in part to one of the stingiest run defenses in the country.
Nowinsky's line helped the Redbirds hold its opponents to just 85.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranked No. 5 in the country. ISU also ranked eighth in the country in sacks and 13th in tackles for loss, most of which came from Redbird linemen.
Illinois State defensive linemen accounted for 51 tackles-for-loss and 28 sacks in 2011, and were led by their leader and First-Team All-MVFC selection Eric Brunner. Junior transfer Nate Palmer was a Second-Team All-MVFC selection, after he led the team with 9.5 sacks and sophomores Shelby Harris and Colton Underwood each recorded six sacks apiece.
In 2010, Brunner also earned First Team All-MVFC honors at defensive tackle and led the Redbirds with four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Nowinsky also helped redshirt freshman Harris improve throughout the season on way to earning a spot on the MVFC All-Newcomer Team.
In 2009, Nowinsky helped guide Brunner to a breakout season as a sophomore when he ranked fifth on the team with 47 tackles, including 23 solo stops, on way to being named a second-team All-MVFC selection. Brunner added 1.5 sacks, 7.0 tackles-for-loss and was credited with a team-high seven quarterback hurries on the year. Senior Doni Phelps also peaked in his final season by leading the team in tackles-for-loss (8.5) and sacks with seven.
The Redbird defensive line solidified late in the year and allowed just 69 yards per game on the ground in the last four contests on way to a 3-1 record. The unit also accounted for 33.5 tackles-for-loss and 19.5 of the team's 25 sacks on the season.
Nowinsky came to Illinois State following two years as the associate head coach and defensive line coach at NCAA Division II member Emporia State. He had prior experience coaching at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, including previous assistant coaching positions at Western Athletic Conference (WAC) member Idaho (2003) and Big Ten Conference school Wisconsin (1999-2002).
Prior to coaching at Emporia State, Nowinsky spent three seasons at his alma mater, Minnesota State, where he coached the defensive line during the 2004 and 2006 seasons. In 2005, Nowinsky coached the Mavericks' offensive line.
Nowinsky spent the 2003 season as a defensive line coach for Idaho. He began his collegiate coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant at Wisconsin from 1999-2002. The Badgers won the 2000 Rose Bowl with a 17-9 victory over Stanford.
Nowinsky was an assistant coach at Wittenberg-Birnamwood (Wis.) High School from 1997-99 and began his coaching career in 1995-97 as an assistant at Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (Minn.) High School.
Nowinsky was a four-year letterwinner for Minnesota State from 1991-94 as a defensive lineman. He and his wife, Jen, reside in Normal, Ill., with their two sons, Tommy and Jack.