Redbirds Picked Fourth, Four Named to MVFC Preseason Team
July 29, 2013
ST. LOUIS - The 2012 Illinois State football team made a strong run in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, after finishing third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference regular-season standings and earning an at-large selection. With the loss of 12 starters and a young squad coming back, the Redbirds were picked fourth in 2013 MVFC Preseason Poll announced Monday.
Illinois State also received four 2013 MVFC Preseason Team selections in the annual vote. Senior defensive end and 2013 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List member Colton Underwood and 2012 First-Team MVFC fullback Jordan Neukirch were among 28 MVFC student-athletes listed on the preseason lineup. In addition, senior offensive tackle Josh Aladenoye and junior offensive tackle Jermaine Barton were tabbed as preseason honorable mention selections, signifying they received at least five votes on the ballots submitted.
North Dakota State was picked to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference crown in 2013. NDSU, the two-time defending national champion, was a unanimous choice to repeat, earning 39 of a possible 39 first-place votes (390 pts.), in a poll conducted by league coaches, media members and sports information directors. Although the voters all agreed that NDSU was their top choice, there was a wide variance for the league's other nine teams, as seven teams were picked to finish in five or more different positions.
South Dakota State was picked second in the poll (323), after finishing in second place and representing the league in the FCS playoffs a year ago. Perennial FCS power UNI was third in the poll (269), just five points ahead of the Redbirds who garnered 264 points. Youngstown State was fifth (253), followed by Indiana State (197) and Southern Illinois (188) in sixth and seventh places, respectively. Missouri State was selected eighth (123), ahead of Western Illinois in ninth (77) and South Dakota (61) in the final spot.
Underwood has been named to several preseason All-America lists and will once again represent Illinois State on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch list. Underwood was a 2012 First-Team All-America selection and finished sixth in the voting for the Buchanan Award, after leading the MVFC in sacks (10.5) and tackles-for-loss (19.5).The Washington, Ill., native was also an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First-Team selection and a MVFC All-Academic Second-Team pick. He recorded at least one sack in eight games and a tackle-for-loss in nine games, with five multiple tackle-for-loss performances and finished the season ranked second on the team with 95 tackles.
Neukirch has also garnered preseason All-America plaudits and returns as one of the best fullbacks in the country. The 2012 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First-Team selection played in all 13 games for the Redbirds, with four starts. The Algonquin, Ill., native served primary lead blocker for Darrelynn Dunn, who rushed 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he helped in the passing game by catching four passes for 27 yards with two touchdowns.
Aladenoye started all 11 games at left tackle in 2012, after transferring from Oklahoma and Barton took control at the right tackle position for every game last season, after he transferred from Miami. Each were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer Team and graded out at over 85 percent for the season. The bookends helped ISU rush for 136 yards per game on the ground and were instrumental in helping block for Dunn.
The Redbirds will open the season Thursday, Aug. 29, on the road in Muncie, Ind., against Mid-American Conference preseason favorite Ball State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT, and the game can be watched live on ESPN3.
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