Redbirds Picked Third; Four Named Preseason MVFC
Aug. 2, 2010
ST. LOUIS - After finishing the 2009 season with a winning record and as winners of five of its last seven games, the Illinois State football team was projected to finish third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason Poll, announced Monday. The annual poll is voted on by league head coaches, media members and sports information directors.
Southern Illinois, which has been ranked in 92-straight regular-season top-25 polls, received 313 points, including 30 first-place tallies, in the pre-season poll to take the top spot. The next three spots in the pre-season poll were tightly contested, as eight points separated South Dakota State, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa.
The Jackrabbits, who joined SIU in the 2009 FCS playoff field, received 252 points and two first-place votes. ISU was picked third with 249 points and three first-place tallies, with UNI right behind in fourth with 244 points and one first-place vote. Missouri State (164 pts.), North Dakota State (151 pts.) and Youngstown State (130 pts.) were picked fifth through seventh, respectively, with Western Illinois (70 pts.) and Indiana State (47 pts.) rounding out the poll.
In addition, four Redbirds were selected to the 2010 MVFC Preseason Team in the annual vote. Sophomore quarterback Matt Brown, the reigning MVFC Freshman of the Year, junior linemen Nick Bledsoe and Eric Brunner and senior safety Kelvyn Hemphill were all named All-Valley Football Conference Second-Team selections in 2009 and figure to be impact players in the league in 2010. Sophomore wideout Tyrone Walker and junior running back Cliffton Gordon also received votes in the poll, which earned them honorable mention status.
Brown started the final 10 games of the year at quarterback for the Redbirds in 2009 and set new ISU freshman records for completions (226), attempts (352) and passing yards (2,369) in a season. The Marion, Ill., native led the conference in passing yards per game (215.4), ranked third in pass efficiency (127.6) and his completion percentage of 64.2 was the second-highest single-season mark in school history.
Bledsoe started all 11 games on the offensive line in 2009, nine at guard and the last two at center after regular starter Cal McCarthy suffered a knee injury. The Wheeling, Ill., native earned MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors after helping the team rush for a season-high 178 yards in a win at Missouri State. He was a vital part of the league's top passing offense with 246.4 yards per game. Brunner had a breakout season in 2009 on the defensive line for the Redbirds and ranked fifth on the team with 47 tackles, including 23 solo stops. The Greendale, Wis., native also added 1.5 sacks, 7.0 tackles-for-loss and was credited with a team-high seven quarterback hurries. He recorded a career-high nine tackles against Western Illinois and tallied seven tackles and five hurries in the come-from-behind win over No. 9 UNI in the season finale.
Hemphill, led the Redbirds with 71 tackles, including 46 solo, stops from his safety position. The San Antonio, Texas, native also recorded two sacks, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, three pass breakups and an interception on the season. He posted a career-high 14 tackles at Illinois and was credited with 10 tackles and a tackle-for-loss against No. 15 South Dakota State.
The Redbirds open the season Sept. 2 against Central Missouri at Hancock Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
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