Around the Valley: Indiana State looking to improve offense after dismal 2021 season output
Sycamores were last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in points per game
FARGO — The 2022 prospects for Indiana State and hanging with the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference teams probably hinges on its offense. It was in the basement last year in the Valley averaging just 15.9 points per game.
The issue was addressed in the offseason. The Sycamores brought in a new offensive coordinator, Western Michigan assistant Mike Bath, and will have a different look at quarterback and running back.
Head coach Curt Mallory heads into his fifth season as the Indiana State head coach still looking to equal the turnaround of 2018. He inherited a mess going 0-11 his first season in 2017 but went 7-4 and finished third in the Valley the following year.
But since then, the Sycamores have gone 5-7, the team opted out of the COVID-19 stricken 2020 season and was 5-6 last season.
The Sycamores got Dakota Caton back after missing last year with an injury and the pandemic-plagued 2020 season. He was an all-Valley kickoff returner and dependable wide receiver in 2019.
He’ll be opposite another all-league receiver in Dante Hendrix.
“Dante has been a two-year captain for us, a great leader not only at wide receiver but on the offense, where I believe we’ve taken the next step,” Mallory said.
The Sycamores are hoping last year’s late-season improvement by University of Minnesota transfer Harry Van Dyne — a 6-foot-5, 220-pound receiver — will carry over into this season.
As to who will throw to the receivers remains to be seen. Three players are vying for the quarterback job in redshirt freshman Cade Chambers, Butler Community College (Kan.) transfer Gavin Screws and Colorado State transfer Evan Olaes.
Last year’s starter, Anthony Thompson, has moved on. Thompson completed 62% of his passes, but had eight touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Olaes redshirted last year at CSU and didn’t play. At North Las Vegas High School (Nevada), he set a state single-season record with 2,853 passing yards.
The Sycamores also went into the transfer portal at running back, getting Tee Hodge from Tennessee and CJ Cooper from Quincy (Ill.). Hodge played in just one game with the Volunteers in 2020. The leading returning rusher is Justin Dinka, who averaged 5.9 yards a carry in limited attempts.
As high school players, Dinka, who started his career at San Diego State, and Hodge were three-star recruits by Rivals.com. They’ll be counted on to replace leading rusher Peterson Kerlegrand, who had 830 yards last season.
Indiana State hosts North Dakota State on Oct. 8, NDSU's first trip to Terre Haute, Ind., since 2017.
Missouri Valley Football Conference preview lineup:
Today: Indiana State Sycamores
Day 3: Missouri State Bears
Day 4: North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Day 5: Northern Iowa Panthers
Day 6: South Dakota Coyotes
Day 7: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Day 8: Southern Illinois Salukis
Day 9: Western Illinois Leathernecks
Day 10: Youngstown Penguins