(STATS) - With eight starters returning, Illinois State expects to have one of the more experienced defenses in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this year.
But the FCS power conference has a wealth of top teams, so the Redbirds' offense hopes to make an impact when coach Brock Spack's squad concludes spring practice with its annual intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. The defense controlled the action in two prior scrimmages.
Illinois State has qualified for the FCS playoffs in three straight seasons and four of the last five. Last year's squad took a step backward from the previous two, which both won a share of the MVFC title, by finishing 6-6 overall.
The Redbirds' 4-3 defense boasts All-MVFC first-team cornerback Davontae Harris and all of its 2016 starters on the defensive line and in the secondary.
The offense has been retooling up front to provide the necessary blocking and protection for quarterback Jake Kolbe and a deep running backs unit featuring James Robinson. The Redbirds tied for 68th in the FCS in scoring last season, so the offense needs to be improved in 2017.