In his first full season as the starter for Western Illinois, Sean McGuire showed a lot of promise.
Just a sophomore in 2016, the Leathernecks quarterback proved to be one of the more reliable signal callers in the Missouri Valley Conference and will be looking to build off of that in 2017.
Can McGuire lead the program to a conference crown this fall?
2016 Western Illinois Football Season In Review
There was plenty of optimism in Macomb when the Leathernecks started last year strong. Western Illinois defeated rival Eastern Illinois, a ranked Northern Arizona squad and FBS foe Northern Illinois on its way to a 5-1 start.
But then it all fell apart.
The Leathernecks ended up missing out on the postseason after losing four of their last five games—three of the four at home. While one was expected—North Dakota State—home setbacks to Illinois State and Northern Iowa really stung.
Lance Lenoir finished his career at Western Illinois as the school’s all-time leading receiver. He caught 76 passes for over 1,000 yards last year and was McGuire’s favorite target.
Steve McShane was the team’s go-to option at running back and was far more productive than his backfield mates. Jamie Gilmore and Devon Moore also saw some action, but Gilmore averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and Moore tallied 3.7 yards per rush. McShane averaged five yards every time he rushed the ball and showed an ability to break long runs, too. Additionally, he had no fumbles in 182 carries.
The defense let WIU down at times last year, though. The Leathernecks finished as the 106th ranked unit in the country and gave up 6.4 yards per play, one of the highest totals in FCS. The secondary was mostly to blame, allowing 8.6 yards per attempt, the fourth-highest total in the nation.
2017 Western Illinois Football Season Preview
McGuire is back along with eight other offensive starters, giving the Leathernecks a great chance at returning to the postseason in 2017. Although he loses his top receiver in Lenoir, there are other options available that have been waiting for an opportunity to step up.
Last season, McGuire was the team’s leading rusher. Don’t be surprised if he isn’t used as often in the running game this year, though. He had five fumbles last season and is too valuable as a passer to use so often on the ground.
The offensive line is going to be a rock for this team. Four of five starters return from last season and there is talent on this unit. Jacob Judd is the anchor, but look out for Jordan Detweiler, who had an excellent spring.
The defense should stand to improve with nine returning starters on this side of the ball. Linebacker Brett Taylor is the lynchpin of the unit and led the way with more solo tackles than any other player in FCS last season. He was already named as a Preseason All-American by Athlon and will be one to watch for the Buck Buchanan Award.
2017 Western Illinois Football Schedule
August 31: Western Illinois at Tennessee Tech
September 9: Western Illinois at Northern Arizona
September 23: Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina
September 30: Western Illinois vs. South Dakota
October 7: Western Illinois at Northern Iowa
October 14: Western Illinois vs. Missouri State
October 21: Western Illinois at North Dakota State
October 28: Western Illinois vs. South Dakota State
November 4: Western Illinois at Illinois State
November 11: Western Illinois at Indiana State
November 18: Western Illinois vs. Southern Illinois
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Western Illinois only has four home games this season and will play all three of its non-conference games on the road. The Leathernecks will be traveling long distances in some of these, too, with trips to Northern Arizona and Coastal Carolina on the early season docket.
MVC schedule-makers did this squad no favors. WIU will have to face North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back-to-back weeks, and that will make it all but impossible to knock off both.
The season finale against Southern Illinois cost the Leathernecks a shot at the playoffs last season, and they will be out for revenge this year. This will be a great spot to back Western Illinois in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.