MACOMB, Ill. — Coming off a season in which it went 1-5 before having its final two games canceled because of COVID protocols, the Western Illinois University football program finds itself at the bottom looking up.
The Leathernecks are picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, according to a preseason poll of the league’s coaches, media and sports information directors released Tuesday morning. Check out the entire poll here.
South Dakota State edged North Dakota State as the preseason favorite. The Jackrabbits received 24 first-place votes, while the Bison received 14. South Dakota State returns 10 starters on each side of the ball from a team that reached the FCS title game in the spring.
WIU is heading into Jared Elliott’s fourth season as head coach and finds itself at the bottom of the league in the preseason poll for the second straight year. Last spring, the Leathernecks were picked to finish ninth in the 10-team league, tied with Southern Illinois.
The Salukis went 3-3 in the league and 6-4 overall last year and head into this season picked fourth in the MVFC.
Five Leathernecks received mention among the All-MVFC preseason teams.
Senior wide receiver Dennis Houston was a first-team selection. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound pass catcher led the Leathernecks with 43 receptions and 477 receiving yards last spring. His 7.2 receptions per game topped the league leaders, and he received first-team all-conference honors.
Tony Tate, a senior wide receiver and return specialist, was a second-team selection. He led the MVFC in all-purpose yards per game (129) and was fourth in total touchdowns (5). He caught 36 passes for 389 yards and was a first-team All-MVFC return specialist.
Senior quarterback Connor Sampson, senior offensive lineman Will Waddell and senior punter Adam Fellner were honorable mention picks.
The Leathernecks open their season Sept. 3 at Ball State.