NORMAL — Illinois State football coach Brock Spack maintains his team's defense is "the deepest it's ever been in the spring."
Spack remains steadfast in that assessment despite the recent departures of three senior-to-be defenders.
Cornerback Willie Edwards and linebacker/end Jason Harris announced they would not return to ISU for next season and will consider competing as a graduate transfer at another school this fall.
"We want guys who want to be here so we're going to move on. We hope they do well. But we can only worry about the ones we have," Spack said. "The grad transfer thing is becoming popular among players. We've been affected by it on both ends."
Spack also confirmed Tuesday senior linebacker Dex Kelly-Martin has been dismissed from the Redbird roster for "conduct detrimental" to the team.
Edwards totaled 40 tackles and one interception while starting eight games last season. He missed the final three contests with an injury.
True freshman Charles Woods stepped in for Edwards and fared well late in the season. Devin Taylor is a returning starter at the other cornerback.
"We didn't miss a beat (with Woods)," Spack said. "I think we're very good there at corner, and we have a couple good players coming in. And we have guys at safety who could play corner. I'm very comfortable where we're at."
ISU also has cornerback Jarrell Jackson returning from injury and another promising young corner in Iverson Brown.
Harris had 26 tackles at the Redbirds' jack position, a hybrid end/linebacker.
According to Spack, there are several players equipped to take Harris' snaps.
"We need to have more production there," said the ISU coach. "You may see Tuvone (Clark) at jack. Blake Fehrmann (a transfer from New Mexico) could play there as well or (Ryan) Guhl or Damien Jackson."
Kelly-Martin had 30 tackles, 1½ sacks and five quarterback hurries in 2018 and has seen action in 33 games while making seven starts over three seasons.
Kelly-Martin's departure will mean more practice repetitions for DeMarco Washington, Giavion Mason and newcomer Jeremiah Jordan among others.
"We're looking forward to spring," Spack said. "There will be younger guys pushing some (older) guys."