NORMAL — Injuries at tailback severely hampered the Illinois State football team in a 2005 loss to Western Illinois that may have cost the Redbirds a Division I-AA playoff berth.
ISU took a large step toward increasing its depth at that crucial position this week with the addition of Mississippi transfer Alan Abrams.
Abrams rushed for 275 yards at Ole Miss in 2004 before being limited to 28 yards on 14 carries last season.
"I talked to some people and asked around about schools," Abrams said Friday. "I met up with Coach (Galen) Scott, we pretty much hit it off and I ended up here."
The 6-foot, 205-pound Abrams said his strength is "probably my vision. I'm pretty much of a scatback. I can catch the ball pretty well out of the backfield."
First, it was ISU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente's marriage to the former Jenny Kabbes, a Redbird volleyball assistant coach.
Love has bloomed again between the school's football and volleyball teams.
Offensive guard Janiah Downing proposed earlier this week to Redbird volleyball player Lindley McDavid and McDavid accepted.
"We've been dating since February, 2003, second semester freshman year," said Downing. "I proposed Tuesday at her apartment. I talked to her parents before. Her dad is like 7-foot-8 so I couldn't mess that up."
Jackson interns at zoo
When he wasn't conditioning for the upcoming season, ISU wide receiver Pierre Jackson served an internship at Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington this summer.
"I'm a kinesiology/recreation major. I wanted to do something different," said Jackson, who caught 26 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns last season. "It's been a great experience. My supervisor gives me a chance to do different programs with kids. It's a different experience working with both kids and animals at the same time."
Thumbs down on change
ISU coach Denver Johnson is not in favor of a rules change to be implemented this season that mandates the clock will be started when the ball is declared "ready for play" by the officials after a first down and a change of possession instead of when the ball is snapped for the next play.
The idea is expected to reduce each game by 15 to 20 plays, according to Johnson.
"They're trying to screw up the game. It doesn't make any sense to me," said the Redbird coach. "We've been playing this game for over 100 years now. I don't know why we can't leave it alone. I'm not happy with it. But those decisions are made way above my pay grade."
ISU has added two walk-on reserve quarterbacks who will compete for the No. 3 spot in junior college transfer Jared Dall and freshman Preston Earl, the son of former Chicago Bears player Robin Earl.
"We were very aware of and interested in both these guys in the recruiting process," Johnson said. "They are both talented. We are fortunate to have them. Their opportunity has been enhanced by the departure of the other guys (Wally Cirafesi and Anthony Kummer). It's a win-win situation for us and them."
Kevin Brockway is entrenched as the back up quarterback to starter Luke Drone.
Game time change
The start time of ISU's game at Western Illinois on Oct. 21 has been changed from 6:05 p.m. to 1:05 p.m.
The switch was announced after most Redbird schedules had been printed.