Ex-Gopher Phil Archer will start at Western Ill.

Former Gopher Phil Archer will start at middle linebacker for Western Illinois this Thursday night when they open their season versus Wayne State. Archer started 10 games as a sophomore and made 113 tackles on the season (average of 11.3 per game) to rank fifth in the Big Ten before losing his starting job last season. He transferred to Western Illinois and since the Leathernecks are a Division I-AA team, he is eligible without having to sit out.

Phil Archer had three forced fumbles in 2001, ranking in a tie for fifth in the conference and he added two sacks. He had a career-high 20 tackles and forced a fumble at Illinois and recorded 16 tackles, including 11 solo tackles against Purdue and Michigan.

Archer saw playing time in 10 games as a redshirt freshman, playing mostly on special teams.

Archer was a graduate of St. Paul (MN) Cretin-Derham Hall and was a two-time all-state selection. He had 121 tackles, including 92 solos, as a senior in '98. Archer also had 19 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions and was a SuperPrep All-Midwest Team choice. He had 15 tackles in the Raiders' 7-6 loss to Champlin Park in the '98 Class 5A semifinals. Archer was a three-year letter winner who finished with 203 career tackles, including 156 solo tackles. He also played defensive end, defensive tackle and fullback at one time or another for the Raiders.

The Leathernecks return five all-Americans from a squad that went 11-2 and finished among the nation's top five teams last season, and placed a league-high 10 players on the 2003 Gateway Preseason All-Conference Team. They have won four of the last six Gateway Conference titles. The Leathernecks return seven starters on the offensive and defensive side of the field.

Western Illinois University was picked No. 1 in the Football Gazette's National I-AA Preseason Top 40 Poll. Western Illinois was chosen among the top four in both The Sports Network and ESPN/USA Today I-AA Preseason Top 25 polls, placing third and fourth in the media and coaches' polls, respectively. The No. 3 ranking by The Sports Network marks the highest preseason rank in Leatherneck history, and just the second time that a Western Illinois squad has been placed in the preseason top 10 (No. 8 in 1997). Last season Western Illinois was ranked 40th in the preseason poll and climbed to No. 2, matching the highest regular season ranking in school history.

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