Ball St. Cardinals
The Stan Parrish era lasted just two years and now is in the hands of Pete Lembo who inherits a team that had trouble both scoring and stopping opponents from scoring. All this with one of the nation’s weaker schedules which puts 2010 in to perspective. Lembo has 17 returning starters to work with and will likely open up the passing game to put more points on the board to help out an ailing defense but will that be enough to win in 2011?
The key to the Ball State offense will be improving upon a passing attack that was just 106 th nationally in 2010. Keith Wenning has the size and arm to flourish in Lembo’s no huddle offense and has plenty of ability and turned down a chance to walk on at Ohio State. Kelly Page is a nice second option with starting experience so the Cardinals should see improved numbers through the air. The ground game with MiQuale Lewis was decent but Lewis is gone however the Cardinals have several viable options led by Eric Williams who had a team leading 613 yards last season. The problem with the current backfield is size as their game is built on speed and quickness which will be a plus in the passing attack. Jack Tomlinson (29-484) and Briggs Orson (29-284)are the top two returning receiving options but watch for freshman Willie Snead (Michigan POY) who played quarterback in high school and has speed and running ability. Ball State has a veteran offensive line to lean on with four players back that did a good job opening holes in the rushing attack and were second in sacks allowed in the conference
The defensive line was a non factor getting to the quarterback and with the departure of Robert Eddins and his six sacks and 13 TFL this unit needs to find production elsewhere. This group has experience and depth and Ball State is hoping that translates in to improved numbers. The Cardinals lost 66 tackles with the graduation of OLB Davyd Jones but get back two of the team’s top three tacklers including Travis Freeman (109 T) and Tony Martin (76 T). This unit will be relied upon to help pressure the quarterback especially if the guys up front struggle. Despite almost no pass rush the secondary was solid overall and get a wealth of experience back with 2 nd Team All MAC safety Sean Baker (88 T-6 INT) and corner Jason Pinkston (61 T-4 INT). The defense as a whole is quick but on the small side.
Dependable Ian McGarvey was 14 of 17 on field goals and the job now falls to Steven Schott who must be just as good with points at a premium. Punter Scott Kovanda averaged 40 yards per boot and gets good hang time. Punt returner could be up for grabs but Eric Williams has the kick return duties wrapped up with his over 25 yard average a year ago.
Lembo will bring his successful passing philosophy from Elonand implement it to a certain degree at Ball State but I’m not sure the players he has are the complete match for the system. The offense should be better and the defense will be improved as well but not to the degree where this team is challenging in the MAC West where I see them in the bottom half of the division.