Things to watch: Preseason 2012

Finally, after months of waiting FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!  Well not quite but this week Ball State will open preseason practices.  After last season’s 6-6 finish expectations are sky high for Pete Lembo and the Cardinals.  Here are just a few things we’re looking at when camp opens on Aug. 1

Progression of Kieth Wenning: One of the biggest reasons for such a big turnaround last season was the progression of Soph. Quarterback Kieth Wenning.  If Wenning makes the same kind of jump this season…well we could be looking at one of the most dangerous QB’s in the Mid-American conference.  When you look at the whole picture, who’s to say Wenning won’t make an even bigger jump?  A veteran very experienced O-Line, a staple of Running Backs to take the pressure off of the passing game, and the 2nd year in a system that seems taylor-made to Wenning’s skill set.  All these point to a big year for the Junior QB.

Transfers: To those who watched the spring game one thing became very apparent.  Transfers Toney Williams and Jonathan Newsome were far too fast for the MAC.  Both Williams and Newsome will be fighting for starting spots as preseason practices open.  Add in Brandon Newman (Notre Dame), Jarrett Swaby (Central Florida) and this year’s transfers could be a major factor on this team.  Look for Newman, Newsome, and Swaby all to really push for the starting position.  Williams should be either No. 1 or 2 back, alternating with Jahwaun Edwards when the season starts. 

Impact Freshman: Last year it was guys like Willie Snead, and Jahwaun Edwards.  Who will be the next impact freshman of the 2012 class? Too early to tell at this point. 

Safety Battle: For the first time since 2008 there will be no Sean “Soul Eater” Baker in the defensive backfield of Ball State.  Baker took his talents to Tampa for a shot at the NFL with the Bucaneers, and leaves a huge hole to fill at the safety spot.  Also leaving last season were Josh Howard and Kyle Hoke meaning Ball State’s top three safeties last season are gone.  Some early favorites to replace Baker, Howard and Hoke have been, Soph.’s Brian Jones and Chris Calloway as well as true freshman Chris Paulding.   Between those three I also expect one of the veteran safeties (Brandon Kish, Joseph Fazio) to make some noise at the position and fight for the 4th spot on the depth chart. One wild card in this position battle is Jarrett Swaby the transfer safety from Central Florida.  If he can pick up the system quickly look for him to really push for a starting spot. 

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A Spring Depth Chart Guess

It’s Spring ball for college football teams, meaning teams get to practice in pads with coaches, mostly throughout the month of April.  For Ball State there have been many additions and subtractions from the football team from the 2011 squad which saw it become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008.  There has been a spring depth chart released by ball state football here: http://ballstatesports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=67657&SPID=7633&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=14200&ATCLID=205401329 .

 A couple things should be taken into account however.  1. This year’s recruiting class isn’t even on campus yet.  Last year Jahwan Edwards was the starting RB as a freshman, but not even listed on last year’s spring depth chart simply because he wasn’t there yet. 2. Transfer players haven’t gotten a lot of time in the system.  This will change by the time fall starts. 3. This is the time when position battles start.  There are starting jobs to be won and lost from now to September.  So here is my guess at Ball State football’s 2-deep for September:

OFFENSE:

QB: Keith Wenning Jr. / Kelly Page Sr.

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Tennessee transfer Toney Williams may not start the season as the #1 tailback, but expect him to make a lot of noise as the season gets going.

RB: Jahwan Edwards So. / Toney Williams Jr. (TENN transfer)

LT: Austin Holtz Sr. / Matt Page Jr.

RG: Kitt O’Brien Sr. / Jalen Schlachter Fr.

C: Dan Manick Sr. / Josh Smith Fr.

LG: Jordan Hansel Jr. / Chris Sparrow Sr.

LT: Cam Lowry Sr. / Matt Page Jr.

WR 1: Willie Sneed So. / Jacolby Owens Fr.

WR 2: Connor Ryan Jr. / Chris Shillings So.

WR S: Jamil Smith Jr. / Jack Tomlinson Jr.

TE: Zane Fakes Jr. / Aaron Mershman Jr.

DEFENSE:

LE: Jonathan Newsome Jr. (OSU Transfer) / Anthony Kukwa Fr.

DT: Nathan Ollie Jr. / Donovan Jarrett Sr.

DT: Brandon Newman Sr. (ND Transfer) / Donovan Jarrett Sr.

RE: Matt Mosely So. / Nick MIles So.

OLB: Kenneth Lee Sr. / Julian Boyd So.

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DE Jonathan Newsome got a good amount of playing time at Ohio St. He's been described as a "freak" by a fellow OL.

MLB: Travis Freeman Sr. / Justin Cruz Sr.

OLB: Tony Martin Sr. / Julian Boyd So.

CB: Jason Pinkston Sr. / Andre Dawson Sr.

FS: Brian Jones So. / JC Wade So.

SS: Chris Calloway So. / Chris Pauling Fr.

CB: Jeff Garrett Jr. / Quintin Cooper Jr.

PK: Steven Schott Sr. / Scott Secor So.

P: Scott Kovanda Sr. / Scott Secor So.

PR: Jamil Smith Jr. / Jack Tomlinson Jr.

KR: Jamil Smith Jr. / Toney Williams Jr.

 

Check out Ball State’s Spring Game on Saturday April 21st.

 

BY: PAT BOYLAN

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Tabacca Takes Over

A quick look at new o-line coach Nick Tabacca

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April 12, 2012 · 4:35 am

Spring Practice Update Day-2

Day-2 of spring practice showed some real potential for this Ball State football team.  Just from my observations I saw several interesting things going on.

1.Unknown wide receivers getting a look: The first team receivers have pretty much been set.  But receivers 4-6 are up for grabs.  During this practice Chris Schillings, and Shane Belle were getting lots of reps and in some cases showing up the first team receivers.  Both are taller than Tomlinson, Smith and Ryan and posses the hands and speed to make plays.

2. O-Line comfortable with new coach Tabacca: Talking to Austin Holtz and Dan Manick after practice, the transition from Strollo to Tabacca has been very smooth.  Part of this is due to the fact that Tabacca is a former Ball State O-Lineman himself.

3. Defensive Line looks very good early: Brandon Newmann won’t be here until the fall, however the defensive line looks very good so far.  During team drills, they got consistent pressure on the QB’s and Nathan Ollie even came up with a sack.  This unit is fast and experienced, and could be the difference maker this season.

Spring Battles:

1. Running Back Battle: We knew that this battle was going to be interesting, and from what I saw the breakdown right now is; Edwards, Banks, Williams, Donnigan.  Scott is still injured and didn’t practice, but Jahwaun Edwards looked a step quicker than he did last season.  Banks impressed with his speed which is expected, but Toney Williams may have impressed me most of all.  We know he has the power, but Williams showed off a little bit of his speed on several plays during team drills.

2. Wide Receivers edging for playing time: The starters on the depth chart should be very worried, this position is deep and seems to have a lot of talent.  With how much Ball State passes, there are several receivers that could get significant playing time.

Injury Report: It is the beginning of spring ball so not many major injuries have occured.  However there were several guys getting ice during practice, which is expected when the season starts again.

Barrington Scott is still recovering from his ankle injury he suffered last season against Eastern Michigan.  He did not practice but was dressed.

Highlight of the Day:Backup linebacker Michael Ayres picked off Kelley Page during offense vs. defense drills.

Player that impressed: Shane Belle, as I said before there are several wide receivers getting quality practice looks.  Belle is a taller wide receiver who has good speed, but what impressed me most was his consistent hands.

-Chris

Twitter: @ChrisRenkel

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Football Schedule Announced

Until today, all Ball State has known is their out of conference opponents, and that they will play the MAC West (as always) next season.  Today, the picture got clearer as the MAC announced its 2012 schedule.  Here’s how it looks for the Cardinals.

vs. EMU,

@ Clemson,

@ IU,

vs. So. FL,

@ Kent,

vs. NIU,

vs. WMU,

@ CMU,

@ Army,

@ Toledo,

vs. Ohio,

@ Miami

A few things stick out:

1. Ball State will open the season with a MAC game for the first time in 6 seasons when they host EMU.

2. The Cardinals were done no favors in cross over play.  Missed out on the consensus two worst teams: Akron and Buffalo

3.  If Ball State wants to go bowling they’ll need to either A. win a lot early, or B. be road warriors.  The Cardinals finish the year with 4/5 on the road.

4. Ball State will play Miami for the first time since the 2008 perfect season.  A game where the Cardinals won sloppily.

 

-By: Pat Boylan

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Spring Position Battle: Running Backs

With spring practice officially starting this week it’s time to take a look at some of the position battles that will be going on.  Today we take a look at the running backs. 

Last season the running game was one of the strength’s of the offense.  But many times the ground game was overshadowed by the emergence of Kieth Wenning as a star quarterback.  However even in Coach Lembo’s pass first offense, the ground game is extremely important.  Last season we saw the emergency of Jahwaun Edwards and Barrington Scott as legitimate running threats.  This season both Scott and Edwards are back, however there are five backs now fighting for a 2-3 back rotation. 

#6 Toney Williams

Strengths: Power, Strength, Vision

Weaknesses: Breakaway Speed, Durability

Analysis: Williams is a transfer form Tennessee where is career was cut short due to injury and being buried in a depth chart that included #1 Running Back prospect Bryce Brown.  Williams is a power back with good speed but he won’t burn anyone down the field.  He also hasn’t played in an actual game in two years. 

My Prediction: If you can play in the SEC, you can easily dominate the MAC.  Pending his health and durability Williams could easily be the best running back in the MAC. 

Jahwaun Edwards

Strengths: Tenacity, Power, Durability

Weaknesses: Breakaway Speed, Cutting

Analysis: Edwards proved he can be an every-down back last season putting up impressive numbers for a freshman.  But there were times when he became too predictable with his one cut running style.  His lack of burning speed also hurt him when he did make it to the second and third levels of the defense.

My Prediction: He can only get better, Edwards should improve, but his effectiveness will depend if he develops his moves and speed to compliment his bruising attack. 

#33 Barrington Scott

Strengths: Catching, Versatility, Field Vision, Cutting

Weaknesses: Coming off Injury, Power,

Analysis: Scott was a surprise to most cardinal fans last season, becoming a good compliment to Edwards.  His season was cut short in the win over Eastern Michigan where he broke his ankle on his way to a touchdown run. 

My Prediction: This season Scott should be utilized a little more, his ability to catch the ball and good running speed will be a great compliment to Williams/Edwards punishing power style.  Barring any complications from injury last season Scott should see significant playing time.

#45 Dwayne Donnigan

Strengths: Shifty, Small, Cutting behind the line

Weaknesses: Size, Power, Speed

Analysis: If you put him in the #33 jersey you would swear Miquale Lewis had somehow gotten one more year of eligibility.  Donnigan showed flashes of brilliance somehow emerging form the pile in route to big time runs, however his small stature really prevented him from becoming a legitimate running threat. 

My Prediction: Of all the backs vying for playing time I see Donnigan dropping off the most.  It comes down to size, he just isn’t big enough to get regular playing time, especially with so much depth on the roster. 

#4 Horatio Banks

Strengths:Versatility, Speed, Catching, Cutting

Weaknesses: Power

Analysis: This one should be interesting.  Banks was redshirted last season as a freshman, but coming out of High School he was one of the best backs in the Chicago city area.  Banks utilizes his speed and versatility to overcome his smaller size.  He is a true speed back and therefore struggles with the power aspect of the game. 

My Prediction: As I said, it’ll be interesting.  Banks was a highly touted recruit and put his speed and versatility in Lembo’s offense, this kid can make plays.  But with so much depth i’m really not sure how much playing time he will actually get. 

Having too many running threats is a good problem to have, however with so many threats vying for 2-3 spots it will be interesting to see how things shake out as spring practice moves on.  But when the Spring season concludes here is how I think things will shake out. 

1.Toney Williams

2.Barrington Scott

3.Jahwaun Edwards

4.Horatio Banks

5.Dwayne Donnigan

Last season we saw a 2-3 back rotation this year I see a 3-4 back rotation because with Edwards and Williams’ running styles they will wear down and get tired as the game goes on meaning some carries for the other power back.   Scott and Banks are just too valuable to the passing game and their speed style running is a good change of pace from the power game Williams and Edwards bring. 

 

-Chris Renkel-

Twitter: @ChrisRenkel

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Big Gains in the Weight Room

One of the biggest changes that came with the announcement of Pete Lembo as Ball State football’s newest head coach a year and a half ago was in the weight room.  Lembo decided that the players weren’t as strong as he’d like, and he and newly appointed strength and conditioning coach Dave Feely were on a mission.  In Coach Lembo’s most recent email, we see exactly what advances the players are making in the weight room, and they’re quite impressive:

 

Bench Press:

 

March 2011 – 31 @ 300+ pounds, 4 @ 400+ pounds

March 2012 – 60 @ 300+ pounds, 8 @ 400+ pounds

Top Gainers: OG Kitt O’Brien – 500 pounds (+85), OG Jordan Hansel – 405 pounds (+80), DT Nate Ollie – 375 pounds (+60), WR Willie Snead – 275 pounds (+50)

 

Parallel Squat:

 

March 2011 – 31 @ 400+ pounds, 9 @ 500+ pounds

March 2012 – 59 @ 400+ pounds, 24 @ 500+ pounds

Top Gainers: DT Nate Ollie – 515 pounds (+100), WR Jamill Smith – 405 pounds (+70), CB Jason Pinkston – 435 pounds (+90), FS J.C. Wade – 500 pounds (+125)

 

We will have to wait until September to see how much these results will mean on the field.

 

By: Pat Boylan

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