2012 MAC Football Conference Previews: Ball State Cardinals
2011 Record: (6-6, 4-4 in MAC)
Head Coach: Pete Lembo
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Skrosky
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman
Last Bowl Game: 2008 Season GMAC Bowl: lost to Tulsa 45-13
Toughest Conference Games: 10/20 Central Michigan, 11/6 Toledo, 11/14 Ohio
Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 5)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Jahwan Edwards (786 yds, 11 TD), QB Keith Wenning (19 TD, 11 INT) WR Jamill Smith (40 rec, 2 TD), WR Jack Tomlinson (43 rec, 2 TD), OG Jordan Hansel
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Travis Freeman (134 tackles, 2.5 sacks), DT Nathan Ollie (42 tackles, 4.5 sacks
Top Recruits: C Josh Smith (Scout.com’s #17 C)
Offense: The Cardinals were very efficient through the air. They were able to generate easy scores with a limited supply of big-play threats. Only two out of eight players targeted averaged better than 6.5 yards per target. Quarterback Keith Wenning completed 64 percent of his passes and was sacked on only 2.4 percent of pass attempts.
Ball State has a couple of candidates with big-play potential on the roster for the fall. Junior Jack Tomlinson and Jamill Smith are possession receivers. Three-star sophomore Willie Snead could be the threat at wideout. He caught 28 passes for 327 yards, averaging 11.7 yards per catch last season. Also in the mix will be sophomore Shane Belle and redshirt freshmen Trey Gardner and Jacolby Owens (all at least 6’2”).
With such a heavy focus on the pass, the running game opened up a bit. Sophomore Barrington Scott and freshman Jahwan Edwards combined for 267 carries, gained 1,156 yards and 12 touchdowns. Edwards carried most of the load. He scored eleven of the twelve touchdowns, and gained 786 of the 1,156 yards. Redshirt freshman Horactio Banks will add some speed to the backfield.
The Cardinals might just have the best offensive line in the MAC this year. Last season, they ranked fifth in the country in sack rate. Seven of eight linemen who started games in 2011 return. The crew has a total of 114 career starts combined, possibly the most in the country.
Defense: Stopping the run was not a problem for Ball State’s defense. Defending the past was its Achilles heel. Pass defense was a catastrophe. They weren’t aggressive at all. Huge improvement is needed, but the fact last year’s players have departed doesn’t help at all. Three of the top four linemen are gone, the top three safeties have left, and their best linebacker is ineligible.
The front seven have hope. Ohio State transfer Jonathan Newsome has high expectations at the defensive end position. He was a backup for the Buckeyes in the 2010 season. The Cardinals have high hopes for incoming freshman Osazuwaman Igbinosun as well. Sophomore Nick Miles will help big-time in the pass rushing department.
The Cardinals lost safeties, but have players to fill-in. Three-star sophomore Brian Jones and newbies, junior Selwyn Frazier and freshman Chris Pauling have something to offer. They should at least replicate the play of last year’s safeties, which wasn’t all that great. As a matter of fact, it was terrible. Good thing is, every cornerback returns this season, including junior Jeffery Garrett, who had one interception, six broken up passes and two tackles for loss. A more experienced defense should stop the big plays. Ball State takes a huge loss with the ineligibility of linebacker Aaron Morris (81.5 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles).
Schedule: 2012 Ball State Cardinals
2012 Prediction: 5-7