#87 Ball State Football 2015 Preview

Ball State Cardinals

Overall Rank: #87
#5 Mid-American

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The expectations were high for Ball State heading into 2014, but some injuries resulted in a 1-5 start that left the Cardinals out of the MAC title picture. They did rebound nicely though, winning four of their last six games and now they should be able to take that momentum and continue winning games in 2015. Coach Pete Lembo is one of the best in the MAC and he will have the pieces he needs on the field by the time the season gets underway.

2014 Record: 5-7, 4-4
2014 Bowl: None
Coach: Pete Lembo (30-20 at Ball State, 109-56 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joey Lynch
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Kelly

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Horactio Banks, RB, 353 yards
Passing: Jack Milas, QB, 1,302 yards
Receiving: Jordan Williams, WR, 753 yards
Tackles: Zack Ryan, LB, 91
Sacks: Darnell Smith, DT, 4.0
Interceptions: Dedrick Cromartie, S, 2; Tyree Holder, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: QB Ozzie Mann, WR KeVonn Mabon, C Jacob Richard, OL Jalen Schlachter, P Kyle Schmidt, LB Ben Ingle, DE Michael Ayers, S Aaron Taylor

Key Losses: RB Jahwan Edwards, CB Eric Patterson, K Scott Secor, DE Nick Miles

If Ball State is going to compete for a MAC title, they will need to turn their defensive experience into production. The defensive line returns Darnell Smith and Michael Ayers, but Smith was the team’s leading pass rusher last season with just four sacks. Those two must get a better push and be more consistent when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback. The addition of Cincinnati transfer Joshua Posley will give the line more options and another potential playmaker. Linebackers Zack Ryan and Ben Ingle combined for 178 tackles last season and they are perfectly suited for chasing around all of those spread offenses in the MAC. On the other side of the ball, Ball State boasts an amazingly experienced offensive line. They should be starting five fifth year seniors on opening day. Last year the unit allowed just a dozen sacks.

There are a few questions around the rest of the offense, most notably the absence of Ball State’s all-time leading rusher Jahwan Edwards. Last season he ran for 1,252 yards and a dozen scores. Horactio Banks will take over after rushing for 353 yards on 75 carries, but those are big shoes to fill. If the Cardinals fail to establish a successful ground game, the passing attack will falter too. And their quarterback situation is not all that great to begin with. Jack Milas threw for 1,302 yards and nine touchdowns last season, while Ozzie Mann threw for 1,281 yards and ten scores. Both are just sophomores and should be more efficient this season.

The Bottom Line:
Having receivers Jordan Williams and KeVonn Mabon back will make life much easier for whoever ends up under center. They combined to catch 115 passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. If the defense can find a few more playmakers, including a pass rusher or two, Ball State should find themselves back towards the top of the MAC West standings.

Projected Bowl: Bahamas Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 153.4 (76th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 215.8 (78, 10)
Total Offense: 369.3 (92, 11)
Scoring Offense: 27.7 (71, 6)
Rushing Defense: 191.1 (88, 8)
Pass Defense: 237.8 (82, 8)
Total Defense: 428.8 (86, 8)
Scoring Defense: 27.2 (67, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.75 (16, 2)
Sacks: 1.33 (110, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (12, 2)


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