#99 Ball State Football 2013 Preview

Ball State Cardinals

Overall Rank: #99
#6 Mid-American
Ball State Football Preview
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Ball State had a very impressive 2012 campaign. They lost to Clemson, which was not surprising at all. They then beat Indiana and South Florida in back to back weeks. The Cardinals followed up those big wins with losses to Kent State and Northern Illinois, but those two both ended up undefeated in MAC play. The Cardinals finished up the regular season with a six game winning streak before falling to UCF in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. However, it may be tough for this group to live up to the growing expectations. Many of those wins were close and the Cardinals defense struggled in 2012. With the graduation of kicker Steven Schott, Coach Pete Lembo will find it more difficult to pull out those close victories.

2012 Record: (9-4, 6-2)
2012 Bowl: Beef O’Brady’s Bowl vs. UCF (L 17-38)
Coach: Pete Lembo (15-10 at Ball State, 94-46 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Skrosky
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jahwan Edwards, RB, 1,410 yards
Passing: Keith Wanning, QB, 3,095 yards
Receiving: Willie Snead, WR, 1,148 yards
Tackles: Eric Patterson, CB, 61
Sacks: Jonathan Newsome, DE, 8.5
Interceptions: Quintin Cooper, CB, 2; Eric Patterson, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: G Jordan Hansel, TE Zane Fakes, CB Jeffery Garrett, DE Nick Miles, DT Nathan Ollie, WR Connor Ryan, WR Jamill Smith, S J.C. Wade

Key Losses: G Kitt O’Brien, LB Travis Freeman, OT Austin Holtz, OT Cameron Lowry, C Dan Manick, LB Tony Martin, DT Brandon Newman, K Steven Schott, S Jarrett Swaby

Ball State featured a potent offense in 2012, averaging over 457 yards per game and all of the key skill players are back. Quarterback Keith Wanning threw for 3,095 yards and 24 touchdowns. He is a very efficient passer and relatively elusive in the pocket. The good news for Wanning is that he has all of his favorite targets back. Willie Snead is the big play threat and tallied 1,148 receiving yards on 89 catches in 2012. Jamill Smith, Connor Ryan and KeVonn Mabon are all experienced wideouts as well. Tight end Zane Fakes is one of the best in the conference. The 6-3 senior is a great target in the red zone and caught 57 passes for 461 yards and five scores a season ago. It sounds like Ball State is a pass first team, but this is actually a very balanced offense. Running back Jahwan Edwards totaled 1,410 yards and 14 scores as a sophomore and could be in for an even better year now that he is an upperclassman.

The defense is going to have to find a few playmakers. The team ranked 102nd in the nation in total defense and lose their top three tacklers. The front four returns relatively intact, but the unit did not do a good job of getting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Jonathan Newsome tallied 8.5 sacks and Nathan Ollie can get some pressure up the middle from his defensive tackle position, but they were not particularly consistent nor did they get much help from players like Nick Miles. Replacing linebackers Travis Freeman and Tony Martin will be the most important job for the Ball State 4-2-5 defense. Those two combined for 219 tackles. Julian Boyd and Ben Ingle are the likely replacements, but they combined for just 17 tackles in 2012 and the lack of experience in the middle of the defense could make the Cardinals season a long one. The secondary must replace safety Jarrett Swaby, but there is talent and experience to be found there. Without any pressure on the opposing quarterback players like Eric Patterson, Jeffery Garrett and J.C. Wade did not get the opportunity to make big defensive plays against the passing attack.

The Bottom Line:
While the defensive line has to improve, the offensive line has to rebuild. Guard Jordan Hansel is the only starter returning and the only other player with significant experience is tackle Matthew Page. The rest of the line will likely be filled by underclassmen or transfers. Wenning, Edwards and company are very good players, but their production could drop significantly if the line cannot hold. Combine that with the potential issues on defense and this is a Ball State team that could be in for a disappointing 2013 campaign. However, if both lines come together quickly, the Cardinals have more than enough talent everywhere else to stick around in the MAC race for a while.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 203.23 (28th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 254.00 (47, 4)
Total Offense: 457.23 (27, 2)
Scoring Offense: 33.62 (33, 2)
Rushing Defense: 207.08 (106, 9)
Pass Defense: 255.31 (93, 10)
Total Defense: 462.38 (102, 9)
Scoring Defense: 32.00 (92, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.23 (76, 7)
Sacks: 1.54 (93, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (15, 1)


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