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Ball State Football: Ready To Take Their Perch in the MAC

Blood, sweat, and tears. That is why you put into the football program if you’re a player for the ...

Blood, sweat, and tears.

That is why you put into the football program if you’re a player for the Ball State Cardinals. They’ve been working hard all Spring and plan to soar to new heights this upcoming season.

The Ball State Cardinals football team has been like a roller coaster up and down. They had a 6-6 season last year and were bowl-eligible, but were only one of two teams in the FBS not chosen. The Cardinals look to vastly improve for next season.

They played their annual Spring Game and it was a heavily contested game. The offense barely edged out the defense 50-49.

The Cardinals look to move from their perch of middle of the road in the MAC. They plan on sitting at the top by season’s end.

These guys have a lot of heart, it is truly Ball State football.

Two years ago, Pete Lembo from Elon University took over the football program. He brought a spread offense that would be dynamic with quarterback Keith Wenning and great receivers in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith.

The offense sputtered last season, but with more experience in the offense, they look to thrive in Lembo’s system.

Wide receiver Willie Snead says that we saw a sneak preview of the new explosive Cardinals offense.

“Yeah I feel like we’re just building up to the fall right now. There will be many big plays from the offense. Toney Williams and Jahwan (Ball State running backs) will help us a lot to balance the offense this year. We need big plays this year and I feel like we did that today.”

Wide receiver Jamill Smith was on the receiving end of a 60 yard touchdown pass in the Spring Game. He went into more detail about the play.

“It feels great to be involved in the offense. There is anyone in this offense that can have a big play. Willie and other receivers had some nice plays. They can have big plays on any day as well. This is why I love this offense. It’s so unpredictable for defenses to read.”

Smith also threw a pass to Snead on a play. He was excited to be able to do this play.

“Yeah last year we put it in. Briggs had that role last year, now I’m filling in his place.”

Does Smith want to run the play more?

“Yeah hopefully for a touchdown.” (laughter afterwards)

Quarterback Keith Wenning is the cog of this offense, if he isn’t on his game Ball State will struggle. He sees his offense being very explosive come late August.

“Yeah definitely. You know with the run game and pass game there is no predicting what were going to do. I feel like we can be explosive.

Wenning struggled in the new system last year, but he looks to improve this season.

“Just like coach said to have an overall control of the offense is what I’m trying to do. A lot of plays. There is still sometimes where I don’t know what the defense is doing, but that’s where I’m still improving. I still have to be taking control and going through my progressions and making plays.”

The Ball State defense also looks to improve in the new system. Linebacker Kenneth Lee looks to be a solid plug at outside linebacker for the Cardinals. He had an interception on Wenning in the Spring Game.

Lee describes his interception of Wenning in more detail and actually knows the route the receiver ran.

“The route combination was a pivot dig. That’s an inside slant route by the number two receiver and I felt the dig coming and just went up for the ball.”

Coach Lembo also chimed in on the Cardinals defense. They had a great game, but just fell short in a loss to the offense.

“Kenny leads into a good point there. You must’ve seen four or five tipped balls today. That happened against Oklahoma last year with the results being flipped. Good things usually don’t happen when the balls are floating in the air for a second or two. So, it was good to see our lineman get tips on some balls.”

Lee went into more detail about the defense and their improvement.

“Coach Bateman has done a good job keeping us all in the film room. I’m new into the defense this spring and he’s been taking great strides with me. We’ve had one on ones in the film room. I’m working to get better in my pass reads and my drop direction. Also in our secondary, Coach Bateman has helped them get adjusted to the defense.”

Lembo has also seen many guys progress in the spring.

“I would say on the offensive side of the ball Chris Schillings grew up on that side. Up front on the o-line Jalen Schlacther has grown up. On the defense, Donovan Jared got a lot better. His conditioning is an issue due to his size, but when he’s in shape he’s hard to push back. He can be a good player for us. Chris Pauling has showed up in the secondary. He’s become very comfortable back there. Brian Jones has also improved. He’s ready to play now. There have been many new guys improving.”

This Ball State Cardinals team has only one goal in mind, win the MAC. They also want to be guaranteed into a bowl game this upcoming season.

Ball State looks like it will be on the upswing this coming year. Look for this team to blossom as a cohesive unit in the Fall.
This interview was conducted by Evan Sidery.

Evan Sidery is a beat writer for FootBasket. He is a fan of the Colts and Pacers. You can see more about him by following him on Twitter. 

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