Star of the offense:
Senior RB MiQuale Lewis
Player who has to step up and
become a star: Redshirt freshman QB Kelly Page
star on the rise: Senior TE Madaris Grant
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Lewis, 2) WR Briggs Orsbon, 3) OG Michael Switzer
of the offense: Quick running backs, receiver speed
Weakness of the offense: Experience, line, quarterback
While there will be a fight for the starting quarterback job,
Kelly Page will have
the inside track. The 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman has a
live arm and can run. While he’s nowhere near the talent-level
of Nate Davis, he’s bigger, has the smarts to step in and shine
from day one, and is a great prospect to develop. He’ll also add
more to the ground game than Davis, a good runner, did.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Tanner Justice
is a former walk-on with good smarts and decent 6-3,
196-pound size. He's a decent runner and completed both of his
passes in mop-up duty, but he’s a limited all-around prospect
compared to the other options. He’s a good enough backup to rely
on here and there if needed, but there will be problems if he
has to be the main man for a long stretch of time. He’d be a
game-manager instead of a playmaker.
Looking to be a
major factor right away is true freshman
Aaron Mershman, one of the team’s top recruits who graduated from
high school in December and will be ready to compete for the job
this off-season. He has 6-2, 210-pound size and is a tremendous
athlete who ran the 400-meters in high school. He’s not the most
accurate passer, but he’s an extremely smart, very promising
Watch Out For ... Mershman to be in
the hunt for playing time early on. While the new coaching staff
is hardly going to see this as a rebuilding/learning season, it
might be tempting to throw the star freshman to the wolves and
see what he can do.
Strength: The coaching
staff. Head coach Stan Parrish made his name teaching and
tutoring quarterbacks. While he has lumps of clay to mold, he
knows how to get the most out of the position.
Experience. There isn’t any to count on. The only one with
any playing time, Justice, is the least talented of the three
options. There will be some major growing pains and a big drop
off from last season.
Outlook: Nate Davis
would’ve been one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks and the
type of player who could’ve single-handedly taken the program
back to a MAC title level after throwing for 3,591 yards and 26
touchdowns. He bolted early for the NFL leaving a ten-mile-wide
hole that needs to be filled by an inexperienced prospect. On
the plus side, this year will be about developing the young
talents and the payoff should come over the next few years.
Senior MiQuale Lewis always had the talent, but he
never had the health. From a torn ACL that knocked him out of
the 2007 season, to a shoulder injury that limited him a few
years ago, Lewis wasn’t able to show what he could do. And then
came last year when he was finally able to stay injury-free and
the former coaching staff rode him into the ground. Lewis, who’s
only 5-6 and 184 pounds, was the best player in the MAC
finishing with 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns while finishing
third on the team with 35 catches for 325 yards. He’s lightning
quick and great at being able to hit the hole and blow through
it, but for his size, he’s able to run with surprising power.
While he was held to 35 yards in the embarrassment against
Tulsa, Lewis was dominant the rest of the year with 11 100-yard
games and five with more than 150 yards.
Top Reserves: A Lewis clone, the 5-7, 155-pound
Cory Sykes was a
solid No. 2 option with 428 yards and three touchdowns with a
5.5-yard average. While he wasn’t used as a receiver, he has the
speed and quickness to be deadly with the ball in his hands in
the open field. While he didn’t have any breakout games, he was
Frank Edmonds was
supposed to be the team’s main backup behind Lewis, but he only
finished with 27 yards as he was pushed out of playing time. At
5-8 and 181 pounds, he’s another small, quick back who did a
good job two years ago leading the team with 531 yards and six
scores. A star Ohio high school sprinter, he needs to do more
when he gets into open space.
Watch Out For ... even more of a
reliance on Lewis. With so many question marks at quarterback,
the running game will have to carry the offense as much as
possible. Lewis will have to be stellar.
Quickness. The Cardinals have three lightning-quick backs
who can bust out a big play at any time. They're hard to find in
and out of traffic, and they're not bad in the passing game.
Weakness: Power. There isn't any. Lewis is as
tough-as-nails, but forget about getting a power running game
going. The backs need open space to be effective.
Outlook: MiQuale Lewis is a special back who can carry
the offense if he gets room to move. The offense did a great job
of creating holes for him to blast through, but those might not
be there without Nate Davis under center anymore. Cory Skyes and
Frank Edmonds will get more work to try to keep Lewis fresh.
With a tragic, premature end to the promising career of
Dante Love, the passing game needed someone to step up and
become a No. 1 target. Sophomore
Briggs Orsbon saved
the day with 68 catches for 813 yards and five touchdowns
highlighted by a 13-catch, 141-yard day in the MAC title game.
While he’s not all that big at 6-0 and 185 pounds, he’s a tough
target who isn’t afraid to make the hard catch. With so much
upheaval in the receiving corps, he’ll have to be the star of
the show again.
Tight end Darius Hill seemed like he was
around for ten years as a big play target who finished last year
as the team’s second-leading receiver while leading the way with
seven scores. Now it’ll be up to senior
Madaris Grant to be
the main safety valve after catching 26 passes for 285 yards. A
decent blocker, the 6-5, 222-pounder is more like a big wide
receiver than a true tight end. That’s not a bad thing in this
Working at the inside Z position will be 6-3,
181-pound junior Daniel
Ifft after making 15 catches for 259 yards and three scores.
He’s an excellent route runner who can hit the home run
averaging 17.3 yards per catch, but he has to show he can do
more when he’s on the field. Always good for a catch a game,
it’s his time to shine and become more than just a tremendous
Myles Trempe looks
more like a hybrid H-Back/tight end than an X receiver, but at
6-4 and 202 pounds he has the size to be a good option. He made
14 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and with his high
school track star speed he could start to open up the field a
bit more with an expanded role.
Reserves: On the way to be an instant factor will be
Connor Ryan, a 6-1,
185-pound speedster who caught 111 catches for 2,014 yards and
22 touchdowns for St. Ignatius High in Ohio. The team has
several interesting deep threat options, but none of them are so
good that Ryan can’t step in and take over an outside job.
There are several fast receiver options, but none have the
wheels of 6-2, 175-pound sophomore
Jeremy Hill. He ran a
14.3 in the 100-meter high hurdles in high school and could turn
into an interesting option at either the Z position behind
Daniel Ifft or at the X.
Watch Out For
... Grant to be close to as good as Darius Hill. He’s not Hill,
but Grant has the athleticism and the experience to be a star.
He might not be the No. 1 option, but he could finish behind
Orsbon as the team’s No. 2 receiver.
Speed. Orsbon, Trempe, and Ifft can all move. Partly due to the
design of the offense, and the play of Nate Davis, there were
plenty of chances for big plays. Now this group will have to
show they can make the big plays with an inexperienced
Weakness: A proven No. 2. Ifft
could be it, and he’d better be or defenses will use everyone to
stop Orsbon. It’ll be hard to equal last year’s production, but
that doesn’t mean there can’t be some big plays.
Outlook: The passing game survived the loss of Dante
Love to have a big year thanks to the emergence of Briggs Orsbon,
but now the pressure will be on for a repeat. Madaris Grant goes
from being a good second tight end to the main safety valve
while Daniel Ifft needs to be a 20-plus catch contributor.
Starters: The line is starting from near-scratch with
only one returning starter. Junior
started every game at left guard over the last two years and has
been a rock. While he’s not huge at 6-5 and 278 pounds, he makes
up for it with his athleticism. Now he’ll go from being a nice
player who was a part of the system to the anchor. He could move
outside to tackle if needed.
The biggest issue will be
at right tackle where star Robert Brewster is gone. In comes
Cameron Lowry, a
way-too-light 6-5, 255-pound redshirt freshman who is physical
for his size. Pass protection won’t be too much of an issue, he
can move, but it’ll be asking a lot for him to power over too
Stepping in at center for Dan Gerberry will
be 6-3, 284-pound sophomore
Kreg Hunter, a
part-time right guard who should be a strong mauler in the
middle. He started two games to start the year and two more late
last year and did a good job, and now he’ll be asked to be the
quarterback of the front five.
With Hunter going to center,
Steve Yoder will take
over at right guard. A star high school baseball player and a
top wrestler, the 6-3, 300-pound redshirt freshman will quickly
grow into one of the stars of the line. He’s one of the biggest
blockers and he should soon be one of the best.
284-pound Travis Arnold
is one of the few linemen with any experience. The junior
got on the field a little bit last year and now has to be the
main man at right tackle. He started out last year as a big
option at guard before moving to his more natural position
playing behind Robert Brewster. With his long arms and big
frame, he’s tough to get around.
Reserves: 6-5, 290-pound
Austin Holtz is a promising redshirt freshman who needs to quickly
become a major part of the rotation at right tackle. At his
size, he’s a big option who can play on either side.
Kreg Hunter moves back to guard at some point, 6-2, 263-pound
sophomore Ben Jacoby
will step in at center. He’s not huge and he hasn’t seen any
time so far, but he’ll be counted on for the next few years to
be a factor somewhere in the interior.
For ... a major shuffling and then a reshuffling.
Nothing on the depth chart will be set in stone as it’ll be an
ongoing issue to find the right combination.
History. Ball State has been decent at stocking the shelves
with good offensive linemen over the years, so the hope has to
be for the talent to be there to be able to step in and produce
Weakness: Experience. There’s
Michael Switzer, Kreg Hunter, and a lot of prayers.
Outlook: The line was dominant last season doing a
fantastic job in pass protection while opening up mile-wide
holes for MiQuale Lewis. That was a veteran group that spent a
few years progressing before becoming a tight unit. This year’s
line will be starting from scratch with four new starters
working around Michael Switzer. This will be the team’s biggest
concern by far, and if a rash of injuries strikes early on, pack
up the bus and start working on next year.