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2010 Ball State Preview – Offense
Posted Aug 6, 2010 2010 Preview - Ball State Cardinal Offense

Ball State Cardinals

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: The lumps taken last year have to pay off this season. The Cardinals lost QB Nate Davis and almost the entire offensive line after the great 2008 season, and it showed as the quarterback play was awful and the line couldn’t stop a soft breeze from blowing into the backfield. This year, though, there are plenty of veterans and lots to get excited about with all five starters returning to the still-emerging line, the top five receivers returning, RB MiQuale Lewis getting a sixth year of eligibility, and good options at quarterback to hope for more consistency. It’s not going to be 2008 production-wise, but the O will be better.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Kelly Page
109-207, 1,019 yds, 7 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: MiQuale Lewis
181 carries, 871 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Briggs Orsbon
51 catches, 461 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB MiQuale Lewis
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Kelly Page and/or redshirt freshman QB Aaron Mershman
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Torieal Gibson
Best pro prospect: Lewis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lewis, 2) WR Briggs Orsbon, 3) TE Madaris Grant
Strength of the offense: Experience, Young Potential
Weakness of the offense: Passing Game, Proven Pass Protection


Projected Starter: Aaron Mershman was almost part of the program last year, but he ended up redshirting in his true freshman season. However, he’ll be a factor this year to get his tremendous athleticism and speed on the field in some way. The 6-2, 211-pound speedster was a 400-meter sprinter in high school, but he needs to prove he can be a consistent passer.

6-4, 220-pound Keith Wenning is a big, strong option who was brought in to upgrade the passing game. A fantastic get for the program, he was a late bloomer who was given the option to walk on at Ohio State, but instead he’ll take his Ohio state champion résumé, with 40 touchdown passes as a senior, to Muncie. He’s smart, has a big arm, and has the potential to be exactly what the offense needs.

Watch Out For … an ongoing battle between Page and Mershman. The passing game was so bad last season that the coaching staff will have to do whatever it takes to generate production this season.
Strength: Young options. Page threw for more than 200 yards in his last two games before getting hurt, showing just enough promise to get more work and a longer look. Mershman could become a dangerous playmaker if allowed time to develop, and Wenning is the future star who’ll push the passing game deep.
Weakness: Veteran production. Ball State was 115th in the nation and last in the MAC in passing, and was 117th in the country in passing efficiency. Part of that was because Page was knocked out, and part of the problem was a bad passing game that never found its stride.
Outlook: The ill-advised early entry into the NFL by Nate Davis left the Cardinals scrambling, and the result was a train wreck. On the plus side, Page got a half a year of work and should be far more comfortable with a veteran team around him. However, Mershman will get every chance to win the starting gig to upgrade an air attack that was among the nation’s worst last year.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The Cardinals got a huge break when senior MiQuale Lewis was given a sixth year of eligibility, but will the coaching staff finally start using him? He tore an ACL in 2007, but that allowed him to get the extra year and he has to take advantage of the opportunity. In 2008’s big season he ran for 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns and caught 35 passes for 325 yards, but he was limited to 871 rushing yards and five scores last season, but 301 of those yards came in one game against Eastern Michigan. Only 5-6 and 201 pounds, he’s small, but he’s extremely quick and able to blow through the hole and he’s a workhorse for his size. If he’s right and he’s rolling, he’s on the short list for the MAC player of the year.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Cory Sykes isn’t Lewis, but he’s a quick runner who produces when he gets the chance. He ran for 203 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Michigan, but he only finished with 559 yards and three scores on the season averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He’s only 5-7 and 160 pounds, but he’s tough and could be used in a variety of ways, even though he didn’t catch a ball.

5-10, 203-pound sophomore Eric Williams was tried out here and there and finished with 362 yards and four touchdowns, with two rushing scores against Bowling Green, as a true freshman. While he brings a bit more power than Lewis and Sykes, he’s also a dangerous speedster with 10.6 speed in the 100.

Watch Out For … Lewis to regain his form. He’s not going to be the devastating playmaker who took advantage of every hole and every chance in 2008, but he’ll have a stronger line in front of him and he should be a lock for well over 1,000 yards if he can stay healthy.
Strength: Quickness. There might not be three speedier backs in the MAC. The three top options are quick as a hiccup and they can dart in and out of traffic without a problem.
Weakness: Power. They need holes to run through and have a tough time making things happen on their own because of the lack of size. These are small, hiccup-quick backs who can zip around, but they’re not going to barrel over anyone.
Outlook: If Lewis can be special again, and that means he gets room to move and the passing game is able to take a little bit of the heat off, then the Cardinals have a major strength to count on game in and game out. Sykes and Williams will get their share of carries to spread the wealth around, while true freshman Phil Dudley could be thrown into the equation if injuries strike.
Unit Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: Junior Briggs Orsbon stepped up and surprised as a true freshman making 68 catches for 813 yards and five scores, but the problems with the quarterbacks trickled down to the receiving corps. He didn’t have as strong a sophomore season, but considering the nightmare, a team-leading 51 catches for 461 yards and one touchdown might have been even more impressive. However, 20 of his grabs came in a two game span against Toledo and Temple, and he was nowhere to be found at times when Kelly Page got hurt. He’s only 6-0 and 189 pounds, but he’s a tough target who isn’t afraid to make the tough catch. A true No. 1 target, he could blossom now that there are other receivers who can step up and produce.

Daniel Ifft was supposed to emerge as a key No. 2 target on the other side of Orsbon, but he was consistently mediocre catching just 20 passes for 269 yards and two scores with more than two grabs in just one game (Toledo). At 6-3 and 178 pounds, the senior has decent size and is an excellent route runner, but now he has to show he can do more in games after always doing a good job in practices.

5-9, 173-pound Torieal Gibson isn’t big, but he’s extremely quick and he has the potential to blossom into more of a big play target if he can take advantage of single coverage. He started four times last year, and saw time in every game, finishing third on the team with 25 catches for 337 yards and a team-leading three scores with a strong 13.5-yard average. He’s quick enough to be used as a kick and punt returner if needed, and he’s going to be a field stretcher who can take short passes for big gains.

Is Madaris Grant going to get another year? He was expected to step into the big shoes of Darius Hill and become one of the MAC’s top tight ends after catching 26 passes for 285 yards in 2008 as the No. 2 option, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener. The 6-5, 235-pounder is more like a big wide receiver than a bruising tight end, and if he’s right, he’ll be a dangerous midrange option.

Projected Top Reserves If Grant can’t go, the Cardinals will use 6-3, 233-pound Zane Fakes at tight end after he stepped into the starting role and caught ten passes for 117 yards and a score. The sophomore is a great athlete and was an Indiana state champion level runner, but he needs to get the ball in his hands more on the move. He’s not going to block anyone, though.

Junior Jeremy Hill wasn’t expected to do much after spending 2008 as a special teamer, but he turned into a decent backup making 11 grabs for 138 yards and a touchdown with the score coming against Ohio. He’s 6-2 and 184 pounds with good speed. He’ll be a bigger part of the rotation.

Redshirt freshman Connor Ryan leads a young group of promising backups who signed on after the big 2008 season. Ryan is a 6-1, 187-pound target with nice hands and good enough speed to be used on the outside as a deep threat. He’ll combine with lightning quick Otis Brown , who’s only 5-9 and 172 pounds, but he can move. The Gainesville, Florida native was a high school track star. Brown might not be big, but he’s massive compared to redshirt freshman Jamil Smith , who’s 5-8 and 137 pounds but is all but uncoverable in short spaces.

Watch Out For … Gibson to get more press as a possible star. Orsbon is the No. 1, but Gibson is a dangerous prospect who should be the team’s flashiest target.
Strength: Veterans. Including RB MiQuale Lewis, the top six receivers of last year are back. That doesn’t include Grant, who should be one of the team’s top three producers if he’s healthy and able to play.
Weakness: The quarterbacks. Kelly Page isn’t a bad passer, but he’s still emerging. He’s not Nate Davis at the moment. The Cardinal quarterbacks came up with just 1,613 yards and nine touchdown passes, but if Page or Mershman can step up and be better, the receiving corps should shine.
Outlook: The receivers should be better than the production. Orsbon is one of the best possession targets in the MAC, Gibson is a dangerous player who could grow into a bigger option, and Ifft knows what he’s doing. This group will make the quarterbacks look better than the other way around.
Unit Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The one player who was able to bridge the gap from 2008 to 2009 was Michael Switzer, who started every game two years ago and was back as a rock on the line at right guard. He bulked up to 6-5 and 293 pounds and should be even more of a people mover now. Experienced and strong, he could work at tackle if needed.

Benefitting from a year next to Switzer is Cameron Lowry, a 6-6, 289-pound senior who was a way-too-light 6-5, 255 pounder last year and bulked up over the last season. He has decent feet and is a good athlete, but he has to be steadier in pass protection and has to be even stronger for the ground game.

Junior center Kreg Hunter started every game in the middle of the line and was a decent mauler. A part-time right guard early in his career, he has been a decent quarterback and he fires off the ball well. At 6-3 and 294 pounds he has the size, and now he has the experience to do far more.

6-5, 296-pound sophomore Austin Holtz wasn’t supposed to start right away, but he ended up getting the call on opening day and started eight times. He’s a big body with excellent upside, and while he wasn’t consistent and has to be a stronger pass protector, he’ll be the main man at right tackle for the next three years.

Dan Manick will get the call once again after starting nine times and seeing time in every game. While he’s at his best at right guard, he can play just about anywhere on the line and will settle in at right guard. At 6-4 and 286 pounds he’s tall and has decent size, and now he has to be a stronger run blocker in key situations.

Projected Top Reserves Senior Travis Arnold was supposed to be a starter at left tackle last season after seeing a little time in 2008, but he ended up giving way to Cameron Lowry. Even so, he’s a great body to have in reserve at 6-8 and 297 pounds, and while he’s lumbering, he’s tough to get around. He could even move inside at guard when needed.

6-6, 305-pound Kitt O’Brien is one of the team’s biggest blockers and he can be used at either guard spot. He saw a little bit of time last year and will work in the rotation at right guard behind Dan Manick. A mauler, who benches 225 pounds 36 times, the sophomore could end up being a dominant run blocker.

Watch Out For … a major improvement. Considering the turnover on the line with only one returning starter last season, the line wasn’t a total disaster. It wasn’t great, it was able to pound away for the ground game, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. The lumps taken last year should pay off.
Strength: Veterans. Last year’s major weakness will be this year’s biggest strength. The line gets all five starters back and there’s room to grow even further with three sophomores and a junior.
Weakness: Pass protection. This should be a mauling group that can move the line, but it’ll struggle again at keeping the quarterbacks clean after giving up 29 sacks. There shouldn’t be a night-and-day improvement here.
Outlook: The line dominated in 2008 and expectedly fell off the map with little to no returning experience to count on. This year the front five should be solid if the young players of last season can emerge as steady all-around blockers, and the potential is there for this to be where the team makes its biggest jump up.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2010 Ball State Preview | 2010 Ball State Offense
- 2010 Ball State Defense | 2010 Ball State Depth Chart
- Ball State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006