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2005 MAC Football Pigskin Preview
Ball State Cardinals
Joey Lynch, the son of former Ball State head coach Bill Lynch, returns as the signal caller after throwing for over 1,126 yards and nine TDs in 2004. Hoke maintains that Lynch "is our starter, and he has earned it – he makes excellent decisions in the offense." One drawback to Lynch is that he is only 6-2 189-pounds. Cole Stinson, who appeared in seven games last season and threw for 1,101 yards, adds more arm strength and will begin the season as Lynch’s backup. Stinson also brings great size at 6-4 230-pounds. Warren Suess, (6-4, 210) is a talented redshirt freshman and may figure into the mix. True freshman Dante "Magic" Love, a top-30 rated player in Ohio, may appear in some designed plays just for him and his tremendous athletic ability. Love accounted for over 3,000 total yards and 34 TDs as a senior last fall in Cincinnati.
Ball State was primed to have a deep group of tailbacks this season, but leading rusher Adell Givens, the MAC Freshman of the Year last season, has been permanently dismissed from the team. Larry Bostic, a speedy but undersized tailback, is recovering from knee surgery. That leaves Charles Wynn, a big back at 5-10 230 who rushed for 247 yards last season, as the starter. Brenton Martin and B.J. Hill provide some depth, but three true freshmen will have a chance to contribute this fall. These freshmen are Jaolby Bond, a Tennessee native who rushed for over 4,600 yards and 56 TDs during his career; Chris Clancy, a big 6-2 225-pounder from Illinois; and BJ Hill, a 5-8 170-pound ‘mighty might’ from Maryland. Corey McGee is another freshman who could be in the mix this fall – he was a highly recruited player from Mississippi while Georgia native Nick Wedlow will be given an opportunity to make the depth chart too.
The Cardinals are one of the few teams who still utilize a fullback. Brad Sayler and Garrett Bova are bulldozers who also have pass-catching abilities.
How do you replace a receiver who had nearly 1,400 yards last season and was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver? Dante Ridgeway left after his junior year to pursue an NFL career. "He had more yards in one season than most guys have in their careers," commented Hoke. Of the returning receivers, no one averaged more than 18 yards per game. The Cardinals will be looking at Bryan Williamson, who caught two touchdowns last season, as their new go-to guy. Terry Moss and Floyd Reddick all have experience. Three freshmen receivers will be counted on for immediate help. Jon Myles, a true freshman from Dayton will figure into the mix right away. The tight end position is far more solid with Michael Steinhaus, whom Hoke says "has the best hands on the team." Steinhaus has a chance at all-conference honors this season. Brad Wilson is also a good blocker with receiving skills.
Three starters return from a unit that gave up 39 quarterback sacks and produced just 323 total yards per game in 2004. Justin Schneider has "become the bell cow of the group" according to Hoke. Mike Brown and former tight end Bryan Smith also return to a line that has more depth than a year ago. At 6’ 4" 303 pounds per man, the O-line will also be larger that last season’s average of 6’3", 287 pounds. Hoke says, "We need to be more physical at the line of scrimmage, and we are ahead of where we were at this time last year." Dustin Brown and Patrick Neils round out the starters. There is limited depth with freshmen and sophomores penciled in as backups.
Ball State is looking for vast improvement along the defensive line after giving up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground and producing just 17 quarterback sacks. Tom Kellar played hurt much of last season, but when healthy, is a quality interior lineman. Amara Koroma, a transfer from Navy, and William Wise provide more speed and athleticism to the defensive tackle position. Blair Kramer is the defensive line’s leading returning tackler, and Riley Larimore is another experienced defensive end. Cortlan Booker and Kenny Meeks are converted linebackers who have moved to DE. Temidayo MaCarthy brings good size at 6-4 260 while true freshman Roger Morris (6-3, 319) may figure into the mix as a run stopper.
The strength of the defense will likely be the linebacker unit. Jason Sieman and Donta Smith ranked third and fifth respectively in tackles for the Cardinals last season. Wendell Brown played all eleven games as a true freshman, ranking fourth in tackles. Brad Seiss is a real talent in the middle and looks to be fully recovered from a serious wrist injury last season. Anthony Corpuz and Travis Mikalauskas will contribute with experience and added depth. There is very good size and speed within this group as they average 6-2 225-pounds per man.
If Ball State is to improve on their total defense, which ranked 12th in the conference last year, they will need more consistent play from their defensive backs. The unit will also need to provide more than two interceptions, which was all they were able to muster last season. Justin Beriault, the Cardinal’s leading tackler with 125 stops, graduated, leaving SS Erik Keys as the leading returning tackler. Keys is a big hitter but was overshadowed by Beriault last season. Rondrell Means, Joshua Taylor, David Gater and Ricky Rakerstraw are returning letter winners. There is very little size among this group as the starters average just 5-10 185-pounds per man. Three true freshmen from Georgia may figure into the mix; Trey Buice, Marcus McClure & Ronaldo Warner.
Ball State has a long history of quality kickers and graduated a very good punter in Reggie Hodges, who was a first team All-MAC performer last season. Brian Jackson is a steady place kicker who was 12-16 last season with his longest at 39-yards. Terry Moss averaged 20-yards per kickoff return last season and has the ability to make big plays. The Cardinals were dead last in the MAC in punt return average at just 4-yards per reception. Improvement is expected in Ryan Patrick. One side note, Ball State committed just 6 turnovers (two lost fumbles and four INTs) last season, tops in the nation at protecting the ball.
Third-year head coach Brady Hoke needs to catch a break. Last season his squad played non-conference games against Boston College, Purdue and Missouri. This year, they have Iowa, Auburn and Boston College - all on the road. Toss in early matchups with BGSU & Toledo and this is by far the most brutal schedule in the MAC this season. Considering their best player, Dante Ridgeway, declared himself for the NFL draft, their top tailback was dismissed from the team during the off-season, and just nine seniors are slated to play this year, Hoke needs something positive to build on. Fortunately, Ball State has a very good core of young players with 15 returning starters and 40 letter-winners. With a returning quarterback, more depth along both lines, better perimeter speed, and two straight quality recruiting classes, the Cardinals are hoping to catch a few teams looking past them and improve on their 2-9 record last year. That will be a very difficult task with this schedule.
Mark it down!
Ball State will not beat any of their non-conference opponents this season - all three likely will be nationally ranked in the top-15. Ball State has a knack for beating Toledo in Muncie. The Cardinals have beaten UT five of their last six games played at Ball Stadium, twice while the Rockets were nationally ranked. Will this season make 6 for 7?
@ Iowa - LOSS
vs. Bowling Green - LOSS
@ Auburn - LOSS
@ Boston College - LOSS
@ Western Michigan - LOSS
vs. Toledo - LOSS
@ Ohio - LOSS
@ Northern Illinois - LOSS
vs. Akron - WIN
@ Eastern Michigan - LOSS
vs. Central Michigan - WIN
2-9 Overall, 2-6 MAC