The news coming out of the BSU athletics office these days is more like a flood than the offseason trickle that we’re used to. Today’s headlines were dominated by the hiring of new Athletic Director Bill Scholl, but the football beat is marching steadily on as well. The Cardinals suited up Friday and Saturday for more spring practice fun, including their first foray into live scrimmage action with officials and the gameday feel. Per usual, Coach Lembo sat down with BSU media relations folks at the conclusion of the drills to talk about what went well, and what didn’t. (via)
Spring Practice #11 Report
With one week to go in Spring Practice are there a group of players who are solidifying positions for the start of fall camp?
We will definitely have a preliminary depth chart coming out of spring practice, but it is very likely playing time at some positions will still be up for grabs during preseason practice in August. There is also a lot of special teams playing time still up for grabs. What we are finding out now is who can play, who will compete, who is coachable and who will battle through adversity. In August, we will determine how much they will play. Of course, we hope some of these new players will come in and challenge for playing time as well – much like Jahwan Edwards and Willie Snead did last year. Chris Pauling appears to be on that track at safety. He needs to help us on special teams as well. We are young at many spots and have a long way to go as a team, but a large number of guys have improved physically and mentally this spring. My biggest hope is we can play more people in games than we did last year, especially in light of the rigorous out of conference schedule we play this fall.
You have Practice No. 12 scheduled for Saturday morning and will include another scrimmage. How important is it to get reps to all the players at this point in time?
Yes, we will have officials on hand tomorrow morning and plan to do a significant amount of live work. We will cut back on individual and fundamentals in Saturday’s session and focus on just letting the guys play. We want to see who can take what they learned from a technique standpoint and apply it in game situations. We try to get every player involved in each practice, although there is not an equal distribution of repetitions in team situations or pass skeleton periods. We are trying to develop all of our players, but we definitely do not believe in socialism, either. It is a free market philosophy in our program and you have to earn what you get. I should hang a picture of Adam Smith in my office. In a typical practice, the first group sees more action than the second group and so on. However, prior to practice, each position coach may change up the individual players that will work with each group. For example, we have been evaluating guard Jalen Schlachter with the first group some. We want to see how he holds up against guys like Nathan Ollie. We have been rotating our tailbacks through as well. We know Jahwan Edwards can play. Let’s see how Horactio Banks or Toney Williams performs with the first group. You get the point. Keenan Noel returned from an ankle injury and showed some promise today working with the second group at defensive tackle. Quintin Cooper, Michael Ayers and Ben Ingle are getting better. We will keep evaluating each player and creating internal competition while we work on game situations in team periods of practice.
Today was Practice No. 11, talk a little about the importance of the athletics training staff as the spring winds down and nagging injuries begin to surface.
Shawn Comer and his staff do an excellent job working with our players on a daily basis. On most days, numerous players are here in the Fisher Complex before breakfast to get treatment to start the day off. A lot of folks do not appreciate how much time the support staff and the players put in for peripheral activities like the treatment of injuries. Shawn might get a break in the middle of the day while the players are at class, but it is still a long day when you are in before dawn and leaving well after practice ends. Many of the graduate assistants and student trainers also put in significant time assisting our players with treatments. We also have a team of doctors that make themselves available if there is a more serious issue. It might be an illness or an injury that requires additional diagnosis. We are fortunate to have a major hospital right next to campus in case x-rays or an MRI is needed. Of course, a lot of the work David Feeley does in the weight room helps prevent injuries on the field. That might be the biggest benefit of the Olympic-style weight program – the fact that the additional bulk protects your joints. Dave is helping our guys become more explosive players. The goal is to become the hitter, not the one being hit.
Nice to see the Cards shoring up areas of concern like safety this early in camp. Not that it won’t be changing, as I’m sure the depth chart put out at the conclusion of spring will be nowhere close to what we see in August, the worries about the defensive backfield can at least be settled a bit for now. David Feeley again gets a shout out in one of these post practice recaps, so I’m excited to see the work that he’s putting the players through and more importantly, how that translates to success on the field.
Spring Practice #12 Report
Practice No. 12 featured a scrimmage with officials. What were some of the highlights and how do you feel about it overall?
Yes, today was actually a very similar format to what we expect to do next week in the annual Spring Game Saturday. We had a large group of officials on hand that were conducting their spring clinic. They did a nice job calling some fouls today, which is good instant feedback for the players and coaches. It was a pretty physical scrimmage, particularly when the first unit was in there. Our defensive line generated a good pass rush today. Nathan Ollie stood out at times. However, we also had a few mental miscues on the defensive line that were very costly. Eric Patterson has picked off passes the last two days. He is gaining confidence at the corner position. Michael Ayers also had an interception off of a pass that should have been caught. Receiver Willie Snead made a nice play on a fourth down to keep a two-minute drive alive. I was disappointed with some of the dropped balls by some of our other receivers. Those are drive killers. Jahwan Edwards looked good running it in limited duty. We had a turnover deep in the red zone that was very costly for the offense. I feel like our defense has improved a bit these last few practices and our offense has hit a bit of a plateau. Steven Schott has been very consistent kicking field goals and today was no exception. We have to step it up next week and finish strong.
People ask all the time if the offense or defense is better at this point. How do you respond?
If you simply look at where there is more age, experience and returning players, it is on the offensive side of the ball. We have everyone back except for our center and two wide outs from last year’s primary group. There are also a lot of guys back that did not start, but they played a specific roll in the offense. Chris Sparrow is technically a back up, but he started the last four games last year. He is a good player and nothing changes when he is in there. So, I would expect our offense to be a bit more cohesive, especially a couple weeks ago when we were just getting started. I have enjoyed seeing some of our defensive players improve this spring and the entire unit is becoming a bit more cohesive. Regardless of age, you have to remember none of these kids have been in the same system for back-to-back years until now. Last year, a guy would make a mistake and have no idea why. Now, there is more two-way communication going on out there. We are playing a little faster at times. We are still making some mistakes and are lacking consistency at times, but we are getting better. Ideally, you want both units to have modest success on a daily basis to keep it competitive and to keep everyone humble.
Heading into the last week of practice. Do you add, change or adjust leading up to the Spring Game?
We have three sessions left, including the Spring Game Saturday. Tuesday’s practice will be in full pads and will include three team periods. Wednesday, we will back off a bit physically and focus more time on game situations and special teams. Our installation on offense and defense is basically complete. We have a few special teams wrinkles to look at next week. With one less practice this coming week, we hope to get their legs fresh for a long scrimmage in front of the fans on Saturday. In addition to the Spring Game, we are looking forward to the football alumni career night event on Friday night. Several former players from various professions will be back on campus to speak to our student-athletes about their experiences since graduating from Ball State. It is one of the highlights of the year in my opinion.
Two more sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, then Career Night on Friday, and then the Spring Game on Saturday and that will be a wrap for spring ball. If you have a chance to make it out to the spring game, I encourage you to do so. There may or may not be a chance to meet the good folks at OTP. And clearly, aside from getting to watch the 2012 Cardinals up close, that’s reason enough to make the trek to Muncie.