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Saturday Spring Game Details

easter egg

Get your Easter Egg on with Charlie Cardinal at halftime.

In case you were unaware (not possible if you read this site or listen to the OTPcast) the Spring Game for the Fighting Football Cardinals is Saturday. Here’s what you need to know:

Who: You and up to 22,500 of your closest friends

What: The conclusion of the spring practice season with the Spring Game!

When: Saturday April 19, 2pm (doors at 1:30

Where: Scheumann Stadium in the booming metropolis of Muncie, IN just off the campus of The Ball State University

The Format: The format for this year’s Spring Game is an offense vs. defense scrimmage with special teams drills in between quarters.  On all fourth downs, the offense will either punt or kick a field goal.  There will be five series per quarter, and a unique scoring system will be used.

DEFENSE:
Drive Stop = 1 point
Three and Out = 3 points
Takeaway = 5 points
Touchdown = 6 points
PAT = 1 point

OFFENSE:
First Down = 1 point
Field Goal = 3 points
Touchdown = 6 points
PAT = 1 point
2-point Conversion = 2 points

There is a ton of stuff to do outside of meticulously poring over the Ball State offense and some critical things to look out for. Yes, we’ll have you covered in that regard as the week goes on with your storylines to watch out for and what to look for in the play on Saturday. In addition to that, there will be 500 free hot dogs distributed to fans, courtesy of Fishers Meats, and an Easter egg hunt will take place with Charlie Cardinal at the north end of the stadium at halftime. At the conclusion of the game, fans are welcome to enter the game field for photos and autographs with Ball State players and coaches. Choose wisely for your Christmas cards, boys and girls.

Though there is no age limit listed for the egg hunt, so if that’s truly the case, then Steve Bell has to be the odds on favorite to get as many eggs as he wants, right? If there is some sort of BIG EGG oversight and an age limit is employed, all bets are off.

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Cards Halfway Done with Spring Practice Friday, Coaches Named for Spring Game

The scene at my house Sunday-Wednesday

The scene at my house Sunday-Wednesday

Remember that time that you were running a BSU football blog and for like four days you had a wicked bad stomach flu that made you miss work, miss blogging, and basically lay in bed and long for the sweet death that was hopefully right around the corner while subsisting only on ginger ale and Ritz crackers with the hope you’d see neither out of either end in short order? No? Guess that’s just been my week, then.

It’s been agony. It’s been terrible. I have new-found respect for stay at home parents of younger children who I have to believe spend a good majority of their time cleaning up vomit and taking care of other bodily messes that may arise. You people are heroes. As for me, I couldn’t even pull myself together enough to enjoy Price is Right, which is ultimately the only good thing about a sick day, whether you’re six or sixty. The good news? Vomitor the regurgitation God has finally had mercy on me and allowed me to get back to business around these parts. That’s good or bad depending on your evaluation of the Pylon. Here’s what we’ve missed, and therefore, you:

NewsNotesLogo The football Cards wrapped up practice 6 of the spring season yesterday and will get it cracking on practice 7 Friday. In true Indiana fashion there’s been some shifts and schedule adjustments to account for the Indiana weather, which of course opens up the Pandora’s box of an indoor training facility and the need for one. That issue will be raised around these parts in the coming weeks given who we have slated for an upcoming OTPcast, so get an opinion ready for that one.

NewsNotesLogo Speaking of spring practice, the spring game is a mere 16 days away, slated for April 19th at 2pm. That’s a Saturday so you really have no excuse not to be there. We’ll be watching for some very specific things from the spring game and sharing those with you as we get closer. The honorary coaches were announced today as Mike Lecklider and Art Yaroch. I’ll just assume CPL had misplaced my number.

NewsNotesLogo If you haven’t been over at the BSUSports mothership lately, you should give it a once-over. They’ve got some great videos about spring ball and more importantly, some videos to meet the new coaches that are joining the Cards for the 2014 season. There’s a video introducing you to Nick Siatras, the new defensive line coach for the Cards, and I’d advise you watch it. Assuming you can get it to load on your computer (which took me three Flash updates and a browser change. A First World Problem to be sure, but get it together, BSU). It’s funny, there are certain coaches who are just intimidating when you see them. Brady Hoke. Mike Gundy. Randy Edsall. Aaron Wellman. The kind that you are never quite sure what’s going to set them off, but if it does, look out. I wouldn’t qualify Pete Lembo as that. I would with Nick Siatras. Unless he’s not ok with it. Then I wouldn’t. Don’t kill me.

NewsNotesLogo Your 19-10 Baseball Cardinals are at home beginning Friday for a weekend series with EMU. If you’re looking for a good option for some family entertainment, that’s it, boys and girls. Games are free and it’s officially baseball season. Enjoy our national pastime!

NewsNotesLogo If you’re more of a softball fan, those Cardinals are in action this weekend as well. Friday is a home doubleheader against BG, and then this weekend is home games against Toledo. The Cards are 18-12 currently and have had two straight MAC doubleheaders rained out. If you can’t make it out, at least do a little non-rain dance.

NewsNotesLogo The men’s volleyball Cardinals are currently ranked 12th and looking to get back in the win column after dropping two contests to #11 Lewis and #1 Loyola. They take on Grand Canyon Friday and Saturday. I would think the Cardinals have a good shot as large holes in the ground I would assume are not all that good at jumping up and blocking or serving. What’s that? Grand Canyon is a college? Oh. I was hoping this was the first in a series of winnable matches against Big Ben, the Rock of Gibraltar, and Niagara Falls, who has a wicked dig specialist.

Go Cards!

Read the Spring Prospectus to Get Yourself Ready for Spring Ball

BSULogoThough I am not in the 765 today, I have to believe folks are bouncing around the Fisher Football Complex with a little extra pep in their step. The sun probably looks a little brighter (the windows have been cleaned), the field turf may look a little greener (fresh coat of paint perhaps?), and the optimism is probably bubbling over. Why? Because we are 24 hours from the start of spring practice in Muncie.

Tuesday marks Practice One and Press Conference One of the 2014 season. Coach Pete Lembo will take the microphone in the opening press conference at noon. You can catch a stream of it from the Ball State Sports mothership here. If you feel like you didn’t waste enough of your employer’s time on Thursday and Friday of last week, you might as well take some time today to check out the Spring Prospectus (pdf).

It’s the first chance you have to check out the way-too-early depth chart and roster as well as an interesting Q+A with CPL. The athletics staff that conducted the interview point to the first thing I noticed in the prospectus: the youth on the coaching staff. It cannot be understated what a benefit (I presume) that is on the recruiting trail. The ability to have a high energy staff that can connect with prospective students is worth its weight in gold.

As we told you in the OTPcast, Spring Game is April 19th at 2pm. I’d go ahead and plan ahead to be there for that one.

Ball State to Play at Texas A&M in 2015

Mark your calendars, Cardinals fans because the chirpers from Muncie are heading to SEC country to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station, TX on September 19, 2015. The same Texas A&M Aggies who laud Kyle Field as one of the best home environments in all of college football. The same Texas A&M who gave us Johnny Football. That Texas A&M. Are you excited? I’m excited. I’m so excited… I’m so excited…. I’m so…. scared.

so-excited-so-scared-j-spano_o_GIFSoup.comThings I’m loving about this? The chance to see a game at a great stadium. The chance to take the OTP Circus to a new locale. The opportunity to introduce thunderous MACtion to a sorority population desperate for it. Bill Scholl is excited also, because the Aggies will be dropping $1.2 million for the Cards to roll in to College Station. That’s what we call “budget-making” money. However, if CPL and the Cards can pull off a W, then I hope they just sign over the big cardboard check to him directly. That is how they pay for these things, right? The lobbying machine for BIG OVERSIZED CHECK is a strong one.

If you miss the Cards in Texas, you can catch them in Chicago on September 26, 2015 as the Cards will travel to a road date with Northwestern. You’ve got a year and a half, folks. Work on your vacation requests, come up with an excuse, or plan on quitting your job. You’re not going to want to miss when the CPL Experience takes its show on the road. Chirp chirp indeed.

To give credit where credit is due, The Star Press threw this out as a blind item this afternoon but A&M officially announced it about an hour ago. Congrats to the boys from TSP for scooping OTP on something. Finally. Good job, good effort, boys. You didn’t get us on the Parrish firing, Lembo hiring, Hoke to SDSU story, or a whole host of other things, but with stick-to-it-iveness like this the print media business is sure to make a comeback.

Pete Lembo Signs Extension, Gets New Title, Gets Paid

logo200Well hey there, boys and girls? How was your Thursday? What’s that? There was basketball on? Oh damn. That tournament thing started yesterday, didn’t it? Anything good happen? I’ll just go ahead and assume the powerhouses of Ohio State and Cincinnati advanced quite easily over whatever small schools they were playing. Those Buckeyes and Bearcats have just the moxy a team needs to make a deep tourney run. Too bad, Ugandan children who wanted cast off Buckeye National Champs tshirts. You’ll just have to wait until football season.

Regardless of whether your Thursday was better or worse than Ugandan children or Brutus the Buckeye, let me tell you who had a better Day After Hump Day than you did: Pete Lembo. Or should I say, the new Associate Athletics Director in addition to head football coach Pete Lembo. With more titles on the business card comes more zeros on the check, as the great Tom Davis reports CPL now has a salary of $475,000 (a boost of $79,000 from last season) and a contract that is good until 2019. I imagine CPL running through the halls of the Fisher Football Complex looking something like this:

joker_makes_it_rain_large_original
The naysayers were quick to point out on Twitter that a buyout of $475k (if CPL leaves before the season is completed) isn’t enough to scare away the biggest of the big boys, but it at least should keep the minnows out of the pond of potential CPL poaching. Which would at least mean the theory floated last winter of Arkansas State being a potential destination officially laughable.

This is what I try to tell my students all the time. Win consistently, do things the right way, tweet Winston Churchill quotes semi-regularly, and you too can be on the receiving end of a half a million dollar contract for five more years and awesome twitter hashtags like #Lemboner or #BaldSoHard. And really, if that’s not your definition of success, you’re doing it wrong.

Congrats to Coach Lembo and thank you to AD Bill Scholl for getting this done.

Spring Game Set for Ball State Football

logo200Just when you thought you would get no news about the Fighting Football Cardinals given that it’s only March and the NCAA basketball tournament is right around the corner, Pete Lembo lets a nugget trickle out about spring ball at the Scheu and the 2014 Ball State football agenda. Mark your calendars boys and girls, because April 19 you’re going to want to be in Muncie to see the first version of the Cardinals AW (After Wenning).

The details of the spring game and whether it will be a full out scrimmage, a series of drills, or sort of a situational game with modified scoring have yet to be announced, but this is one that no matter the format will have a ton of information that you’re going to want to keep an eye on:

  • Who do the Cards turn to under center? Milas, Mann, Kamman, and Morrison all have a viable ability to step up for the cardinal and white, but who will do so will remain a mystery likely until the opening offensive series against Colgate in the fall. The spring game should, however, give you a glimpse into how stacked the stable really is.
  • Who becomes WR1 for the Cardinals? With Willie Snead attempting to make a go of it in the NFL Draft and the departure of Jamill Smith and Connor Ryan mean that the wide receiving crew is in dire need of a playmaker. Early money goes on Jordan Williams, but KeVonn Mabon shouldn’t be forgotten either.
  • How does the defensive line look? In what may be considered the biggest question after QB, three of four defensive linemen have moved on (Cox, Newsome, Ollie) and only Nick Miles remains. When coupled with the fact that Chad Wilt departed and Nick Siatras was a late arrival, the defensive line has me concerned. Unlike previous years, there isn’t a sure-fire offense waiting to bail them out if things get dicey.

We’ll have more on the spring game, what to expect, what to look for, and how to be a part of some OTP shenanigans as we get closer. For now, just be glad we have a date. April 19… see you there!

FootballScoop Calls Ball State the Hottest Program in Football

logo200It’s not everyday a website other than OverThePylon lauds the Cardinals as one of the best in the business of college football. Making the rounds this morning is a report from FootballScoop.com about how win totals and their increase over the last four seasons would lead one to the conclusion that Ball State is, in fact, the hottest team in college football. The justification stems from the fact that in each of the prior four seasons BSU has increased their win total.

Most recently, the Cards put up ten Ws, an increase of one from the nine wins of 2012. The nine was an increase of three over 2011′s six, which was an increase of two over 2010′s four victories. 2010 was an increase of two over 2009′s four. I’ve not sure I’ve ever seen win totals or trends handled in this particular fashion, so it’s at least somewhat interesting, albeit not necessarily indicative of future success.

When you walk it back another season from three to four, the Cardinals are joined in the yearly increase camp by Bowling Green, Buffalo, and UCLA. So go MAC! There’s only four ways for the Cardinals to continue the Increase Journey, by winning either 11, 12, 13, or 14 games. For the highest total, that would require a MAC title, a bowl win, and an undefeated season, but in all truthfulness, any of the above would result in a MAC Championship, and I’d be A-ok with that.

You can check out the Football Scoop article here.

 

Ball State Football 2014 Schedule Finalized

logo200The one remaining question about the 2014 Ball State football team was answered earlier this week as the Indiana State game was confirmed for September 13. The only thing left to do was have the MidAmerican Conference release their conference slate so fans could make travel plans, familial excuses, work requests off, etc. Today, that bullet point got crossed off as well and BALL STATE FOOTBALL HAS A COMPLETE 2014 SCHEDULE!

The good news? 6 home games. The more good news? A new crossover opponent from the MAC East appears in the UMass Minutemen who went 1-11 last season. The mediocre news? That game is on the road. The bad news? Also appearing is BG, the team that won the MAC last season by beating NIU in the MAC Championsip. The worse news? That game is also on the road, replacing Miami as the season closer, a game that may very well mean the difference between bowl eligibility and the Cardinals staying home for the holidays. So it’s a mixed bag of news but news this time of year of any sort is ultimately a positive because it means BSU football is not that far away.

Per BSU’s release on the matter:

The Mid-American Conference has announced the 2014 football schedule. Highlighting the Ball State portion of the slate will be the Oct. 11 Homecoming Game vs. Western Michigan and three weekday November games on the ESPN family of networks.

Ball State will appear on ESPN2 or ESPNU Nov. 5 vs. Northern Illinois and Nov. 12 at Massachusetts and on ESPNU or ESPN3 Nov. 28 at Bowling Green. The Cardinals’ contests are three of a total of 14 MAC games on the ESPN family of networks.

“We are excited to once again feature six home games at Scheumann Stadium,” Ball State head coach Pete Lembo says. “A balanced slate is one of our primary goals when formulating a schedule for each season. The Mid-American Conference opponents we face from the West Division are always a big challenge on a yearly basis. The crossover games from the MAC East promise to be equally formidable tests for our program next fall.”

The Cardinals will open MAC play Sept. 20 at Toledo and end the regular season Nov. 28 at Bowling Green. In between, Ball State will host Western Michigan, Akron, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan.

The regular season will conclude with the 17th Marathon MAC Football Championship Game Friday, Dec. 5, at Ford Field in Detroit on ESPN2. This will mark the 11th Marathon MAC Football Championship Game at Ford Field, home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions, Super Bowl XL and the 2009 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

The MAC is an NCAA Division I, 12-member conference that sponsors 23 championships and is one of 10 members of the Football Bowl Subdivison (FBS). With total enrollment of nearly 300,000 students, the league represents institutions of higher learning in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Ohio.

Ball State’s complete 2014 football schedule:

Sat., Aug. 30 – COLGATE
Sat., Sept. 6 – at Iowa
Sat., Sept. 13 – INDIANA STATE
Sat., Sept. 20 – at Toledo *
Sat., Oct. 4 – at Army
Sat., Oct. 11 – WESTERN MICHIGAN *
Sat., Oct. 18 – at Central Michigan *
Sat., Oct. 25 – AKRON *
Wed., Nov. 5 – NORTHERN ILLINOIS * (8:00) — ESPN2/ESPNU
Wed., Nov. 12 – at Massachusetts * (8:00) — ESPN2/ESPNU
Sat., Nov. 22 – EASTERN MICHIGAN *
Fri., Nov. 28 – at Bowling Green * — ESPNU/ESPN3

Results for the Ball State NFL Combine Three

2014 nfl draftAdmittedly, our NFL knowledge at the Pylon is somewhat limited. Fearless Leader uses it as an excuse to day drink on fall Sundays. RV is a loyal Browns fan. Jason is a Colts homer. Suffice to say, Mike Mayock, we aren’t. However, for a few weeks in the spring, our college football fandom and Cardinal expertise intersects with the pay to play folks when the NFL Draft lead up begins.

This past weekend, it was the annual meat market known as the NFL Combine, where “amateurs” the nation over converge on Indy to participate in things like 40 yard dashes, shuttle runs, and position-specific drills. This of course follows the poking and prodding of doctors and trainers examining, measuring, and basically looking for a reason to downgrade your potential future possibilities. All the while, coaches, owners, and GMs are lurking in the stands and watching everything like shadow governments in the hopes of finding a steal or getting a star for cheap and in all reality, just looking forward to some St. Elmo’s or Scotty’s at the conclusion of their day. To see exactly what the general public thinks about the potential successes of NFL teams, take a gander at NFL futures odds. It’s a good way to see what the market is bearing out before draft day selections are made.

The football factories like Notre Dame, USC, Oregon, and basically the entire SEC are old pros at the combine and don’t get their world in a tizzy for any one particular prospect. For the MAC? Not so much. For a MAC player to be invited to the NFL Combine is celebration-worthy. For three MAC players from the same team to be invited? That’s cause for a party. And when it just so happens that team is Ball State, well it’s a Pylon party and you’re all invited. Here’s how Keith Wenning, Willie Snead, and Jonathan Newsome fared on their first foray into professional football…

Keith WenningKEITH WENNING, QB
Official Height: 6’3″
Official Weight: 218 lbs
Official Arm Length: 31 1/4″
Official Hand Measurement: 10″
40 Yard Dash Time: 5.00 seconds
Comparative QB That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: AJ McCarron (Alabama) 4.94 seconds
Vertical Jump: 28.0 inches
Comparative QB That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: AJ McCarron (Alabama) 28.0 inches
Broad Jump: 100.0 inches
Comparative QB That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: AJ McCarron (Alabama) 99.0 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.07 seconds
Comparative QB That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Blake Bortles (Central Florida) 7.08 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.25 seconds
Comparative QB That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Tajh Boyd (Clemson) 4.23 seconds

NFL.com says….
Strengths: “Experienced, four-year starter with a solid build. Very smart and understands the offense. Outstanding football character and personal character — works at his craft, is driven to succeed and will represent a franchise well. Respected leader — two-time team captain. Football is very improtant to him. Very tough and highly competitive. Has directed 10 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career. Consistent in his approach.”

Weaknesses: “Average arm strength, athletic ability and pocket mobility to avoid the first wave and make throws off-balance and under duress. Carries a heavyness in his body and lacks twitch. Works almost exclusively out of the gun and will need to adapt to working from under center. Cannot easily manipulate his arm and throwing platform. Does not drive the deep out and accuracy and placement diminishes downfield. Production is inflated from regularly facing inferior MAC competition.”

Bottom Line: “Heavy-bodied, dink-and-dunk, rhythm passer who could be challenged to fit the ball into tight NFL windows. Has the makeup desired in a No. 3 QB and could develop into a functional backup in a West Coast passing game.”

Well, now, if I were Keith, I’d go ahead and scratch NFL.com off my Christmas card list. The rest of the MAC would do well to do the same, given the potshot they take at the conference as a whole. If Keith had built up his stats against the likes of UMass and Miami, then I could see his skills and results being questioned. Last I checked, Wenning accumulated most of that against the MAC West, which I wouldn’t consider “inferior” in the least. The most shocking thing to me was how close Keith Wenning is in the measurable drills to AJ McCarron. It makes sense now that I think about it, but it isn’t something I would have automatically went to.

Willie SneadWILLIE SNEAD, WR
Official Height: 5’11″
Official Weight: 195 lbs
Official Arm Length: 33″
Official Hand Measurement: 10 1/4″
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.62 seconds
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Devin Street (Pitt) 4.55 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33.5″
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Sammy Watkins (Clemson) 34.0 inches
Broad Jump: 113.0 inches
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Jarvis Landry (LSU) 110.0 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.19 seconds
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Martavis Bryant (Clemson) 7.18 seconds
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.39 seconds
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Sammy Watkins (Clemson) 4.34 seconds
60 Yard Shuttle: 11.96 seconds
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Jordan Matthews (Vandy) 11.84 seconds
Bench Press: 11 reps
Comparative WR That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Mike Evans (A&M) 12 reps

NFL.com says…
Strengths: “Controlled mover with nice balance. Gets in and out of breaks cleanly. Runs crisp routes — shows some savvy and subtle physicality to work himself open. Tracks and adjusts very well. Has soft, sure hands and catches naturally. Good concentration to make contested catches. Confident and competitive. Excellent two-year production.”

Weaknesses: “Lacks ideal height. Fairly monotone — does not have explosive speed to separate vertically. Too many catches are contested. Lacks wiggle to elude tacklers and create after the catch. Did not face top-notch competition.”

Bottom Line: “Productive, dependable, fairly polished possession receiver with natural receiving skills. Lacks ideal size and horsepower to thrive outside, but his sure hands give him a chance to compete for a role as a chain-moving, short-to-intermediate slot receiver.”

So the experts parrot back what everyone already knew about Willie Snead, in that what he lacks in traditional cookie-cutter intangibles like breakaway speed or height, he more than makes up for in his sure-handedness. Unless Willie gets drafted by the Raiders, I’d say most franchises value a player who can actually catch the ball over someone who can sprint past the defense only to drop the pass.

Jonathan NewsomeJONATHAN NEWSOME, DE
Official Height: 6’3″
Official Weight: 247 lbs
Official Arm Length: 33 1/4″
Official Hand Measurement: 9 5/8″
40 Yard Dash Time: 4.73 seconds
Comparative DL That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Kareem Martin (UNC) 4.72 seconds
Vertical Jump: 34.0 inch
Comparative DL That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Marcus Smith (Louisville) 35.0 inches
Broad Jump: 117.0 inches
Comparative DL That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Chris Smith (Arkansas) 121.0 inches
3 Cone Drill: 7.31 seconds
Comparative DL That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Jadeven Clowney (South Carolina) 7.27 seconds)
Bench Press: 21 reps
Comparative DL That You’ve Seen Fawned Over: Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) 21 reps

NFL.com says…
Strengths: “Very good edge burst. Has a long second step and attacks the edges with speed and leverage. Flattens down the line — good lateral pursuit. Can get depth in coverage and spot drop. Flashes explosive striking ability as a tackler.”

Weaknesses: “Strength-deficient and gets hammered in the box. Thin-legged and narrow-based. Too light to set the edge. Limited cover skills — is tight in the hips and not natural moving in reverse or coming out of breaks. Immature early in college career.”

Bottom Line: “A 4-3 open-side speed rusher ideally suited for an elephant end or 3-4 Jack linebacker role. Is at his best rushing the passer and has shown improved maturity since departing Ohio State before the 2011 season.”

Maturity mentioned twice in the same recap from the NFL? That’s sort of the Holy Grail of talent evaluation. I can only imagine the thought in a writer’s head went something like, “Let’s ignore the last couple years of on field talent with just overarching broad strokes, but we better make sure we mention the always enlightening ‘maturity issues’”. Of course, when you are basing someone’s potential as a multi-million dollar investment on numbers and twenty minutes or so of on-field drills, I guess you do what you gotta do.

The Final Grades
The NFL gives each prospect a grade out of 10 and a synopsis of what that grade means. For example, a 9.00-10.00 qualifies as a “once in a lifetime player” where a 4.50 is the lowest, standing for “might make it to an NFL training camp”. Anything below that and it’s “needs more time in a developmental league”. For the Cardinal Combine Three, they received the following:

Keith Wenning: 5.00 (50-50 chance to make an NFL roster)

Willie Snead: 5.16 (Better than average chance to make an NFL roster)

Jonathan Newsome: 5.17 (Better than average chance to make an NFL roster)

Wenning, Snead, and Newsome Look to Shine at Combine

nfl-logoFor NFL fans, this upcoming weekend may be behind only Super Bowl weekend, opening weekend, and the Draft in terms of the excitement and hopeful optimism that it brings. Teams with terrible win-loss records will look for the next franchise player to select with their high draft picks and teams with better records are on the lookouts for “sleepers” or “projects”. But what’s lost amidst the bench press reps, height, weight, and reach is that for the group of student-athletes attempting to make an NFL roster, they are merely reduced down to aggregate numbers and performance scores in comparison with one another. For players like Keith Wenning, Willie Snead, and Jonathan Newsome their talent, skill, and ability is about way more than cookie-cutter numbers.

In fact, some would argue that those arbitrary numbers are what landed talent like BSU’s 2013 Combine Three at Ball State in the first place. I would be willing to wager that almost any collegiate program that saw Willie Snead play in his career at BSU making sure handed catch after sure handed catch would have been more than happy to look past his negative talking points like a lack of blazing speed or a smaller frame at 5′ 11″. I guess it’s a modern miracle that a short and slow wideout was able to set school records in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns for a single season while finishing third in  the nation for yards.

For Newsome, an Ohio State transfer, and someone likely transitioning positions from a collegiate defensive end to an NFL linebacker, it becomes a presumptive pro and con argument. There’s the con of transitioning to a new position and being somewhat small for it, but a pro of a sub 4.8 40 yard dash. There’s the pro of having a nose for the football and a familiar home in the backfield of opposing offenses. There’s the con of not having a ton of experience in pass coverage that linebackers in an NFL but there’s the pro of being the primary focus of offensive lines and still making your presence known. And there’s the always awesome “character discussions” because Newsome was suspended for several games in 2012. God forbid a college student make a mistake. BURN HIM AT THE STAKE!

Wenning is perhaps the most curious case at arguably the deepest position. The top of the quarterback class and most of the eyes will be on the Johnny Manziel/Teddy Bridgewater/Blake Bortles triangle at the top of the war room boards. But perhaps that isn’t the worst thing in the world for Wenning. Theoretically, I’d like for Wenning to land in a place that doesn’t have a need for a QB right away but will in a few years. It gives him time to learn the offense and entrench himself as a valuable member of the team, which you know he’ll do. The consensus across the board is Wenning will get drafted, but to whom, how soon, and such remains a mystery. Even RV, who is the site’s resident NFL expert said, “Third day, probably, but you never really know with quarterbacks.” About the only thing you would know for sure is that Wenning is the career leader at BSU for pass attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns and the case could be made that he is the best Ball State quarterback to play for the Cardinals.

So despite career achievements, hours and hours of film, interviews, etc. let’s base someone’s career on a shuttle drill, a 40 yard dash, a three-cone drill, and some position drills. It’s just 15 minutes of actual work for the next, oh, 50 years of your life and your professional reputation. NO PRESSURE! You can catch all of the Combine action and the talking heads that go with it on the NFL Network. Wenning and Snead will have their position drills broadcast on Sunday while Newsome will be live on Monday. We’ll have recaps up after each. The meat market officially starts on the 22nd and the offensive linemen go first. If you are a fan of fat guy touchdowns, you’ll just love fat guy shuttle runs, fat guy 40 yard dashes, and fat guy vertical jumps. It’s a hoot.

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