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Spring Practice… Engage

GRRRRR!!!! Spring!!!

When college football ended for all of us in early January, we knew this was going to be an offseason that bordered on sucky. There wasn’t an immense amount of momentum surrounding the Ball State football Cardinals, there wasn’t the draft status of a certain gloved quarterback like last season to keep us going, and to be truthful, most just wanted to put 2009, and the avalanche of frustrating losses and inexplicable karma behind us. Today, the first day of spring drills in Muncie, is the day when the first pages of 2010 can be glanced at and hoped for, while 2009 becomes a distant distant memory.

There are certainly questions to be answered heading into 2010, most notably being who will secure the starter’s spot at QB heading into the fall. Perhaps a more sizable question is whether or not that starter will be challenged when frosh Keith Wenning arrives. Most, if not all, will say the job is Kelly Page’s to lose, but Coach Stan Parrish has made numerous comments that the QB battle is wide open. Coachspeak? Trying to motivate both players? Hard to say. But if Mershman wasn’t ready to fill in and help the Cards win by burning a redshirt season last year, it’s hard to imagine him being ready to jerk the starter spot away from Page now, despite Page’s thumb injury last season.

The Reasons to be Optimistic
This team returns a ton. Optimism would be high if it was only Quale Lewis coming back, which he is. But a look at the depth chart for the 2010 season shows a ton of talent back. What last year lacked? Experience. This year, experience comes in spades. 10 players on offense return after starting at least half of the games in the 09 campaign, including every member of the offensive line, the same offensive line that improved markedly from game to game. Add in another offseason, another spring camp, and another fall camp, and there stands to be no more improved a unit on the entire roster. Additionally, the two-deep is littered with players who saw game action at key positions like offensive line and running back.

Defensively, the Cardinals lost only 3 starters and have more time and familiarity with the newly implemented 4-3 defensive scheme that gave them fits last season. While the starters lost are significant in Alex Knipp, Brandon Crawford, and Drew Duffin, the defensive side of the depth chart is also populated with returning lettermen and players with significant game experience. Starter experience? Perhaps not, but game experience is game experience and its something that many positions lacked last season… and it showed.

The Reasons to be Concerned
Truthfully, after last season, the level of concern I have for this team is virtually none. In the last two seasons the Cardinals have went from a Top 12 darkhorse BCS contender to a punchline that lost to an FCS team. Frankly, and I think I speak for more than a few of us, with that sort of continuum, there is virtually no need for concern.

The offensive line’s ability to open holes for Quale, the defensive unit’s ability to stop anyone, and the hope for Kelly Page to live up to his billing as the Next Big Thing are real, however, it isn’t like those fears weren’t existent for the better part of all of last season. The only reason to be concerned rests squarely on the coaching staff and whether or not they can transition this team back to the 2008 version of the BSU Cardinals and far away from the 2009 version of the BSU Cardinals.

Other Random Things
* Despite the good news for Quale, no official word on Madaris Grant’s eligibility for the fall.

* Surprisingly enough, there were several players who voluntarily left the program of their own choosing this offseason despite having eligibility remaining. Those you’ll know: PK Jake Hogue, WR Myles Trempe, and CB Jakeem Gregory. Sad to see them go, and we at OTP wish them the best.

The Outlook
Spring ball is one of those things that is awesome because it’s been a while since football and it whets your appetite just a bit. But let’s be honest… this team is nowhere close to the team it’s going to be come fall. The freshmen class of 2010… not on campus yet. And as we saw last year, some of those 1st year players can have a remarkable impact. So while it isn’t perfect, it’s something… and that’s good enough for me.

The Cardinals have 14 practices and then the annual Spring Game which takes place on April 17th. Be there or be square, Cardinal Nation.

The Spring Prospectus (pdf): springprospectus2010

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