• OverThePylon

    OTP covers Ball State University sports from the blog perspective in the most overzealous manner possible, proving that as long as there is someone with enough free time you can obsess over anything.
  • Connect to OTP

  • OTP Messageboard

  • OTPcast on Itunes

  • OTPcast on Stitcher

  • Help the Pylon

  • Donate to OTP

    A donation to OTP helps keep the site afloat and Cards fans connected. 50% of all donations sent to Cardinal Varsity Club as well. Help the Cards and your favorite blog in one fell swoop!

  • Join Our Network

Spring Practices #9, #10, #11 Reports

"Celebrate the Cardinals next Saturday and me next Sunday! And IU still sucks."

We’re a little over a week away from celebrating a joyous resurrection. Sure, that Jesus fella did it as well, and some folks will come together to laud his accomplishment of rising from the dead, but if you’re a Cardinal football fan, the rebirth that is taking place this spring is quite the spectacle to watch as well. No shrouds or moving giant boulders, but impressive all the same. Per usual, Coach Lembo sat down with the merry band of media relations folks at BSU and gave the following insights on the program after each of the last three practice sessions. To the release!

Practice 9…

Today was practice #9, how healthy is the team at this time?
Not too bad – and I hope I don’t jinx us for tomorrow! Running back Cory Sykes is the only significant injury. He has a small break and a tear in his finger that will require surgery. He should be fine for summer workouts and preseason camp. Defensive tackle Adam Morris rolled his ankle on Saturday, but should be back later this week. Receiver Jack Tomlinson has been nursing a hamstring most of spring, so he hasn’t been able to do too much. Running back David Brown has a minor back injury, but we hope to get him back in action later this week. It has been great to get Dan Manick in the lineup after missing most of the first week with a hamstring pull. He has got a chance to be a very good offensive tackle. We go to great lengths to make sure everyone knows the tempo of the drills throughout practice. If everyone is on the same page as to the speed of the drill, there is less chance for injury to occur.

How much is the season discussed during Spring Practice or is the focus on installing your new system?
Great question. Each practice is figuratively earmarked as a “game” versus an opponent that we will play in the fall. After practice, the coaching staff grades the team’s performance on offense, defense and special teams. There are always tangible pieces to each practice that can be graded. For example, how well did we pursue to the football today? Did any of our defenders fail to hustle? We can grade those kinds of things. The next day, we will post a score for the “game” based on the grades. The score and winner reflects how we performed in the practice. Today’s opponent was Western Michigan and tomorrow we face Eastern Michigan. A coach is assigned to speak briefly about the upcoming opponent following each practice session. We had a terrific assistant coach who worked with us at Lehigh and Elon named Tony Trisciani. He gave us the idea several years ago. Tony is now a very successful head high school coach at Whitehall High School in Eastern Pennsylvania.

How have the three quarterbacks responded to your offensive system?
It’s baby steps right now for those guys. We put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders in this offensive system. They are great kids who are committed. However, it is always a big difference seeing something on video or on the white board and then turning around and executing it when the bullets start flying on the field. Our quarterbacks are in blue jerseys so that they don’t get hit during team periods. That’s a good thing for them, because at times we are holding onto the ball too long right now. They will continue to learn and eventually, the speed of the game will slow down for them. Until then, thank goodness for the blue jerseys! Brooks Medaris is doing an excellent job in his role as the third team quarterback. We are counting on him to know the system and the signals. He has embraced this role and is making a valuable contribution to the program.

You have been in the community a lot and people are talking Ball State football in the spring, what can the fans do at this time to help the program as we head into summer?
Attending the spring game on the 23rd would be a great start. We kickoff at 3pm, so there’s plenty of time to get “honey do’s” covered in the morning and then come over and enjoy some Division I college football at Scheumann Stadium. It will be a great opportunity to get a sneak preview of the team headed into the summer months. Several players have already solidified summer employment in Muncie and we appreciate the many local businesses that have stepped up to help out. Summer is the only time of year our guys can build their resume from an employment standpoint. We hope to place some more student-athletes into quality summer positions before the end of the semester.

Continue for recaps of 10 and 11 and our thoughts after the jump…

Practice 10…

How well have the veterans taken a leadership role this spring?
We have some very solid leaders in the senior class. There’s a good work ethic in that group and some guys who are really passionate about the game. It is also good to see how some of the more vocal seniors are spread out among a number of different position groups. Great programs have strong leadership throughout their ranks, not just at the top. That being said, it is critical to have some good potential captains among your seniors. I told the team at the beginning of spring practice I feel comfortable we will be able to vote for captains before the Spring Game. I am still confident we can get that done and make some good decisions. It is helpful to have captains in place when summer workouts begin, because so much of the responsibility to get things done over the summer falls on the players, not the coaches. Ultimately, we want to get to a point where 105 guys are leaders because they believe in our mission and are fully committed to the cause.

You have emphasized a number of game situations in practices recently. What is your thought process?
Football is a game of situations. Understanding the goals we are trying to achieve in each specific situation is critical to winning. These are the battles within the war, so to speak. If it is third and one, we want that running back thinking about being decisive with his cut, lowering his pads and driving his legs. That is not the time to cut back behind the line of scrimmage. If it’s third and nine and we throw a dig, we want that receiver making sure he reached the sticks on his route. We also want him being ready to protect the ball and go down if he’s in traffic. It is a challenge for guys to process some of this when they are still thinking about how to get lined up, what the snap count is and what is their basic assignment. Nonetheless, we have to challenge them to see the big picture too if we want to win games in the fall. We still have a number of guys who have some bad habits in terms of fundamentals or who lack an understanding of basic football principles. As we hit the home stretch of spring, we need to see some new, good habits being formed. If we don’t it will make for some easy decisions with regard to playing time. Figure out who you can trust and get those guys ready to play at Lucas Oil.

Talk a little bit about your offensive line and their progress this spring?
This is definitely a likeable group of guys. They are bright eyed in the meeting room and work hard on the field. As we have discussed previously, our numbers are down quite a bit. It has to be quality, not quantity with this group – and we have to stay healthy. Our tackles are athletic and a good fit for our system. We have to get stronger at that position while maintaining our athleticism. When we get Cameron Lowry back in the fall, it should ratchet up the competition for playing time with Dan Manick, Austin Holtz and Matthew Page. We have been cross training Kreg Hunter at center and strong guard. That has helped create some additional internal competition with Jerrod Gray at center. Kitt O’Brien is a great kid who is really coachable at quick guard. Jordan Hansel’s stock is beginning to rise a little bit, so that is helping the competition at guard as well. We have one junior college signee coming in this summer in Chris Sparrow. Chris has a very similar demeanor to these guys and should fit in well. Hopefully, he can add to the competition for playing time in preseason camp.

Practice 11…

You went back to shorts and helmets today instead of full pads, what was the reasoning?
We like to go out in uppers for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if you are a Division I athlete, you should be able to play the game at full speed, keep your feet underneath you and stay off the ground. You find out quickly who can get this done when we are in “thud” tempo for team periods. We should be able to reduce injuries in practice this way. As a player, it always feels a little lighter on your legs when you are in shorts rather than full pads. It’s probably as much psychological as anything else. But, if it helps the guys feel better and practice harder on our third day in a row, it’s worth it. In addition, the NCAA requires that some of our spring sessions do not include full contact with tackling. Today’s practice fulfilled one of those stipulations.

Three straight days of practice this week, how is the conditioning?
Our conditioning is improving, although I do not believe we are in the kind of shape we will need to be for preseason camp in August. We are in adequate shape for spring based on our limited depth in certain positions like the offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. The guys are getting a lot of repetitions each session. We try to keep everyone moving, everyone working, throughout each practice session. If we are highly organized as a staff, we should be able to get this done. You can get an awful lot done in two hours or so if everyone is on the same page and is hustling around. Improved conditioning becomes a byproduct of an up tempo practice. Once we get into final exams, the players will have a couple weeks to rest up before the summer strength and conditioning program kicks off. That is the critical time to get in shape before the start of preseason camp.

The new strength coach has been in place for a little time now, how are we addressing your needs in the weight room?
Coach David Feeley has done an excellent job converting the plan and structure of the strength program to an Olympic style. We believe in the constant development of our players in all areas of their lives. Their physical strength, explosiveness and flexibility are critical components to becoming a successful player on the field. We made some solid gains this winter and the guys are continuing to work hard and push heavy weights as the spring season has progressed. Coach Feeley felt like Monday was one of the best days since he has been here. That’s a credit to our kids buying into his program, but also his ability to coach it with confidence. Nobody questions that Coach Feeley knows his stuff. He runs a tight ship in that weight room. Thanks to the generosity of some supporters, we will be renovating and refurbishing the weight room in May. Our veterans and new players will have a more impressive and more efficient facility to utilize this summer.

What will Saturday’s practice plan entail?
We will do quite a bit of hitting on Saturday morning. We will have officials on hand. We want to cut the guys loose and let them play. Let’s see who can handle pressure and make plays once the bullets start flying. Let’s see who can make good decisions at full speed. Let’s see what we have learned to this point. As always, we will mix in some special teams work in order to ensure that we keep evaluating players in that phase of the game as well. We need to get a few more live PAT/field goals on video to better evaluate our protection and block schemes.

The Takeaways…
It’s becoming increasing clear that this coaching staff is doing things totally and completely different than the last regime. The actual meat and potatoes portion of today’s transcripts are somewhat familiar in that commentary is revolving around players focusing on precision and good fundamentals. That sort of tenant is a hallmark of the Lembo system, but it is considerably more important when a thin team takes the field. Backups need to be as focused as starters and ready to step in. From all indications, that’s the M.O. in Muncie. Nice to see the improvements coming in the weight and training room. While BSU and Muncie may not be prepared to shell out millions of dollars in donations, baby steps can potentially produce the onfield results that will lead to people falling over themselves to donate money. A guy can dream…


One Response

  1. I attended last Saturday’s practice and left extremely impressed with the attention to detail by Lembo and his staff…also, walked in with the Dad of a third year O’ lineman who didn’t hesitate to express his son’s high opinion of the new staff, especially the new strength coach…he revealed that in the past many of our kids privately doubted the strength program which they felt didn’t properly address thier needs as football players. Coach Pete really appears to “get it” on all fronts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: