We just passed the one year anniversary of running back Eric Williams transferring from Ball State which leads me to the issue of how it impacted the running game in 2011.
This is a topic many fans probably do not want to revisit but I have a bias with Williams. My sophomore year Williams moved into my dorm and lived two rooms down the hall. During the disastrous Stan Parrish era, the guys on our hall still went to Ball State games largely because we wanted to support Williams.
Coming from the football factory of Indianapolis in Warren Central High School, Williams expected to win at Ball State too. We all know that did not happen. The fact he left may hinder Ball State from recruiting future Warren players.
When Williams transferred before the 2011 season it did not appear many fans had much respect for him. Comments on articles I read were harsh and accused Williams of being a diva. In Lembo’s short tenure in Muncie it has to be the No. 1 head scratcher. OTP got a hold of Williams after he transferred and you can find his side of the story here.
Williams and I communicated over Facebook and I told him I wanted to write a post about the running backs.
“Lembo’s and Parrish’s offenses are completely different,” Williams said. “Lembo is more of a pass now run later where Parrish was the complete opposite.”
The difference in play calling was not only problem Williams had with Lembo.
“I just didn’t feel he understood that some players have problems outside of school and football. Maybe it was the pressure of getting the team on the correct path but I felt disrespected daily from him and various coaches so I left before a serious issue became present.”
It is all history now as Williams has given up D-1 football to focus on other endeavors.
With his departure the Ball State running back corps went through a major overhaul in 2011. MiQuale Lewis had finally exhausted his eligibility after what feels like a decade at Ball State. Cory Sykes and David Brown also exited after an injury plague careers.
The top four rushing leaders in 2010 were gone in 2011. Adversity like that should cripple a team. Yet Ball State made it through with a two win improvement.
Below are the numbers for the top four rushers in 2010 and 2011.
|2010 Player||GP||Car||net yards||avg per car||TDs||Long||Avg game|
|2011 Player||GP||Car||net yards||avg per car||TDs||Long||Avg game|
The first thing I noticed is quarterback Keith Wenning is the fourth best rusher on the 2011 team. If you think that is concerning wait until you hear punter Scott Kovanda is the fifth best rusher. Now that’s comedy.
The 2011 Cardinals did have a saving grace in Jahwan Edwards. The 2010 team had few rushing touchdowns as none of the four are exactly a power back for goal line situations. Edwards is guaranteed three yards every time he touched the ball and that type of consistency can go a long way. Barrington Scott was hurt for a portion of the season hindering his numbers.
The 2011 team did not have any big play potential in their backfield. The longest rush of the season came on a fake punt from Kovanda. No offense to Kovanda but that is offensive to the running backs.
Edwards was given 51 more carries than Williams and only yielded 165 more yards. Williams had the potential to break through the defense for a big play. Edwards did a great job in 2011, but Ball State was asking a lot out of the freshman to counter a lack a depth.
There is no way to tell if Ball State would have won more games if Williams played for the Cards in 2011. But we do know Ball State would have had a big play threat it badly lacked if Williams suited up.
Williams also average 18 yards per catch in 2010 and would have been one heck of a safety valve for Wenning in 2011.
Ball State won more games in 2011 but that had more to do with the development of Wenning.
When Williams touched the ball I had the feeling he could score. Edwards has become the star of the 2011 recruiting class in one short year but does not have that same ability.
Williams could have made an impact at the Northern Illinois loss. Maybe Ball State could have killed the clock better when it had the lead at Northern with Williams. This is all speculation but it is something to think about.
Going forward Ball State needs a guy who can rip a 40-yard run every so often. Maybe Edwards, Scott or transfer Toney Williams can become that type of back but it is hard to tell right now. It does not matter who, just as long someone breaks through. If the Cardinals want to take the next step from a 6-6 team to an 8-4 team improving the rushing numbers is a must. Most MAC teams can pass the ball so having a ground game will separate the men from the boys.
“I think the backs there have great potential,” Williams said. “If the scheme of the offense fits them I’m sure they will have success.”
All I know for sure is Ball State was better with Williams than it is without him. Hopefully the critics who berated him after he transferred will realize that. There were plenty of casualties of the Stan Parrish era and Ball State fans would be smart not to add to that list.
After this column was posted Monday Williams contacted me again. Here is what he wants to say as a “farewell address.” He told me he wanted this as a way of closure.
Dear BSU fans and whomever else this may concern,
I would like to apologize for the way I left the program last year and in your eyes it may not have been professional but I was a 20-year-old kid lost in distractions off the field that interfered with me on the field. To me football was an outlet away to get away from real life and the confrontation I dealt with made me not love the sport they way I once had.
I have the upmost respect for Coach Lembo and his staff for the record they posted last year and I feel that if I would stayed I would not have done anything but argue and be a distraction to the development of my teammates/ brothers. Do I regret leaving Ball State? Yes, some days I do but taking a year off helped me get my distractions under raps. I have the best g.p.a. I’ve ever had this past year and I’ve been training my behind off with my new teammates at the University of Saint Francis.
I’m helping raise my beautiful 2-year-old son and I still talk to my BSU brothers and support them no matter what. Thank you all for previous support and if you still hate me and feel I was undeserving I understand not many people know my life’s story and I don’t try to lean on my past as a crutch so I say my final goodbyes to you and wish everyone the best.
Farewell, Eric Williams