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Pending 2015 NFL Draft

nfl-logoThe offseason has arrived for all but four NFL teams, and most are seeking to obtain more power and finesse to their band of players. April will be here before we know it, and the pending 2015 NFL Draft projection highlights the top priorities for the teams. The best options for the 32 first-round picks have analysts weighing pro and cons for players and teams.

The top pick for Tampa Bay would be Quarterback Jameis Winston of Florida State. Tampa took a chance and failed with Josh McCown, and with Winston’s place in the 2015 draft, he will be considered alongside Marcus Mariota of Oregon, who may have less efficiency in quickly navigating the field. Whereas Mariota makes more effective and intelligent passes, Winston has accuracy and stamina well into his games. Tampa is in desperate need of a stronger offensive line and defensive back, but their quarterback strength is also weak, so Mariota and Winston should be high on their list.

The Tennessee Titans could also have their sights on Mariota, as they also need a good quarterback, but Randy Gregory of Nebraska might be a higher priority. Gregory has the potential to be one of the greatest pass-rushers in the league if the Titans can get a hold of him. The team has loads of holes to plug, including a stronger defensive back, pass rusher, and wide receiver.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are also in bad shape, and require an offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and running back. Leonard Floyd is not out of the question for them, as the linebacker could help stabilize the Jaguars’ defense. Floyd helped the Georgia Bulldogs as their top pass-rusher, with six sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. If he is still available once the draft gets underway, the Jaguars should pounce on him.

The Washington Redskins had a flop with quarterback Robert Griffin III, and could benefit from Mariota, despite his setbacks. With the Redskins’ DeSean Jackson, Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon, Mariota could quickly learn the ropes of good offense. The team also needs to amp-up their defensive back and pass rusher positions.

The New York Jets recently took on Todd Bowles as head coach, and may not need to focus entirely on defense, yet draft-pick Vic Beasley could be what the team needs in terms of edge pass-rushing. Speaking of pass-rushers, Shane Ray of Missouri should be attracting the attention of the Chicago Bears, who exhibited troublesome defense in the 2014 season. Both the Jets and the Bears need a superb quarterback and offensive line.

Edge-rushers abound in the top-10 draft picks, with the Atlanta Falcons eyeing Dante Fowler, Jr. of Florida. He is tall and solidly built, and showed his swiftness and power in the 2014 college football season. Fowler is one part of the puzzle as the team seeks to repair its tight end, offensive line, and defensive back as well.

As twenty-eight NFL teams keep their eyes on their favorite draft picks, the Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks all vie for that Super Bowl trophy. Review the Super Bowl XLIX odds, picks, and betting analysis at betonsports.com

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NFL Draft Saturday Haikus

Draft-2014-e1389404247238Today marks the final day of the NFL Draft, where I (and hopefully you) are hoping to hear at least one or two BSUers get their name called. Sure, they won’t be in New York. Yes, the highlight reel will be significantly scaled back compared to the first round bonanza of one-handed catches, decleating tackles, and Aloe Blacc lyrics that we were subjected to,  but there are good things about going on Day 3:

  • Example: When Keith Wenning is called, he won’t have to make the decision to bro hug, handshake, or full on bear hug the commissioner. The Ginger Hammer and how you give him his dap is serious business.
  • Example 2: Jonathan Newsome won’t have to make the (in my opinion) most important decision of whether to go flat bill or curved bill on his draft cap. Admittedly, I’m #TeamCurvedBill but I’ve seen enough Louisville fans to know that the flat bill is a thing and only growing.
  • Example 3: Willie Snead will not have to choose his walk up music. There’s been an unconfirmed rumor that Willie was to the point of drawing straws to determine whether it would be Meek Mill, Drake, or The Wiggles.

So that leaves all of us in a precarious position of hope for the Cardinals for today. Rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7 all take place with 156 selections to go before this draft is in the books and the New York Jets fan can go home and put their booing to better use in their personal life. “Honey, would you like meatloaf for dinner?” “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” God, what a bunch of assholes. But even they wouldn’t boo haikus. Because they’re awesome.

NFL draft day
Lots of MACtion happening
Mel Kiper not happy

Ball State still waiting
To hear the first player called
Hurry up douchebags

Keith still on big board
Jordan Lynch still unemployed
So not all bad news

Bridgewater to Vikes
They question his tiny hands
Those guys are the worst

Manziel to Cleveland
Finally a savior comes
Will tear ACL

Draft action starts at noon today on ESPN and the NFL Network. I’d watch it if you have the chance. And let’s be honest, you do.

The Prospects for Former Cards for Tonight’s NFL Draft

Draft-2014-e1389404247238Admittedly, I am not a Sunday guy. That’s more the style of Jason or RV. However, I do watch the NFL Draft if for no other reason than it is the only semblance of college football in the desolate waste of an offseason we are currently in the midst of traveling. Most years, you’ll see the bigger programs collectively mess their pants over the bevy of mock drafts that list multiple alums as folks that will hear their name called by the NFL Commissioner on draft night/weekend while the smaller schools wonder whether or not their premier prospect will even get called at all. Such is life for the MAC.

Except last year, the game changed quite literally for the MidAmerican Conference as CMU’s Eric Fisher was selected first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. This year may see the second MAC top selection as (though a longshot) Khalil Mack is a consensus top-five pick. It’s the ultimate dichotomy for a BSU fan. On the one hand, you have the prestige the conference gains from a  #1 overall selection and potentially a second straight this year. On the other hand, you have to watch programs like CMU and Buffalo celebrate and be happy, which doesn’t make me a particularly jovial guy. It’s a Sophie’s Choice for sure.

The year, though, BSU fans don’t just have to exert energy hating their conference brethren successes. We can instead celebrate our own as several BSU players at least have the potential to have Roger Goodell or his underling call their name and the party begin in earnest. I hope they have a cheeseball. Those things are awesome and make any party better. Crummy team and not a guaranteed roster spot? You’ll feel like Lawrence Taylor with the right cheeseball. But I digress.

For the Ball Staters looking to have their name scroll across the ESPN ticker as the “Current Selection”, it may be a bit of a waiting game. The draft this year is a three night process, stretching from May 8 to May 10. Round 1 is tonight, rounds 2 and 3 tomorrow, and the remaining four rounds on Saturday beginning at noon. Most everyone that follows both BSU and the league would have pegged any BSU alums to have to wait until Saturday, and today that thought was confirmed by Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager. I know nothing about who that is, but the two things I have learned:

  1. He isn’t Mel Kiper or Todd McShay, which is a nice little plus.
  2. He only has one Cardinal getting drafted, that being Keith Wenning, in the 6th round with the 198th overall selection to the New England Patriots.

If that actually happens, which lets be honest, is a long shot, I’ll be both happy and sad. Happy that KW got drafted. Sad that other BSUers didn’t. Happy that Keith can learn from one of the best in the business. Sad that the opportunities for advancement at that locale are few and far between. Happy that the undrafted free agents can pick the right spot for them given the depth chart, system, and competition. Sad that I would now have to actually care somewhat for the Patriots. I would feel unclean. McShay has Willie Snead and Jonathan Newsome along with Wenning ranked in the 200s of his player rankings, but one expert’s 235 in KW’s case is another expert’s 198. For your information he has Newsome the highest ranked at 219 and Snead at 278.

I’ve said all along I expect all three of the BSU Three (Wenning, Snead, and Newsome) to get drafted, so I’ll stick with that lest I come across as a Cardinal flip flopper. After reading the mock drafts and such, that looks to be a longshot, but I have hope. Rather than do predictions of placement I’ll give odds instead of how many BSU names get called over the next three days:

  • One Name: 100%
  • Two Names: 51%
  • Three Names: 25%
  • Four or More Names: 3%

Arbitrary? Perhaps. But believe that at your peril. Maybe I have a time machine and Biff’s sports almanac. By the way, congrats to the Browns for their four straight Super Bowls in 2021.

Wrigley Field Wants Humpday Ball State News and Notes

Wrigley FieldIf you are like me, most of your friends in the business or advertising industry who didn’t end up in Indy ended up in Chicago. For residents of the Windy City or fans the world over of the loveable losers from the Northside, today your Twitter timeline or Facebook newsfeed will be loaded full of celebratory messages for Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first baseball game played there today. I think it’s weird to celebrate a building’s “birthday”. A maternal building did not squat down and birth it. No, the Chicago leaders in the fast food of the time and a fish wholesaler brought it to fruition. Two dudes. Wrigley Field had two dads. How progressive! Surprised they didn’t locate the park in Boystown, but I digress.

As a fan of the Yankees and a former resident of the DC/Baltimore corridor, I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to enjoy some modern marvels of ballparks in my time. The new Nationals Stadium and new Yankee Stadium have set the benchmark for innovation, luxury, and amenities, a crown they took from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But there’s just something about Wrigley Field. Granted, the park itself is a dump, there isn’t plush premium seating options, an outfield sky bar, craft beers throughout, or delicacies like sushi or crab pretzels, but Wrigley is baseball the way baseball was always meant to be.

If my grandfather came back today, he’d just shake his head and walk out of these fancy modern parks with their automation, innovation, and integration. He’d walk out and long for a better day when you wore a fedora to the park, got a good old-fashioned American hot dog made of pig lips and intestines, and had lukewarm American beer. Then he’d go looking for brains to eat because he’d be a zombie if he was out walking around. So there’s that. But happy “birthday” to Wrigley Field. On to the news and notes…

NewsNotesLogoFantastic piece from Ben Breiner at The Star Press about Coach Pete Lembo’s headware decision for Saturday’s Spring Game. Though CPL’s sartorial choices are usually not fodder for press clippings, the connection that he is attempting to foster between the Muncie community is hopefully a long-lasting and productive one. The University town-gown issue won’t be solved by a baseball cap, but any effort is a step in the right direction. (via)

NewsNotesLogoFootball alum Keith Wenning has been quietly building buzz and momentum going into next month’s NFL Draft. Keith is in Cleveland today, working out for the Browns, joining pretty much every top quarterback available for selection. I’ve said all along that I think Keith gets an opportunity on an NFL roster and when all is said and done may be one of BSU’s most long-lasting professionals. It’s all about fit, but no one can argue that Keith isn’t a talented and exceptionally skilled QB.

NewsNotesLogoOn the softball field, Jenny Gilbert continues to romp and stomp through the MAC, winning her fourth Player of the Week honor from the conference and 12th of her career. This season alone, Gilbert has accounted for the winning run in 12 of the 27 victories for the Cards. The softball team swept Ohio over Easter weekend, the same Ohio that leads the MAC. Ball State plays two games against Miami this weekend at home and the conference title is very much in reach. Saturday’s game is at 2pm, Sunday’s at 1pm.

NewsNotesLogoIf you’re a volleyball fan, tonight is a giant night for the men’s volleyball team as they travel to Lewis for MIVA semi-final action. The Cardinals are 22-7, ranked 13th, and have one of the best defenses in the country. The Flyers are 22-6, ranked 11th, and have one of the best offenses in the country. Lewis swept the Cards this season so far, but BSU has a three match win streak in conference tournament play. First serve is at 7pm CT, so be prepared.

NewsNotesLogoIf you are around the Bloomington area tonight I feel sorry for you, but there is hope as the baseball Cards travel to Indiana for a 6:00 tilt tonight. The Cards are 27-13 and I have been told they are remarkably fun to watch. Plus, you get to see the Cardinals beat the Hoosiers in something other than football, so that’s a plus.

NewsNotesLogoMen’s tennis begins the MAC tournament, which they are hosting, on April 25. The Cardinals are the three-seed and will face the second seeded Toledo Rockets. The Cards won the regular season MAC crown in 2013 and last won the tournament in 2011. I’d say they’re due.

NewsNotesLogoFrom the track and field circuit, Ball State’s Courtney Edon was named to the 2014 Indoor Track and Field Academic All-MAC team. She’s a nursing major with a 3.9 GPA which is a difficult task in and of itself. Doing that while running long distances is the definition of accomplishment.

NewsNotesLogoOn the golf course, the Cardinals took second in the Earl Yestingsmeier Memorial Invitational at Delaware Country Club. Toledo won the event, but the Cards put a dent in the lead in the final round, paced by Albert Jennings’ 73. It’s been a while since I’ve played Delaware Country Club, and an even longer time since I shot a 73. I think the exact date of my last one over par was… never.

NewsNotesLogoThe biggest video news of the week, other than OTP’s very own Look Inside the Spring Game, was Joel Godett releasing the below video. It has basically everyone of note in it in regard to athletics and BSU, including Coach Lembo, Bill Scholl, and even President Gora. Enjoy this cover of Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us and enjoy your humpday.

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.

BREAKING: Willie Snead to Enter NFL Draft

nfl-logoBreaking news from BSU football tonight. Willie Snead will enter the 2014 NFL Draft and forgo his senior season. The release from BSU…

Willie Snead, a junior wide receiver on Ball State’s 2013 football team that finished the season with a 10-3 overall record, has announced he will forgo his senior season and declare for the National Football League Draft.

“We appreciate Willie’s contributions to our program and wish him well as he pursues his dream of competing at the highest level,” Ball State head coach Pete Lembo says. “We have encouraged Willie to formulate a plan to complete his degree requirements.”

Snead finished the 2013 season with Ball State single-season records in receptions (106), receiving yards (1,516) and receiving touchdowns (15). His 1,516 receiving yards in the 2013 season ranked third in the nation.

Snead completed his Ball State career ranked second in receiving yards (2,991), second in passes caught (223), second in touchdown catches (26) and first in 100-yard receiving games (13).

Snead, who is only one of two players in Ball State history to manage two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, helped the Cardinals to a 10-3 overall record in 2013 and an appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl. He helped Ball State to a 9-4 mark and a trip to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg in 2012, and a bowl eligible season of 6-6 as a true freshman in 2011.

Snead was named to the 2013 All-Mid-American Conference First Team and was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award this past season.

So there’s that. More on this in a bit.

I’m on top of the world MAC

fisher

Quick, auction off this jersey while it is still worth something!

Is this is the summit for the Mid-American Conference football? Hard to argue against it.

In the past year we’ve had a MAC team play in a BCS game.

In the past week we’ve had a MAC player drafted No. 1 overall.

Granted, this was a weak draft class. Granted, Erik Fisher plays the prestigious position known as offensive tackle. It still counts baby. So much so Central Michigan is literally trying to cash in on all things Eric Fisher.

We could go into how improbable Fisher’s selection is. Such as if he is so good how did Central Michigan lose to Ball State the last three seasons? A Ball State team that scored zero selections in the draft.

Let’s not be bitter. Instead celebrate that someone in our back burner conference could get the attention of scouts so well. MAC football matters right now. As we know that has rarely been the case.

Heck, in the last few years I agreed with critics that the MAC might be better off playing FCS ball. Financially that still might be the case. However the college landscape has changed so much over the last couple of years the MAC is in a great spot.

The Big East (or American Athletic) has been reduced to a corpse not worth joining anymore. Conference USA is a mixed bag of schools that makes no sense. The WAC is gone and the Sun Belt is begging for FCS schools to come in.

The MAC’s greatest advantage has turned out to be their location. The Great Lakes blueprint has kept it stable in the conference expansion talks. The Big Ten is not going to add a MAC school because it has the TV market. Other conferences don’t have any teams in the region to attract a defection. Joining Conference USA or the Mountain West is not worth the added travel expense. Same for the remains of the Big East.

The only scare to the MAC now is the idea of the Big 12 raiding Northern Illinois. If the Huskies keep winning and going to BCS games it could be possible? If West Virginia is not too far away to play in the Big 12 then a MAC school could feasibly do it too. Maybe the ACC tries to get into the Cleveland and Detroit markets? Both seem unlikely but so was Syracuse moving to the ACC five years ago.

The MAC is one of the most stable and cohesive conferences left in FBS. Only the SEC and PAC-12 are ahead in my book. Big Ten fans are not pumped about Rutgers and Maryland coming to town. Only college presidents are.

So UMass, still want into the whatever is left of the Big East?

NFL Shows Little Respect for Ball State Players

We have our answer. For Ball State fans the NFL draft was not about the Colts getting Andrew Luck as we knew he was going to Indy in December. It was about how many Ball State players would be drafted or be a free agent that finds a home quickly.

Serving humble pie to Ball State players for as long as we can remember.

None.

Even safety Sean Baker, A.K.A. “Soul Eater” has to “prove” himself in some workout at Tampa Bay. The school’s leader for interceptions was not even a lock for a free agent signing.

Little if anything has been reported on fellow safety Joshua Howard and center Kreg Hunter.

Here is the list of the 26 MAC players to sign as an undrafted free agent.

Akron, OL Jake Anderson
Bowling Green, OL Ben Bojicic, Cincinnati
Bowling Green, WR Kamar Jorden, Minnesota
Buffalo, WR Marcus Rivers, Green Bay
Kent State, C Chris Anzevino, Baltimore
Kent State, DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Baltimore
Kent State, WR Sam Kirkland, Washington
Ohio, WR Phil Bates, Seattle
Ohio, P Paul Hershey, Kansas City
Ohio, LB Noah Keller, St. Louis
Northern Illinois, C Scott Wedige, Arizona
Northern Illinois, WR Nathan Palmer, San Francisco
Northern Illinois, LB Pat Schiller, Atlanta
Temple, OL Pat Boyle, Detroit
Temple, DE Morkeith Brown, Tampa Bay
Temple, OL Derek Dennis, Miami
Temple, LB Stephen Johnson, New Orleans
Temple, DE Adrian Robinson, Pittsburgh
Temple, WR Rod Streater, Oakland
Temple, OL Wayne Tribue, Denver
Toledo, WR Eric Page, Denver
Toledo, TE Danny Noble, Tampa Bay
Toledo, OL Mike VanDerMeulen, Tampa Bay
Toledo, DB Desmond Marrow, Houston
Toledo, OL Philipkeith Manley, Atlanta
Western Michigan, DL Drew Nowak, Jacksonville

There is not many defensive backs on the list. The value of a corner or safety has shrunk to almost nothing into today’s league that suspends players for any hit that is more fierce than norm.

Baker and Howard are hard-hitting safeties. Years ago their tackles would have been glorified on ESPN in their segment titled “Jacked Up”

Today, if those two players were in the league they would have to change their tendency to avoid fines and 15-yard penalties.

As the NFL tries to clean up its barbaric image, receivers and tight ends benefit from defenses trying hard not to get fined.

The NFL is only a couple of steps away from playing like the Arena League. Safeties do not fit in with such a style.

I don’t think scouts judge players based on where they play. Even though it appears the NFL finds little credibility in the Ball State program I hope that is not the case.

Could it be that Baker and Howard are a few years late? If these two were graduating in 2005 maybe this is a different story?

For now, if you have a son wanting to play in the NFL make sure he plays offense.

If Nate Davis Had a Time Machine

A friend of mine ask me about Nate Davis the other day as to where he was since being cut by the Colts. He suggested Nate Davis was in the Canadian Football League.

After the standard web search it turns out Davis was in the Arena Football League playing for the Kansas City Command. Keyword “was.”

Davis was let go only three games into the season on an Arena Football team. All three games were losses as the offense only scored 28 points in two of them. Scoring 28 points in Arena Football is like scoring 3 points the NFL.

Here is a quote in a press release from the team that did not mention Davis by name.

“We just felt like we had to do something,” said Command coach Danton Barto.  “We weren’t scoring points and in Arena Football you’re not going to win if you can’t consistently put the ball in the end zone.  When something’s not working you’ve got to move on and improve your football team.”

Apparently, Davis was cut two weeks ago on April, 3. I say apparently because even the Star Press did not publish anything on this as far as I can tell. I had no idea Davis was even in the Arena League. It seems as if this was something no one wanted to report.

Just two years ago Chris Collinsworth was comparing him to John Elway after he made this pass in a preseason game.

The fact that he could only last three games speaks for itself.

When it comes to playing professional football he is out of options.

Where can he go to play football that is lower than the AFL?

This brings us to the biggest “what if” question for Ball State football.

What if Nate Davis stays for his senior year?

The odds of him improving to the point where he could have thrived in the NFL may not be there but I am sure it would have helped. He would clearly have helped Ball State big time during a 2-10 season. Heck, if Davis plays in 2009 Stan Parrish may still be coaching your Cardinals.

Now that is a scary thought.

The moral of the story is to choose carefully who you take advice from.

I do not know who was in his ear, but I’m fairly sure no one close to him said the following statement; “Mid-major players should never come out early.”

It is clear rule to live by for MAC players. NFL teams typically downplay smaller schools in drafts. Davis only had to look at a couple of mocks to know he was not going to be in the first two rounds. If you are not in the first two rounds it is best to wait till next year. Another basic rule.

There are plenty of variables. I do not know his financial needs. Maybe he needed the money badly? Maybe he did not want to play for Stan Parrish and a makeshift offensive line?

For the sake of argument, here are some games Ball State may have won in 2009 with Davis as its QB.

North Texas, lost 20-10

New Hampshire, lost 23-16

At Army, lost 24-17

Toledo, lost 37-30

At Temple, lost 24-19

Ohio, lost 20-17

At Northern Illinois, lost 26-20

That is six games decided by a touchdown or less. Throw in what should have been a cupcake in North Texas and that is seven extra games Ball State could have won in 2009 with Davis taking snaps. Potentially a 9-3 record. Might be time to take up drinking.

Soon I will be graduating and I will be hearing a lot of advice from friends and family as to what jobs I should apply for. What I have notice so far my friends tend to tell me things I want to hear vs. my parents who are more concerned. I am sure something similar happened to Davis. People had to have told him he would be a wealthy and a famous quarterback in the NFL. Then they must have told him if he got hurt at Ball State he would get nothing.

Where were the people telling him to stay? Where were the scouts and coaches that should have been more critical? Did Ball State football simply enable the man to make a foolish decision?

Sure, Davis made some cash but at what price? It is reasonable to assume Davis would have been a higher draft pick in 2010 and may have been in a better situation than he was in San Francisco.

This is a story players throughout the MAC should take note with. For the next decade any Ball State player that is thinking about declaring for the draft early will have the warning signs left by Nate Davis to observe.

Let’s hope future Cardinals take the time to read the signs and see what they mean.