TEAM: Ball State Cardinals
2015 RECORD: 3-9 overall, 2-6 MAC (5th/West)
HEAD COACH: Mike Neu (1st year)
MAC MEDIA PRESEASON POLL RANK: 5th in West
There is good and bad news for former Cardinal quarterback standout Mike Neu, who returns to Muncie as the new Ball State head football coach. The good news is that 15 returning starters include some very talented playmakers. The bad news is that BSU plays in the very tough MAC West Division.
The latter, of course, is actually more of an observation than any real news. If anybody appreciates the level of competition in the MAC West, it is Ball State. But for the Cardinals to , , ,
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW
Scoring offense: 10th (23.1 ppg)
Scoring defense:12th (35.8 ppg)
Total offense:10th (371.6 ypg)
Total defense: 12th (518 ypg)
Turnover margin: 7th (+1/0.08) 16 gained/15 lost)
Neal, however, failed to crack the MAC top 10 in pass efficiency, completing 58 percent of his passes. With Neu on the scene, and some weapons to tap, Neal should be productive. “I was very impressed with Riley … (and) with the information he was able to retain,” Neu said of his spring experience with the QB.
There are some questions up front. After five starters filled the O-line last year, only two starters return this time around. Three-time All-MAC center Jacob Richard was among the departed. There are upper-classmen to fill in most spots, but there will be questions to answer – particularly with a coaching change.
Certainly there is some experience and talent at running back. Darian Green (5-8, 175, Jr) returns after covering 730 yards last year. James Gilbert was also productive in 2015, The freshman led the team in carries (152) and tallied eight rushing TDs while totaling 608 yards on the ground. As the offense develops, both could help in the passing game, as well.
Two starters return in the secondary, but there needs to be improvement regardless of who holds down the back tier.
Leading tackler Ben Ingle (105 stops) is gone, but First Team All-MAC linebacker Sean Wiggins returns after racking up 95 hits in 2015. Senior Aaron Taylor also returns.
It starts up front, of course, and that unit will get plenty of attention. Joshua Posley, a transfer from Cincinnati, is part of an influx that also includes two JUCO players.
Placekicker Morgan Hagee came onto the scene to convert 16 of 21 field goals in his freshman campaign last year. As he gets stronger, he should be even more of a distance threat.
Punter Kyle Schmidt is back for his senior season after averaging 39.7 yards per boot a year ago. Eight of his 58 punts were for at least 50 yards, with a long of 64. He left 21 punts inside the opponent 20.