2018 RECORD: 4-8 overall, 3-5 MAC
HEAD COACH: Mike Neu
MAC Media Poll: 5th in MAC West
After dealing with significant injuries in each of the last two years, the Ball State Cardinals took a couple more big hits AFTER the 2018 season. Quarterback Riley Neal and running back James Gilbert have transferred out (to Vanderbilt and Kansas State, respectively).
That would seem to . . .
BIG PICTURE STAT OVERVIEW (ALL GAMES)
Scoring offense: 8th MAC (24.2 ppg)
Scoring defense: 9th MAC (32.4 ppg)
Total offense: 5th MAC (408.6 ypg)
Total defense: 11th MAC (450.2 ypg)
Turnover margin: 9th at -4 (22 lost, 18 gained)
➤➤ Grad transfers by QB Riley Neal and RB James Gilbert take away two veteran playmakers. Neal owned 32 starts, but did miss the final three. That, at least, gave junior Drew Plitt some valuable experience at the helm. For the year, Plitt completed 64.9 percent of his passes (85 of 131). However, he tossed two more interceptions (8) than touchdowns.
➤➤ COACH NEU ON PLITT: “He’s a great leader. … He played a lot of good football (late last year). The next step for him is eliminating a lot of those turnovers.”
➤➤ Redshirt freshman John Paddock is among others vying for the quarterback position. Given recent history, any depth the Cardinals develop -- at any position -- would be a plus.
➤➤ COACH NEU ON BSU RUNNING BACKS: “Not a lot of people know about Walter Fletcher… (but he had two fantastic years where he had almost 2,000 yards rushing each year. He’s a great compliment to Caleb Huntley and, make no mistake, Caleb is a 225-pound bruiser.”
➤➤ Former RB Malik Dunner has moved out to receiver this year after registering 21 catches in 2018. He is joining an experienced group. Seniors Riley Miller and Justin Hall combined for 130 catches for 1,500 yards.
Sophomore YoHeinz Tyler could be another big play option.
➤➤ Tight end Kyle Schrank caught 13 balls (2TDs) last year and adds another senior up front, where there are three other seniors among four returning starters.
➤➤ Head coach Mike Neu feels the Cardinals are starting to get the personnel to better matchup in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
➤➤ COACH NEU ON THE BSU DEFENSE: “We’ve taken a lot of steps in the right direction. That’s got to continue (and) I think it will. This is our second year that we’ve been in a 3-4. Our personnel fit that now. We’ve got some experience in that structure.”
➤➤ As expected in a 3-4, linebackers should be able put up some good numbers and the Cardinals did that. Ray Wilborn is back after making 83 tackles (10.5 tfl, 3 sacks) last year. Junior Christian Albright registered 67 tackles (8 tfl, 5.5 sacks).
➤➤ Junior cornerback Antonio Phillips picked off two passes on the campaign and registered a season-high eight hits as BSU edged Western Michigan 42-41 in overtime last November.
➤➤ Safety Brett Anderson notched 13 tackles against WMU and totaled 62 stops on the season.
➤➤ Stopping opponent runners will be an area of focus. Ball State ranked 11th (MAC) against the run, yielding 239.8 rushing yards per game in 2018.
➤➤ Punter Patrick Le Corre is back, but Morgan Hagee departed after setting a Cardinal career record of 129 extra points. Senior Ryan Rimmler, who previously handled kickoffs should now have a bigger role.
➤➤ Ball State opens against Indiana in Indianapolis.
The last time those two teams met there, BSU emerged victorious (2011).
➤➤ Home tilts against Fordham and Florida Atlantic preced a game at North Carolina State. “After that non-conference schedule, we get a bye week before we begin MAC play against Northern Illinois,” Neu noted.
➤➤The MAC schedule is again challenging, but Ball State’s MAC home slate includes Toledo, Ohio and Miami.
➤➤ COACH NEU: “There’s high expectations for us on Day One. We embrace that."
BSU may be due some luck, if only in avoiding a plethora of damaging injuries. There is a lot of talent on offense, but the Cardinals need to turn off the turnovers. The defense should improve, but how much? If things go well enough, BSU could jump into the bowl picture. In any case, the Cardinals should be dangerous on any given day/night.