The time is finally here. Tonight, under the lights of Sheumann Stadium, the Cardinals will strap on their bonnets and collide with an actual opponent, instead of their own scout team.
Coach Pete Lembo will begin his sophomore season wearing the headset for Ball State, while junior quarterback Keith Wenning looks to build off promising sophomore season under center.
At the beginning of every season, there are uncertainties. For the 2012 Cardinals, the uncertainties are numerous.
1) The defense must be better…You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how awful this unit was in 2011. The Cardinals were second-to-last in the nation in averaged yards allowed per game, 510.3. Only six teams (Houston, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nevada and Oregon) averaged more yards per game offensively than Ball State allowed defensively. Ball State was also 104th in the nation in points allowed per game, averaging over 34. There were too many big plays given up, too many missed tackles and too many blown coverages. If the Cardinals want to have any success in 2012, the defense must shore up. But, on paper, it doesn’t appear that will happen. The departures of safeties Sean Baker and Josh Howard leave a gaping hole in the secondary. Sophomore linebacker Aaron Morris, who was a First Team All-MAC selection and started all 12 games in 2011, was deemed academically ineligible and is no longer with the team. Morris had a tremendous 2011 season, recording the second most tackles on the team with 115. The defensive line also took a hit when senior defensive tackle Adam Morris graduated. Morris held his ground last season, amassing 48 tackles, eighth on the team.
2) Travis Freeman can’t make every play…Freeman will anchor the defensive backfield, but other than fellow senior Tony Martin, there aren’t too many guys who appear ready to step up. Senior Justin Cruz started all 24 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but got the nod just twice last season. Freshman Trent Toothman has yet to start a collegiate game, but is listed as the backup to Freeman on the depth chart. Redshirt junior Kenneth Lee looks to have solidified himself as the starter at the strong side linebacker. Lee, a journeyman who transfered from St. Joseph’s College, didn’t play in 2011 and redshirted. But Lee could be a sleeper in this bunch. At St. Joseph’s College, Lee was first in tackles with 77.
3) True sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards will get the load of the carries for the Cardinals this season, but who will be the guy to give Edwards a breather? Barrington Scott started the first handful of games in 2011, but suffered a season-ending knee injury against Eastern Michigan. Will his knee be stable enough for him to make an impact in a crucial situation? Freshman Horactio Banks figures to be a key piece in this group of running backs. But, as a freshman, Banks hasn’t played a down of collegiate football. With Edwards as the No. 1, the rotation for the second and third RB should be interesting.
The offensive line will dictate where this team will go in 2012…The five starters, Austin Holtz, Kitt O’Brien, Dan Manick, Jordan Hansel and Cameron Lowry have 109 combined career starts. This group is the most experienced in the country and should punish opponents every time they take the field. Mental mistakes and penalties will be unacceptable from this group.
There’s a new addition to Scheumann Stadium this season… An inflatable tunnel, featuring the Cardinals helmet and decal has been installed leading out of the locker room.
This matchup has the potential to be an exciting one between two Mid-American Conference West division teams.
Thanks for reading,