Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Practice Is Upon Us

As the Cardinals begin the arduous task that is preparing for their 2009 season through countless drills, practices, scrimmages, etc. that will culminate in the Spring Game on April 11, the fans are left seeking answers to numerous questions. First and foremost, is who will step up for the Cardinals as viable replacements. On both sides of the ball and even on the sidelines there are notable vacancies, changes in assignments, and a lack of familiar faces.

Gone, as most know, is head man Brady Hoke, who left before BSU's last game against Tulsa. But also gone are several key assistants, a strength and conditioning coach, 4 offensive line starters, both starting corners, and most importantly, an NFL-caliber QB in Nate Davis. This is a cupboard that has been raided... and thoroughly.

The glimmer of hope for the Cardinals is that the groceries left in the pantry have among them several quality ingredients. MiQuale Lewis, Sean Baker, Dan Ifft, Myles Trempe, Briggs Orsbon, and Alex Knipp. Also up on the shelf though, and what will turn out to be vitally important to this 2009 supper, will be the new additions. Ingredients whom are as of yet, untested, yet show potential.

OTP has received the spring prospectus for the BSU Cardinals, and within it we've found some exceptionally curious things...
  • Ian McGarvey is not listed on any depth chart or prospectus that has anything to do with the 09 season. Whether or not this punishment is of the temporary variety or of the permanent rendition, we won't know for a while. Suffice to say that Ian is in Grandpa Stan's doghouse and will probably be residing there for the foreseeable future.
  • The Cardinals return 7 players on defense who started at least half of the 08 season. There are significant losses, but this is a defensive unit that has the pieces to be just as solid as last season. On offense, the future is not as bright, as only 4 starters return.
  • Listed as QB1 on the depth chart is Kelly Page. Not surprising, as Page was sort of expected to be the starter by fall, but I would have thought going into spring ball young Mr. Page would have been listed as numero dos. Freshman QBs normally have a bit of a learning curve, and I can only think that Stan Parrish's offense applies in spades, but Page has had a redshirt year to get ready. It's time for him to make his mark.
  • There's a nice write up on all the incoming recruits and I stand by an earlier prediction that this particular class will be a part of at least one MAC Championship while they are on campus.
The most interesting thing in the spring prospectus is Stan Parrish's Q & A. I'm not sure who posed the questions, or who prepped Stan on the answers, but here it is in its entirety...

Q: One of the biggest tasks will be replacing Nate Davis at quarterback. How do you think having a new head coach and a new quarterback will affect the team?
A: "I would not think of me as new in regards to coaching the quarterbacks. We will not have a new coach, but we will have a new quarterback. We have to get that position taken care of right away. We will have an open competition at that spot, as we will in a lot of spots this spring. Kelly Page will have the chance to win the quarterback starting position. He has earned that right with how he handled himself in his redshirt season in 2008. Tanner Justice has been a part of our program for a while now, and he has got to be a coach on the field and in the film room. He knows the system better than the other guys and he will need to teach them by example. Aaron Mershman is a student-athlete who began at Ball State in January and is here and ready to go. This will be an important spring for him. We have to find out what they can do, and what we have in our system that works for them. Our system has a lot of choices in it, and like every year, we will had some new wrinkles.

We have two quarterbacks who are very young in the system and one who has been around a little while. None of them have very much game experience, but I fully expect these guys to be ready by opening night."

Q: Ball State lost a big part of the offensive line, including four starters. How do you go about replacing that part of the team?
A: "Those lineman were the reason we were able to have success last year. We have a lot of work to do with the offensive line and finding the right combinations of players. We have a few players in the program who have been around a while, but are lacking that game experience. We will get them as many reps as possible this spring. Our offense will have a lot of expectations because of the success we have had recently, so we have to rebuild quickly. I have a lot of concerns with the number of starters we lost on offense. We have to get the new guys in there and get them going. We have done a good job of redshirting guys and getting them experience in that setting. Our practices are intense so there will be nothing new to them from that standpoint. The offensive lines progress will be a big key for the 2009 Ball State football team."

Q: MiQuale Lewis was a big part of the offense a year ago and is one of the team’s top returnees this season. What will he mean to the team in 2009?
A: "MiQuale Lewis is an outstanding player who is versatile and can help us in many ways. With that being said, we have got to block so the backs can run. We have got to protect the quarterback, so he can throw to the receivers and give us some options in the running game. The running backs and receivers should be the strength of our offense next season, but it all starts with that offensive line."

Q: Where do you see the defense for the upcoming season? What are the strengths and weaknesses on that side of the ball?
A: "We have a ways to go to be the defense we want to be. Coach Graber is the best defensive coordinator I have ever been around and is an outstanding secondary coach, so he will have his work cut out for him. We lost our top three cornerbacks, so we have moved some personnel around to help at that spot. We are not very big up front defensively, so we are going to have to play very sound. I will give Coach Graber a lot of latitude to get the defense where it needs to be. You do not lose as many players as we have on defense and not expect some growing pains. But we have to grow quickly. We lost some quality seniors, but we have to transition with our new players."

Q: What do you want to get accomplished this spring:
A: “We are excited to get to the field and coach these guys. We have new coaches, new players, and this is a new team.We have to do a good job coaching these guys in the spring, so we know where we are when fall camp starts. We are going to be a very young football team, but we want to be a good young football team. To help both the offense and the defense, the kicking game has to be the best in the Mid-American Conference. We will put a great amount of emphasis on the special teams. We lost a senior class that won more games here than any before it. We need to worry about nothing but getting better every day."

A decent first impression on Stan as the head coach, as he mixes in some typical coach speak with some pretty frank evaluations of the current personnel. The bottom line for these Cardinals, as Spring Practice begins to write the newest chapter in BSU Football history, is that they are an exceptionally young bunch in certain areas, and exceptionally seasoned in others. They are a mix of young and old, of leadership and eager to be led. If Stan Parrish and his newly assembled band of merry assistants can somehow gel this team sooner rather than later, maintain the momentum from the first 12 games of last season, and set the expectation of continued successes, then the 09 Cardinals can be just as successful as the 08 version.

It is a time for optimism, though guardedly so, from Cardinal Nation. Regardless of what happens over the next thirty days or so of organized practice, the 09 Cardinals are 0-0 and stand just as good a chance as any other team to win a MAC Championship. Fight team, fight.

1 comment:

Wilbur said...

Re: McGarvey...From Today's Star Press:

Ball State placekicker Ian McGarvey will not participate in spring football practice after being suspended indefinitely by coach Stan Parrish. McGarvey was charged this winter with drunken driving.

"Hopefully it's a one-time mistake the kid makes, but he's not going to be with us this spring, and we're not going to fool around with that stuff," Parrish said.

Parrish said he would meet with McGarvey after spring practice ends to determine his status going into the summer. If McGarvey has shown progress toward obligations put on him, he could be immediately reinstated.

McGarvey handled all of the Cardinals' field-goal kicking last season, making 16-of-21 attempts. He missed just once on 11 kicks of 39 yards or less.