Ball State's football team wrapped up its Fall Camp Sunday, but will continue preparations for the Aug. 30, season opener as classes begin Monday.
The Cardinal will face Eastern Michigan in a Mid-American Conference game in the season opener at Scheumann Stadium in a 7 p.m. Thursday night game on the 30th.
After the 8 a.m. Sunday practice, Ball State head coach Pete Lembo made some comments on the day's session.
Q: Sunday's practice was the final one before classes start Monday. Talk about the session and some of the positives and negatives.
A: We went in helmets only this morning and put an emphasis on fundamentals, situations, special teams and corrections from yesterday's scrimmage. The focus was pretty good today. Some players that had minor injuries last week started working their way back into the mix, which was good to see. Overall, it was a solid session. The guys will have over 48 hours before we are back on the practice field, so I expect them to be fresh for Tuesday's practice.
Q: The freshmen will now have to adjust to the academic side of being a student-athlete. How do the coaches assist in that transition?
A: Last summer, we created a summer bridge program for incoming freshmen student-athletes. We continued that program this summer and we refined it some. Our coaches and support staff are heavily involved over the summer and helped create a structure for our new players. That foundation is extremely beneficial once classes begin for the fall semester. Our freshmen, with the exception of a few walk-ons, have had to manage their time and stay on a tight schedule already. One change is they now have to balance more classes along with more hours committed to football. Fortunately, they know their way around campus and know key people such as the academic support staff. The coaches will continue to be involved as the semester begins with class checks, meal checks and weekly grade check meetings. We are in constant contact with academic support as well. We also keep a close eye on any upperclassmen that are marginal academically. I am very pleased we only have one student-athlete that will be on academic probation this fall. That's not bad when you consider we will have 110 players participating as of next week.
Q: Talk a little bit about the progress of the defensive backs since the start of Fall Camp.
A: We have a little more competition for playing time in the secondary this year. Our coaches have been able to rotate some different guys in with the first unit this preseason. Jeffery Garrett has really been steady at one corner spot. Jeff had a good spring season as well. He is physical, confident and is becoming a more mature player. Jason Pinkston has a lot of experience and all the physical tools to be an excellent corner in the Mid-American Conference. He needs to be more consistent and more detailed than last year. Simply put, he needs to make more plays for us. Eric Patterson is improving daily and is pushing hard for playing time. He has some of the same qualities as Jeff. Armand Dehaney has been solid at corner as well. Armand and Quintin Cooper have been battling it out for the starting nickel position. We expect both to be major contributors on special teams. Andre Dawson gives us another veteran corner with some game experience. At safety, we have been rotating Chris Pauling, Jarrett Swaby, Brian Jones, J.C. Wade and Christopher Calloway with the one's and two's since the start of camp. Jones and Calloway have missed some time recently. Swaby has picked things up pretty quickly as a new player. Pauling had a good spring, but he is still a true freshman. We have some other quality freshmen with ability and we need to keep bringing them along. Joseph Fazio and Brandon Kish are reserves at safety, but quality special teams players for us.