Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo addresses the first day of the Cardinals spring practice. The practices culminate with the Spring Game April 20.
Q: How did the first day of your third set of spring practices go with the Ball State Cardinals?
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): It was great to get back out there with the guys. Our players have worked really hard this winter and they were anxious to get back out on the field. In some ways, it does not seem like all that long ago we were preparing for the Beef ‘O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl. Now that we are in ‘Year Three’, the majority of the players understand the effort, energy and focus we expect for two hours or so. We have enough ‘critical mass’ that know the expectations, so the new walk-ons can simply follow their lead. I also like how some of our older guys are taking ownership and coaching the younger players. Wide receiver Jamill Smith is limited this spring because of foot surgery, but he was with the young slot receivers and talking to them after each play. Trent Toothman did the same thing with the linebackers. We have some good kids that are really invested in the program.
Q: What is one of the most important things for you to get accomplished this first week of practice?
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): The spring is about the basics, the fundamentals of the game. It’s about repetition and forming good habits in terms of technique. It’s about becoming a student of the game and truly understanding your responsibilities. It is tempting to put more in because you have some experienced guys, but you can’t forget that you will be counting on many young players that have far less experience when the fall rolls around. So it is important you don’t install too much, too soon. If guys get overloaded mentally, they cannot play fast and use their athleticism. We were in helmets only today and that will be the case tomorrow as well. We will transition into uppers on Friday and will be in full pads for Saturday morning’s session. I am sure the players will be anxious to do some hitting once we get to the weekend.
Q: Do you have to do anything specific to be sure the student-athletes stay focused on academics now that spring practice has started?
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): We talk about academics every day. It starts at the top with me. Our players’ academic success is my top priority and we will not sacrifice that just because we are back in practice mode. In our team meeting on Monday, we discussed the need to manage time better in the second half of the semester as we move from an eight hour work week in the offseason to a 20 hour work week during spring practice. Our position coaches are required to meet with each of the players in their group once a week to review academic progress. We are also in daily communication with Academic Support Services. We do not let anything slip through the cracks. Our players know the coaching staff is highly invested in their success academically and, fortunately, most of our guys are highly motivated to get good grades.