Ball State third-year head football coach Pete Lembo led the Cardinals through spring practice No. 6 as the team prepares for the April 20 Spring Game.
Q: Offensive line is one of the positions where Ball State lost a number of starters. Talk a bit about the development of the young players at that position.
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): Yes, this is clearly where our team is hardest hit by graduation. We really had an impressive group of guys in 2012 that played extremely well together. Fortunately, Jordan Hansel returns from that unit and some other players including Matthew Page, Jacob Richard and Jalen Schlachter all saw action in meaningful games last fall. Jacob and Matt both have a few starts under their belt. The fifth starting job is up for grabs at strong tackle. I like the competition between redshirt freshmen Drake Miller and Steven Bell. Both guys have really bright futures ahead of them. We were also able to redshirt guard Connor Stefanski and center Josh Smith last fall. Overall, we feel like this is a strong class at this position. We moved Ian Anderson over from defensive line after the season and he is making a nice transition. Nick Plavchak and Taylor Hoke are two quality walkons that are seeing a lot of action this spring. We have a terrific group of signees that will be joining us this summer, including P.J. Scott, a junior college transfer. Our depth will be tested this year because of the youth at the position, but the future looks very encouraging!
Q: After each practice you have an assistant coach give a scouting report of one of next year’s opponents. What is the goal and how do the players respond?
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): This is a good time of year to see the big picture with regards to the 2013 season and the 12 game schedule. Once we hit the field again during preseason, our entire focus will be on defeating Illinois State in the first game. I am very proud of our success in season openers, and a lot of that goes back to the organization of preseason camp and the quality of our practices. In the spring, it is a little easier to step back and learn some basics about each opponent. It also gives a little more meaning to each practice when the players know they will be graded on the performance of each unit. We quantify the results by posting a "score" for the game the following day. It makes the spring season a bit more fun and interesting. I like to get the assistant coaches involved in program development a meaningful way. The players hear from me all the time. It is beneficial when a coach like Nick Tabacca can get in front of the team and talk about Eastern Michigan. I hope we have several future head coaches on our staff. Part of my job is to help our assistant coaches develop the skills they need to get those opportunities down the road.
Q: You are scheduled to speak to the Muncie Rotary on Friday morning and you have already spoken to numerous groups in the community this off season. What is the benefit of that outreach?
Coach Lembo (@Pete_Lembo): We want to build a program that is a tremendous source of pride for both the campus community and the local community. We are one of the most visible pieces of the University. Six million people watched us defeat nationally ranked Toledo on Election Night last fall. That was incredible exposure for the University. When 15,000 people come to Scheumann Stadium to see a game, that is perhaps the biggest event on campus all year along with graduation in May. We are one of just 124 institutions in the country that play football at this level. We need to make the most of it! The last two years have been a heck of a ride and we want as many constituents as possible to be a part of it with us. Muncie needs to embrace the "college town" model, because that is our future. Muncie's success and Ball state's go hand in hand. I enjoy connecting with the people in this community. There are so many terrific, caring people that live here. We have an opportunity to make this a even better place to live if the football program is having consistent success and people feel a connection to the program.