Ball State's football team, under the direction of second-year head coach Pete Lembo, continues its preparations for the Thurs., Aug. 30, season opener vs. Eastern Michigan.
The Cardinals will take on the Eagles in its season and Mid-American Conference opener. Ball State defeated EMU at the Eagles home stadium last season on a Steven Schott field goal with nine seconds remaining.
Lembo answered questions on the team's preseason preparations with the athletics media relations staff.
Q: You were able to scrimmage with officials on hand Monday night. Did you accomplish what you wanted? How did the new NCAA rules affect the session?
A: It always helps to have the officials out there for some preseason scrimmages. The instant feedback they receive via penalty flags being thrown is as beneficial as any feedback we can give them as coaches. It is also important the officials practice as well. They need to be sharp and focused heading into the opening weekend. There are some new rules involving the kicking game and player safety that these officiating crews have to manage. We had too many penalties for my liking on Monday night. Several were by younger players, but we may be counting on some of those same guys to contribute this fall. It was also helpful for the players to see just how impactful the new rule regarding helmets coming off was in the scrimmage. On a few occasions we had to substitute because a player had to exit after losing his helmet. We also had a penalty when a player continued to participate between the whistles with his helmet off. I am sure the fans will see this happen two or three times per game. We need to make sure our helmets fit correctly and that the chinstraps are always tight.
Q: Today's practice was after an off day. Did the players respond positively?
A: I thought we were sluggish today. We are two weeks away from the start of the season and there is a lot of work to be done before we are ready to play a game. We have to be more focused on the practice field. Some guys are getting it done, but others are inconsistent right now. Some of our younger backups have to understand they are literally one play away from being a starter. Everyone wants to be on the field, but not everyone is prepared to be on the field. We have a few more days to evaluate personnel before we transition into game preparations for Eastern Michigan. It is a process and we will keep working to develop all of our players. However, we have to start honing in on the guys that will help us in the short term.
Q: The offensive line is one of the most experienced groups on the team. How are they progressing this preseason?
A: Our first group has a lot of game experience and they are having a solid camp. Like so many other units, we need to be more consistent. Dan Manick has a minor elbow injury and we have held him out of contact drills for a few days. Cameron Lowry and Austin Holtz have looked good in pass protection. Jordan Hansel is getting comfortable again after missing spring practice as he recovered from a fibula fracture from last fall. Kitt O'Brien has been steady at the other guard spot. I am pleased with the development of Chris Sparrow, Jacob Richard, Matthew Page and Jalen Schlachter this preseason. We put Jacob on scholarship following spring ball and he has responded. Jalen was one of our most improved players last spring. Page has been very focused this preseason and is playing more physical than in the past. Sparrow is a great kid that knows both guard and center. He started four games for us last fall. The freshmen all have promising futures. We hope to redshirt them if we stay healthy. We need to figure out who our 10th and 11th best linemen are for travel and depth purposes.
The remaining Ball State practice schedule unti classes begin is as follows:
Fri., Aug. 17 (2:15 p.m.)
Sat., Aug. 18 (2:15 p.m.)
Sun., Aug. 19 (8 a.m.)