The Cardinals will scrimmage Saturday afternoon and then practice Sunday morning before classes begin for the fall semester on Monday. Ball State is working toward its Aug. 30 season opener, a Thursday night contest against Eastern Michigan.
Following Friday's practice, Cardinals head coach Pete Lembo answered a few questions about his team's progress on both sides of the ball.
Q: As you close in on the end of fall camp, what are your thoughts on the progress of the offense?
A: The first unit is doing some good things both through the air and on the ground, but our overall consistency must improve. Backup quarterback Kelly Page is resting a sore elbow, so the second unit has been operating with true freshman quarterbacks the last couple days. Kelly is a real veteran that knows the offensive system well, so that has been a big change for that unit.
We are still trying to figure out our depth at wide receiver. There are some good battles going on between some talented freshmen and some upperclassmen that were reserves last year. Tomorrow's scrimmage should tell us more about this area. We also have to see if a wide receiver's ability to contribute on special teams impacts the depth chart as well. We need six or seven competent wide receivers to really run the offense the way we would like to.
Zane Fakes has been steady at tight end, but we need to continue to bring backups David Schneider, Dylan Curry and Michael Raby along. Some younger guys need to have a greater sense of urgency to perform in practice if they want to play in games.
Q: We announced an updated depth chart this week. How is the team's depth on the defensive side of the ball?
A: We are still not where we need to be, but our defensive depth is better than at this time last year. To truly build the depth chart the way we would like, it will take a few more years of excellent retention and an emphasis on redshirting freshmen. However, we got to a point last year where less than 15 players could go into a game for us on defense. Good defensive units can play 20 to 25 players in a game and not miss a beat. We are not at that level yet by any means.
In the short term, we have to keep developing our young players. Staying healthy would also be a real blessing. Some guys that have improved since last year include safety J.C. Wade, nose guard Donovan Jarrett and cornerback Eric Patterson.
Q: With two practices left before the start of classes, what would you like to accomplish this weekend?
A: Tomorrow's scrimmage will be the last significant hitting we do before transitioning into more specific preparation for the opening game. We will have officials on hand, so that will be beneficial for both the players and coaches. We will mix in some special teams in between team segments. We will see who can step up under pressure and play with some consistency.
On Sunday morning, we will spend considerable time on special teams, fundamentals and situations. The freshmen will attend convocation on Sunday afternoon while the veterans are in meetings. The CVC dinner on Sunday evening is important because our players will get to meet a number of VIP's and donors. It is a great way to kick off the academic year with classes beginning on Monday.
The remaining Ball State practice schedule until classes begin is as follows:
Sat., Aug. 18 (2:15 p.m.)
Sun., Aug. 19 (8 a.m.)