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Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman
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Football's Spring Practice Reaches Halfway Point
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Ball State head coach Pete Lembo discusses Spring Practice at the halfway point to the annual Spring Game April 21.

You have reached the halfway point of Spring Practice.  Are you excited about the direction of the program at this point in preparation for the season opener vs. Eastern Michigan?

We are making progress as a team, but still have a long way to go. We are probably a little more physical across the board than we were at this point a year ago. We won't know for sure until the rubber hits the road in the fall.  In terms of individual players, there is still a lot of evaluation that needs to take place in the next two weeks. That being said, we are definitely getting some questions answered every day about individual players. We are finding out who is learning, correcting mistakes, overcoming adversity and performing under pressure. It was good to see Nick Miles return to the scrimmage after turning his ankle. That shows some toughness. The game is definitely slowing down for Chris Shillings and Horactio Banks. Both of those guys have a chance to help us on the offensive side of the ball and on special teams. Some older guys are also improving. Travis Freeman, Armand Dehaney and Andre Dawson all seem to be much more comfortable in the defensive system. We have to keep in mind that young or old, this is only the second spring these players have worked with these same coaches.

Saturday's Practice No. 8 included a scrimmage with game officials.  How does this help in your preparations and the rest of Spring Practice?

Having officials on hand helps the coaches emphasize some "coaching points" with the players. You can point out a hold or a pass interference penalty on video, but having an official on hand to call it and throw the flag is instant feedback. There are some new rules in the kicking game for 2012 and it was helpful to talk with the officials about their interpretations. There are a couple nuances we want to iron out this spring relative to those new rules. We plan to have officials on hand the next two Saturdays as well. These spring practices are also beneficial for the officials themselves. It helps keep them sharp in the off season.

Your team has chosen "Rise Up" as a theme for the 2012 season.  Can you explain a little bit about the process and what this entails for the team?

One of the projects for our leadership council every offseason is to develop a theme for the year that is meaningful to this particular team and the unique situation they are in as a team. Ideally, you want a theme that can somehow relate to every single player in the program. "Rise Up" is basically an internal challenge to improve on an individual, group and team level. Every single player needs to improve physically, mentally and emotionally for us to reach our goals. Our offense, defense and special teams units need to improve. We have graduated some excellent leaders and those voids need to be filled. We also want to reach our potential off the field in terms of academic progress, campus visibility and positively connecting with the community. The great thing about this particular theme that the players selected is it can also carry over to the external side. Our players are very aware of our initiatives to improve the football program. They know we need help from former players, other Ball State alumni, students, Muncie residents and the University administration to make it happen. We are trying to build a battleship and it takes a lot of help from a lot of people to make it happen. So, "Rise Up" is also a challenge to all the constituents of the program to jump on board and become a part of this ride with the team.

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