Practice No. 12 featured a scrimmage with officials. What were some of the highlights and how do you feel about it overall?
Yes, today was actually a very similar format to what we expect to do next week in the annual Spring Game Saturday. We had a large group of officials on hand that were conducting their spring clinic. They did a nice job calling some fouls today, which is good instant feedback for the players and coaches. It was a pretty physical scrimmage, particularly when the first unit was in there. Our defensive line generated a good pass rush today. Nathan Ollie stood out at times. However, we also had a few mental miscues on the defensive line that were very costly. Eric Patterson has picked off passes the last two days. He is gaining confidence at the corner position. Michael Ayers also had an interception off of a pass that should have been caught. Receiver Willie Snead made a nice play on a fourth down to keep a two-minute drive alive. I was disappointed with some of the dropped balls by some of our other receivers. Those are drive killers. Jahwan Edwards looked good running it in limited duty. We had a turnover deep in the red zone that was very costly for the offense. I feel like our defense has improved a bit these last few practices and our offense has hit a bit of a plateau. Steven Schott has been very consistent kicking field goals and today was no exception. We have to step it up next week and finish strong.
People ask all the time if the offense or defense is better at this point. How do you respond?
If you simply look at where there is more age, experience and returning players, it is on the offensive side of the ball. We have everyone back except for our center and two wide outs from last year's primary group. There are also a lot of guys back that did not start, but they played a specific roll in the offense. Chris Sparrow is technically a back up, but he started the last four games last year. He is a good player and nothing changes when he is in there. So, I would expect our offense to be a bit more cohesive, especially a couple weeks ago when we were just getting started. I have enjoyed seeing some of our defensive players improve this spring and the entire unit is becoming a bit more cohesive. Regardless of age, you have to remember none of these kids have been in the same system for back-to-back years until now. Last year, a guy would make a mistake and have no idea why. Now, there is more two-way communication going on out there. We are playing a little faster at times. We are still making some mistakes and are lacking consistency at times, but we are getting better. Ideally, you want both units to have modest success on a daily basis to keep it competitive and to keep everyone humble.
Heading into the last week of practice. Do you add, change or adjust leading up to the Spring Game?
We have three sessions left, including the Spring Game Saturday. Tuesday's practice will be in full pads and will include three team periods. Wednesday, we will back off a bit physically and focus more time on game situations and special teams. Our installation on offense and defense is basically complete. We have a few special teams wrinkles to look at next week. With one less practice this coming week, we hope to get their legs fresh for a long scrimmage in front of the fans on Saturday. In addition to the Spring Game, we are looking forward to the football alumni career night event on Friday night. Several former players from various professions will be back on campus to speak to our student-athletes about their experiences since graduating from Ball State. It is one of the highlights of the year in my opinion.