Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo answered a few questions about the Cardinals Fall Camp Practice No. 5 in preparations for the Aug. 30 season opener.
Q: Practice No. 5 was the first in full pads. Did you get accomplished what you wanted to today?
A: While we did transition to full pads today, the practice itself was not a whole lot different than the last couple sessions. We began with a walk through and a kicking specialists period. We spent a considerable amount of time working on fundamentals with individual position groups. The defense had a turnover circuit included in their plan today while the offense executed against the blitz. Special teams focused on kickoff coverage, kickoff return and PAT/field goal. We had an inside run drill, two pass skeleton periods, and two team periods. The two team periods emphasized third downs and first downs. We finished practice with a special situation. The tempo was pretty good today and the weather was perfect.
Q: The NCAA has allowed two additional graduate assistant coaches. How has that helped in practice and preparations?
A: We are really excited to have Patrick Dougherty and Gerald Chatman with us on the coaching staff this year. There was a time when the NCAA allowed five GA's at the FBS level, but it was cut to two positions in the early 90's right about when I tried to break into the profession. Since then, programs have been creative with 'quality control' and other off field positions to assist the coaches with a side of the ball, video breakdowns and student-athlete development. The addition of these two GA positions has really leveled the playing field between the programs that did not have 'quality control' positions and those that did. Pat is helping Nick Tabacca with the offensive line and Gerald is assisting Chad Wilt with the defensive line. Those are the two biggest position groups on the team, so it helps to have a second set of eyes and ears working with those players on the field as well. All four of our GA's are fortunate to have nine great assistant coaches to learn from every day. We also hope that each of our GA's finds a way to make a meaningful contribution on or off the field. Little things can make the difference in success or failure.
Q: How much time is spent on special teams during fall camp and how involved are the veterans?
A: We treat special teams as 'one third' of the game, even though there are technically more plays on offense and defense. Simply put, it is that important to us. We realize great special teams play can help us win two or three games where everything else might be even. We also understand poor special teams play can cost you a game or dramatically shift momentum in the opponent's favor. On a given day during preseason, we will have one or two special teams meetings. Coach Lustig does a great job having his meetings organized and the players know he expects them to be prepared to contribute. At practice, we typically work on two units each day plus PAT/field goal almost every day. We will typically close practice with a unique special teams situation. We have several starters also start on special teams units. Justin Lustig and I work closely with the offensive and defensive coordinators to make sure we are managing playing time properly. Sometimes you need a starter to go on a unit and other times, a backup who is fresh is a better fit. When your top players are involved, it helps send a message to the young guys that this is really an important part of who we are and what we do at Ball State.
The Cardinals will continue preparations for the season opener vs. Eastern Michigan, which is a 7 p.m. home game at Scheumann Stadium in 25 days. Ball State opens the season Thurs., Aug. 30 vs. the Eagles in a Mid-American Conference match-up.
The Cardinals posted a 6-6 overall record last season, including a 27-20 season-opening victory over Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the home of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts.
Remaining Fall Camp practice schedule is as follows:
Mon., Aug. 6 (7:15 p.m.)
Tues., Aug. 7 (Paint the Town Red in Downtown Muncie - no practice)
Wed., Aug. 8 (8 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.)
Thurs., Aug. 9 (2:15 p.m.)
Fri., Aug. 10 (8 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.)
Sat., Aug. 11 (Fan Jam - no practice)
Sun., Aug. 12 (8 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.)
Mon., Aug. 13 (2:15 p.m.)
Tues., Aug. 14 (8 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.)
Wed., Aug. 15 (No Practice)
Thurs., Aug. 16 (2:15 p.m.)
Fri., Aug. 17 (2:15 p.m.)
Sat., Aug. 18 (2:15 p.m.)
Sun., Aug. 19 (8 a.m.)