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Courtesy: Ball State Athletics

Cardinals Making Names for Themselves at NFL Combine

Courtesy: Ball State Athletics
Release: February 21, 2014
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Catch Joel Godett's live blog updates from the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.  Joel's talking with Keith Wenning, Willie Snead and Jonathon Newsome over the next two days along with other players from around the country along with experts and beat writers.


UPDATE 9/22 5:15 PM:

       Willie Snead was the final of what seemed like a barrage of wide receivers to come to the media center around 4pm.  He was also the last of the three Cardinals to make his rounds and he didn't hold back as far as expectations go for himself.  Check out the full video of Snead from Lucas Oil Stadium here.  Some of the highlights are below.

"I'm going to show them I can run great routes...I'm going to catch every pass in this combine"

"I am one of the best in this draft.  I really believe that.  I'm just ready to show off tomorrow and show what I can do."

       Snead also pointed out that the Browns and Patriots have already spoken to him and that the Browns seemed really interested.  Some questions came up about his father, who also played in the league, and Willie said one of his goals is to play longer than his dad's three year stint.

UPDATE 9/22 4:59 PM:

        Jon Newsome met with the media earlier this afternoon.  Here is a link to the video.  Among the things Newsome talked about were his defensive back workouts to help with dropping into coverage.  He also discussed the fact that being at the Combine is a dream come true and the obstacles he's gone through in his life up to this point.

       Newsome was also asked about his thoughts on LB Michael Sam.  Newsome replied that all he sees are "sacks, strip sacks." He said all he sees is a football player and that he would love to have him as a teammate.

UPDATE 9/22 2:13 PM:

        Michael Sam's press conference lasted 15 minutes.  Almost every member of the media in attendance stopped to take notice.  During Sam's presser Arkansas State DT Ryan Carrethers came out to speak to the other four members of the media.  I wandered in that direction and asked him about the GoDaddy Bowl.  This is what he said.

"[Keith Wenning]'s a great player. I think he made moves when he had to...that explains why he's here."

"Our offense definitely had some troubles and I'm sure [Jonathon Newsome] was one of the main causes for it."

"I'm the one that blocked [the last second field goal to tie].  We were talking in practice that we block field goals all the time.  So it was like 'we're going to block it, we're going to block it.  We were talking for about 10 minutes on the sideline and we were just ready to go.  When they ball hiked it we just fired off of them and we actually tipped it.  We hit it.  It was an outstanding feeling."

.....for him.

UPDATE 9/22 12:17 PM:

        Chatted for a while with Russ Lande, the Director of College Scouting for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and a former NFL scout.  He's also an analyst for the B1G Network and  He knows the Ball State trio at the Combine well and had this to say about each of them:

     On the overall rise of the BSU program:

"They've upgraded Ball State to the point were it's no longer a fluke guy who gets to the NFL Combine.  Now it's they regularly have guys who are legitimately NFL prospects so they're going to be coming to the Combine."

       On Keith Wenning's prospects at the next level:

"There's a lot of things to like about him.  He's a leader.  This kid knows how to take command of a team.  But when you watch the film he's really impressive.  He gets rid of the ball quickly, very accurate thrower, doesn't put the ball into bad spots.  I think he has all the tools to play at the next level.  I think the two things that NFL teams want to see from him a little bit more are how he's going to adjust to when the DBs are faster, because there are times he'll make some throws where he looks and sort of eyes his guy.  You can't do that at the NFL level."

        On concerns over Wenning:

"The other thing teams are questioning after the East-West Shrine Game…the arm strength was okay.  It wasn't great.  That's going to be the big challenge when he gets to the NFL.  Does that arm strength translate to starter or is he going to be limited to being a backup."  

        On if Wenning can start:

"He's right on that border of being just good enough to start, or not good enough.  But I tell you what, mentally it's all there and I've always believed most quarterbacks in the NFL succeed or fail based on how strong they are mentally."

         On Wenning's draft potential:

"He's going to be drafted.  Would it shock me if he went in the fourth?  No.  I'd be a little surprised if he went in the 7th."

         On Willie Snead's prospects:

"Obviously lacking the great size and not being an explosive kid, that's your concern with him.  But when you watch him play what you see is a kid who runs good routes, knows how to get open.  He seems to have a feel for defenders.  He seems to understand when they're on his hip, how to get away a little bit." 

        On Willie Snead's ability:

"Is he going to be able to do those things at the next level because he lacks explosiveness.  He's more of a smooth athlete.  He must prove he can get away."

        On Willie Snead being able to play special teams:

"If he goes there and balls out on [special] teams during the offseason and training camp, oh he has an opportunity to make a team."

        On What Snead has to show in workouts at the Combine:

"He has to have good workouts.  It doesn't mean he has to run in the 4.4's, but he has to look good, run decently, under 4.6 would be ideal...Obviously the great thing for him is with Wenning being the guy that he is…generally, players that are on teams with quarterbacks that are highly regarded prospects get drafted a little bit higher than other guys because more people look at them closely because they're watching the film anyway."

        On Jon Newsome's position in the NFL

"Can he display that he has a knack for getting to the quarterback.  If he does, even if they don't think he's good enough to contribute, they may cut him and put him on the practice squad maybe try to add weight or maybe get him playing better off the ball in space -- whatever it may be so they can find a way to eventually use him as a pass rusher."

       On if Newsome can show he can get a quick first step and get to the quarterback:

"If he can prove that he'll have an opportunity to carve out a spot in the NFL."

UPDATE 9/22 11:01 AM: 

         Spoke to Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome at the podium.  Baltimore runs a 3-4 defensive front which would seem to fit the likes of Jonathon Newsome.  Ozzie Newsome's reaction to Jon Newsome was two-fold:

1 - "Is he related to me?"  I replied no.  Ozzie is from Alabama.  Jon is from Cleveland.

2 - "We've had these guys.  I mean, Peter Boulware way back in '97 was a defensive end at Florida State, [Terrell] Suggs was a [defensive end at Arizona State].  So we've had those guys before.  What our coordinator's try to do, what our head coaches try to do is put them in a position where whatever strenghts that they have, they can get a chance to show those strengths in pracitce or on Sundays or Mondays or Thursdays."

UPDATE 9/21 5:21PM: 

         Final blog post of the day today...Keith Wenning did come and speak to the media around 3:30pm.  No Willie Snead sightings today as he was too busy with, you know, the reason he's here.  We'll try to catch up with him Saturday.  In the mean time, here's the link to the full video.

UPDATE 9/21  4:33PM:

      Still waiting on Willie Snead to arrive in the media area.  In the meantime, spoke with John Elway, the Denver GM.  The Broncos drafted Maimi QB Zac Dysert in the seventh round last year, so they're likely out fo the QB market in 2014.  But that being said, they certainly know what they want in a later round QB to develop.  

"I think you have to see the potential.  You have to see the ability, the raw potential of the arm strength, the ability to move around, the ability process information.  Those are the three things that you try to find out about a quarterback.  Then it's up to us at that point in time to coach them and see if they can mature and see if they can become the player that you want them to become at the position.  You've got to have the ability there first and then hopefully we can get it out of ya."

UPDATE 9/21 2:53 PM:

    Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin hails from the Glades area of Florida.  He and Willie Snead go back a ways with Snead's father having been the coach at Benjamin's alma mater Glades Central not long ago.  Spoke to the national champion WR today:

"I met [Snead's] dad before I got to high school and started playing football.  His dad was the head coach there until my coach stepped in there, Jessie Hester.  Just seeing Willie at the same level I'm at, it's really exciting.  I watched him all season at Ball State making the great catches he was making, the great effort he was doing to put his team in successful positions."

UPDATE 9/21 2:02 PM:

     Colts GM Ryan Grigson took the podium.  I caught up with him on his way off and asked him about the three Cards at the Combine:

"We like those guys.  They all can play.  I feel like they all have a place in this league.  It just depends on who likes them enough to take them in the draft and afterwards.  We just had draft meetings and we talk about all those guys.  If some of those guys don't get drafted, it's nice to know they're an hour away.  We'll definitely have Ball state blanketed.  We always do.  

"This past year I actually wanted to go there to see a couple of those guys…but it's hard during the season getting away.  I actually wanted to take my one of my kids with me…one of my boys, but its so hard during the season getting out of the office when you have the roster mechanics to deal with every second of the day.  But what Coach Lembo has done there is outstanding and there's more and more players coming out of there every year.  I wish nothing but the best for [those] guys."

UPDATE 9/21 1:28PM:

    New Mexico State WR Austin Franklin is like Willie Snead.  Both are under six feet tall, from non-BCS AQ programs and are both early entries into the draft.  Here were his thoughts on the WR class in this draft:

"Its a good draft class.  Probably, I wouldn't say number one, but it's probably one of the best.  We got a lot of people that came out this year.  I told myself when I was playing I was comparing myself to Sammy [Watkins], [Marquise] Lee, and [Brandin] Cooks.  I was competing with them.  I was showing everybody I could compete with them even though I'm not at a big school.  When they left I told myself I didn't want to play against anybody else, because they were my competition

   On having to prove yourself being under six feet tall:

"Just showing heart, being confident in yourself.  Even though you're not 6-1, 6-2, you have to play like you're that height."

    On needing to run good routes in the NFL and how that can set you apart: 

"Of course!  Now that you're in the pros, route running has to be on pointe."

UPDATE 9/21 1:16PM:

    Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the hot "under the radar" names among the group at the NFL combine.  He played against NIU's Jordan Lynch in the regular season and against Keith Wenning in the Shrine Game.  He spoka about both MAC quarterbacks.

"Great guys.  I mean both of them are standup guys.  Jordan's from the Chicagoland area like me so we get along real well.  Keith was on the other side at the East-West game, so I didn't get to meet him too much but we've sat down and had a couple meals together.  Both of them…very good quarterbacks.

      Specifically on Wenning's skill set:

"He gets the ball out quickly. He's a very quick decision maker and that's really a tribute to him and his knowledge of the game really."

UPDATE 9/21 12:24 PM:

    Spoke to NIU QB Jordan Lynch.  He was the first quarterback to address the media...followed quickly by Johnny Football.  Needless to say the media circus quickly shifted focus.  Here's what he had to say about MAC QB's having success in the NFL:

"You know, it's Division I football.  There's grew players all around the country and with the Mid-American Conference, kind of the spread offense, the run and gun, there's great quarterbacks.  It's great league.  We beat a lot of BCS teams every year.  We take down a lot of Big Ten teams.  We get great kids in this conference who get over looked by bigger schools because it's either we're too slow, or too short, or some knock on us so no one takes us and we end up at a MAC school.

      I asked Lynch about working out with Keith Wenning in Indianapolis.  That prompted the retort of "are you from Ball State?"  With an answer of yes he then replied:

"He's a great kid and he's a true competitor."

UPDATE 9/21 11:50 AM:

   Spoke with Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon, who is working out with Keith Wenning at St. Vincent    Sports Performance in Indianapolis.  His thoughts on Wenning were impressive:

[He's got a] nice touch.  Every ball is on the money.  Training with him has been a very fun experience for me.  He's a good guy.  He's a good quarterback. 

   When asked if Wenning is underrated in the QB class: 

"He's good enough in my eyes.  If it's one out of 10, I'd give him a 10."

   Spoke to Atlanta Falcons GM Tom Dimitroff at the podium.  The Falcons drafted a QB to play and develop behind Matt Ryan in the seventh round last year.  His thoughts on using later round picks on the QB position:

"Quarterback obliviously is a very interesting position.  It's one of the more difficult positions to evaluate.  There's so much involved.  I had the good fortune of being around Tom Brady in New England, and now Matt Ryan, to get a real good feel of what we're looking for in a quaterback.  Leadership aspects of a quarterback, its much more than strong arm and 6-5 height.  It's about the entire package.  It's very important for us and it's very important, I've seen it before and I think it's very important that you continue to develop a guy thats going to be a legitimate deuce and maybe even more to parlay into a trade opportunities, which obviously NE has done in the past.  But the later picks, I think being creative with the later picks, and holding onto those guys is an important part of your scouting process and one of the big topics of conversation right now is where we are with player development in this league and it's going to be a very important part of this league.

UPDATE 9/21 10:50 AM:

    Super Bowl Champion coach Pete Carroll took the podium and questions immediatly began about undersized quarterbacks.  With Willie Snead in mind, the conversation got shifted to undersized wide receivers.  The Seahawks have one in Doug Baldwin at just 5-10.  Here's what Carroll said.

"Look back to the history.  There are great football players who are 5-8 playing out there and guys that are 6-3 playing out there.  There's a lot fewer of the tall guys, cause it's hard to be really tall and fast.  So it all goes back to the makeup of the player.  I'm watching [Clemson's] Sammy Watkins take the stage and he gets measured today.  I think he's 6-1, 211 lbs.  Okay, what separates that guy?  What makes him such a great football player.  It's all the other elements.  It's not his height.  It's speed, it's all the other stuff that's part of his makeup.  His gifts and also the experiences he's had, the coaching he's had, the opportunity to play with great players…he had a great quarterback going through college.  All of those things make the guy what they are.  So to think that there's only certain packages and only certain standards, you're going to make mistakes that way."

Sounds a little like Willie Snead along with Sammy Watkins too.

UPDATE 9/21 9:50 AM:

   Spoke with ESPN's Jon Clayton about the prospects of players drafted in the later rounds come April.  Below are some of his thoughts.  His full interview will air next Thursday at 4pm on Cardinal Talk (102.9FM/1340AM).

On late round QB's:

"Once you get to the fifth round, what everybody does is take one or two main qualities…and then try to build on it.  What you want to try to do is you realize, you can have the guy for four years, but you've got to see where the upside is.  But if there's one unique, or one or two unique things that that player can do, than you ant to try to translate that in and make him a draft choice."

   The proliferation of young QB's in the NFL:

"Teams are taking younger QB's and if they show some promise keeping them as the backup or keeping them as the third with the idea of developing them into a backup."  So there's more opportunities now for guys taken in the lower rounds getting the chance to become a backup."

    On the rising success of slot receivers in the NFL:

"They're actually having a better chance right now than they've ever had," Clayton said while referencing Seattle's Doug Baldwin and Denver's Wes Welker.

"More teams are adopting the college spread systems and because of that it's creating opportunities for, not possessions guys, but slot guys.  If you can get open and beat a cornerback internally, there's a great future.  Now, you might have to bounce around to a couple teams, but once you find that right team…"


Ball State’s football team will have three participants at the National Football League Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.

Jonathan Newsome, Willie Snead and Keith Wenning will all be participating in the NFL Combine and be given a chance to showcase their skills for coaches and administrators from all NFL teams.

Ball State’s Joel Godett will be in attendance and update the Cardinals participation in the event daily on

Snead and Wenning’s positions will work out Sunday, while Newsome’s position group will go Monday.

The entire combine will be televised by NFL Network, starting at 9 a.m. ET every day from Saturday to Tuesday, and will be live-streaming the event as well.

Newsome, who was a three-time Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive Player of the Week in 2013, started 12 games last fall and 22 in his two seasons at Ball State after transferring from Ohio State.  Newsome ranked sixth for the Cardinals with 64 total tackles, while leading the team with 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the season.  He was named to the All-MAC First Team after being honored on the All-MAC Second Team in 2012.

Snead, a junior wide receiver on Ball State's 2013 football team, completed the 2013 season with Ball State single-season records in receptions (106), receiving yards (1,516) and receiving touchdowns (15).  His 1,516 receiving yards in the 2013 season ranked third in the nation.   Snead completed his Ball State career ranked second in receiving yards (2,991), second in passes caught (223), second in touchdown catches (26) and first in 100-yard receiving games (13).  Snead was named to the 2013 All-Mid-American Conference First Team and was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award this past season.

Wenning, senior quarterback who was named Ball State’s John Magnabosco Award winner as the team’s most valuable players on offense this past fall, set Ball State single-season school records for passing yards (4,148), pass attempts (498), pass completions (319) and touchdown passes (35) in 2013.  In addition, the All-Mid-American Conference Second-Team selection, also set career records for the Cardinals for passing yards (11,402), pass attempts (1,642), pass completions (1,035) and touchdown passes (92).

Ball State, under the direction of head coach Pete Lembo, tallied a 10-3 overall record in 2013 and competed in the GoDaddy Bowl.  It marked a second consecutive season the Cardinals competed in a bowl game and only the second time in school history for bowl appearances in back-to-back bowl seasons.

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