SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Ball St. Cardinals

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Brady Hoke (1st year)
2002 record: 6-6
MAC finish: 4th (West)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 162.9 ypg
(7th in MAC, 49th in nation)
Pass: 178.7 ypg (9th, 87th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 169.1 ypg (10th, 80th)
Pass: 236.2 ypg (11th, 86th)
Projected Starters
Offense (4 returning starters in bold)
WR   87   Ryan Hahaj   So.  
WR  19  Larry Bostic  So. 
LT  69  Joel Hofmann  Sr. 
LG   71   Jeff Ramsey   Jr.  
70  Nick Tabacca  Jr. 
RG  67  Mike Brown  Fr. 
RT   62   Travis Barclay   Sr.  
TE  82  Mark Franklin  Jr. 
QB   12   Andy Roesch   Sr.  
FB  45  Brad Salyer  Fr. 
TB  32  Scott Blair  Jr. 
Defense (6)
DE  97  Riley Larimore  Fr. 
DT   55   Greg Pagnard   Sr.  
DT   65   Conrad Slaughter   Jr.  
DE  45  Paul Strabavy  Sr. 
SLB   56   Justin Riley   Sr.  
MLB  23  Donta Smith  So. 
WLB   47   Lorenzo Scott   Sr.  
CB   1   Jesse Avant   Sr.  
CB  11  Quentin Manley  Sr. 
FS  16  Douglas Owusu  Sr. 
SS   31   Justin Beriault   Jr.  
Special Teams
10  Phil Cunningham  Sr. 
30  Reggie Hodges  Sr. 
KR  19  Larry Bostic  So. 
PR  87  Ryan Hahaj  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Indiana State 
Sept. 6  Missouri 
Sept. 13  at Pittsburgh 
Sept. 20  Central Michigan 
Sept. 27  at Boston College 
Oct. 4  at Kent State 
Oct. 18  Miami (OH) 
Oct. 25  Toledo 
Nov. 1  at Northern Illinois 
Nov. 8  at Western Michigan 
Nov. 15  at Eastern Michigan 
Nov. 22  Bowling Green 
Brady Hoke returns to his alma mater to take over for Bill Lynch, who was let go after a sixth consecutive non-winning season in Muncie. Hoke boasts an impressive résumé that includes eight seasons as an assistant at Michigan under Lloyd Carr. He was elevated to associate head coach prior to the 2002 season and helped guide the Wolverines to a top-10 finish in the final Associated Press poll.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Ball State's offense, which returns just four starters, has numerous issues heading into the 2003 season. The biggest concern for Hoke is finding a replacement for Marcus Merriweather and his school-record 4,002 career rushing yards.

"We've got to find a guy that we can count on to replace Marcus," Hoke said. "That position is vital to our success and what we want to do offensively." Scott Blair and Charles Wynn are the main candidates, but they accounted for only 256 rushing yards last season.

Andy Roesch started the final seven games at quarterback and threw 15 touchdowns. The fifth-year senior took over for Talmadge Hill, who had started the previous 23 games. Roesch has to be considered the favorite, but Hoke says the quarterback race is wide open.

The quarterback, whether it's Roesch or Hill, will be throwing to a talented group of wide receivers. Dante Ridgeway didn't start a single game last year but led the Cardinals with 44 receptions and 556 receiving yards.

The offensive line finally came together late in the season, but only two starters return -- tackle Travis Barclay and guard Jeff Ramsey.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Ball State returns six starters from a unit that struggled through much of the 2002 season. The Cardinals were 11th in the league in total defense (405.3 ypg) and allowed 30 or more points six times. Hoke will play a 4-3 defense, but will be flexible to adjust to the MAC's high-powered offensive teams.

The defensive line is solid with the return of tackles Greg Pagnard and Conrad Slaughter and end Blair Kramer. The linebackers should be deep and will be counted on to produce in the new scheme. Weak-side backer Lorenzo Scott has led the Cardinals in tackles for three straight seasons. The secondary is capable of improving with a host of talented players. That's a must for a group that intercepted just 10 passes last fall. Cornerback Jesse Avant and safety Justin Beriault, who played "Hawk" in the Cardinals' former alignment, are the top returnees.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Cardinals are in good shape in the kicking game. Punter Reggie Hodges averaged 40.3 yards per kick last season. Placekicker Mike Langford hit 9-of-13 field goals, including 5-of-7 from 40-49 yards, but he will have to battle fellow senior Phil Cunningham for the job.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

The cupboard isn't bare for Hoke, a former captain and four-time letterman for the Cardinals. Ball State returns 10 starters from a 6-6 squad that won four of its last six games. The schedule, however, might make things a bit difficult with non-conference dates with Missouri, Pittsburgh and Boston College.

"My goal is every game to put a team on the field that will play with toughness and great effort," Hoke said. "If you want to win championships, you have to play great defense. That's where we need to make drastic improvement."

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