QUARTERBACK: This has been the top question mark of the summer. Losing a starting QB is tough enough, but when that QB holds almost all of the school records and was selected in the NFL Draft, the prospect of preplacing the production that Cardinal fans have come to expect from the position becomes extremely daunting.
It wasn’t until just this week that the Cardinals final “officially” named a starter in the form of Redshirt Sophomore Ozzie Mann. The 6-1 213 local product from Delta High School which lies on the outskirts of Muncie, has his hands full. Mann was lucky enough to have two seasons of tutelage under Wenning, but was only able to get mop up duty a season ago. The staff is high on Mann, who has an uncanny cool about him, but it may take him a game or two to get his feet wet.
RUNNING BACK: One major strength that Ball State has returning for 2014 is in the backfield. The Cardinals return all three of their top rushers from a season ago. That group is led by Sr. Jahwan Edwards (1,110 yards, 14 tds). The 5-10 216 power back sits less than 700 yards off of the school record and is already tops in school history at getting in the end zone. Also back is backup/change of pace back Horactio Banks (Jr., 5-8 196) who is coming off of a season ending knee injury that limited him to 595 yards. The final back returning So. Teddy Williamson (5-9 185) who added 224 yards and a touchdown.
WIDE RECEIVER: Gone are Willie Snead (106 rec, 1.516 yards), Jamill Smith (67 rec, 911 yards) and Connor Ryan (10 rec, 68 yards) from the wide receiver stable that helped propel the Cardinal offense to record setting heights as season ago. Despite the key losses, the Cardinals still return a lot of talent and experience. Back is #2 receiver Jordan Williams (72 rec, 1050 yards) and Kevonn Mabon (7 rec, 93 yards in 3 games before suffering an injury). Also back is Sr. Chris Shillings (injured in 2013) and former walk-on Aaron Hepp. All are highly talented and will be relied upon to produce. Williams and Mabon in particular have the skills to be the top WR tandem in the MAC. Williams already boasts great numbers from a season, but will have to be option #1 this season with Snead gone. Mabon, who was lost to an injury for season during week 3, is hoping to exceed his freshman output in which he showed glimpses of being a top flight athlete and deep threat. Also in the fold will be 3 true freshmen who could all potentially see time – Corey Lacanaria, who is similar in size and skill set to the departed Smith, Jordan Hogue, a polished and skilled WR, and Devin Reece, a WR with great size and speed.
TIGHT END: As with the receiving corps, the top TE target – former all-MAC pick Zane Fakes – is gone from last season along with his 41 receptions and 410 yards receiving. Looking to step up to take Fakes’ place is So. Sam Brunner who has similar skills and versatility. Also back is Dylan Curry, a large and athletic TE and Michael Raby who can also play as a FB.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Cardinals return 3 regular starters and two players that made spot starts and had plenty of playtime a season ago, making this unit a strong and reliable commodity. Back is All-MAC caliber SG Jalen Schlachter (Jr, 6-6 327) along with C Jacob Richard (Jr, 6-1 282) and QT Steven Bell (So, 6-4 298) all of whom started most games a season ago. Also back is spot starter ST Drake Miller (So, 6-5 3030) and spot starter and key reserve P.J. Scott (Sr, 6-2 310). The final starting spot is QG Jeremiah Harvey (Jr, 6-1 304) who is a former walk-on who has worked is way up the depth chart.
Stay tuned as we bring you the defensive season preview later this week.