2013 Ball State football's 10 things to know: A track record and some turnover

USA TODAY Sports

Ball State's Pete Lembo might be one of the more underrated coaches in the country. He has churned out 11 winning seasons in 12 years at three different schools. He will probably make it 12 in 13 this fall.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Pete Lembo is really, really underrated

The Ball State head coach has taken on three incredibly disparate coaching jobs -- the "no scholarships, but high expectations" Lehigh job, the "building something from nothing" Elon job, and now the Ball State job. And in 12 years as a head coach, he has experienced one losing season.

He inherited a nice Lehigh program from Kevin Higgins, went 11-1 in his first season, and won at least eight games in each of the next four years. At Elon, he inherited a Southern Conference program that was all-potential, minimal-production; the Phoenix had gone just 14-42 in the five years before his arrival. He went 5-6 in Year 1, then reeled off four straight winning seasons and a 2009 FCS playoff appearance. And at Ball State, he inherited a team in serious flux. The Cardinals had gone 12-2 in 2008, Brady Hoke's final year in charge, but they went just 6-18 in two years under Stan Parrish. Lembo engineered an immediate, two-game improvement in 2011, then reeled off a surprising 9-4 season in 2012.

In just over a decade, Lembo has won, and won pretty big, in the Patriot League (northeastern, with mostly need-based aid for players), the Southern Conference (an FCS powerhouse), and the MAC (a midwestern mid-major).

"One stat that one of my assistants threw at me recently: There are only seven head coaches that have won nine or more games at three or more schools," Lembo told me. He's one of them.

Nobody thought much of it when Ball State hired him two years ago ("To satisfy the constituent base, it's easier to say you just hired a Notre Dame assistant" instead of an FCS guy, Lembo says), but he has done impressive things in a short amount of time.

There isn't much flash to Lembo's style or his team.

"We don't have big egos, and we're not self-promoters," he said. "But we do believe in what we do and how we do it. It always gets back to culture, to organizational behavior. If the coaches are unified and have great chemistry, and if they keep their composure in close-and-late situations, when it's stressful, and there's a lot at stake, then it trickles down to the team."

It's kind of boring, really, but Ball State's improvement has been anything but. The Cardinals ranked 112th in the 2010 F/+ rankings, improved to 95th in 2011 and surged to 65th in 2012. Keep that up, and he'll soon get a chance to win nine games at a fourth school, this time in a BCS conference.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 3-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 64
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug Eastern Michigan 37-26 W 27.1 - 30.6 L
8-Sep at Clemson 27-52 L 27.3 - 28.0 L
15-Sep at Indiana 41-39 W 23.7 - 31.7 L
22-Sep South Florida 31-27 W 32.3 - 41.2 L
29-Sep at Kent State 43-45 L 38.7 - 33.4 W
6-Oct Northern Illinois 23-35 L 37.0 - 29.0 W
13-Oct Western Michigan 30-24 W 26.9 - 28.8 L
20-Oct at Central Michigan 41-30 W 30.7 - 33.1 L
27-Oct at Army 30-22 W 24.2 - 24.5 L
6-Nov at Toledo 34-27 W 29.4 - 31.0 L
14-Nov Ohio 52-27 W 58.3 - 28.2 W
23-Nov at Miami (Ohio) 31-24 W 18.0 - 25.5 L
21-Dec vs. Central Florida 17-38 L 26.2 - 33.3 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 33.6 33 32.0 93
Adj. Points Per Game 30.8 47 30.6 89

2. Wins without stats

In essence, Ball State was the Kansas State of mid-majors last year, dominating the special teams and field position battles, finishing drives (as you see below, their red zone rankings were better than their overall offensive rankings), taking few chances, and proving more than happy to let opponents shoot themselves in the feet. The Cardinals' offense was quite efficient, if short in big-play ability, the offensive line was fantastic, and while the defense was lacking, there was usually a cap on its struggle; BSU's D was usually below average but rarely catastrophic.

Ball State also improved as the year progressed, at last until the last couple of games.

Adj. Points per game (first 4 games): Opponent 32.9, Ball State 27.6 (minus-5.3)
Adj. Points per game (next 7 games): Ball State 35.0, Opponent 29.7 (plus-5.3)
Adj. Points per game (last 2 games): Opponent 29.4, Ball State 22.1 (minus-7.3)

The Cardinals managed to take out Indiana and South Florida without playing particularly well, then played pretty well in losses to Kent State and Northern Illinois. The offense was magnificent against Ohio then mediocre at best in the final two games, but the defense continued to steadily improve.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 27 68 44 90
RUSHING 28 74 60 83
PASSING 47 68 37 89
Standard Downs 57 26 83
Passing Downs 101 104 101
Redzone 45 22 71
Q1 Rk 54 1st Down Rk 65
Q2 Rk 69 2nd Down Rk 82
Q3 Rk 77 3rd Down Rk 66
Q4 Rk 88

3. An underdog-friendly offense

Ball State was lacking in explosiveness in 2012, but the Cardinals got a little crafty in moving the ball. They threw more than normal on standard downs, they ran more than normal on passing downs, they passed in the red zone, and they operated at an abnormal pace (in this case, a fast one). Ball State was far from predictable, checking off quite a few Underdog Tactics boxes in the process.

4. Wanted: big plays

Craftiness is great. Explosiveness is better. With Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks running behind an excellent line and Keith Wenning completing a host of high-percentage passes (often on running downs), Ball State was excellent at grinding out five yards at a time. But in college football, big plays create margin for error, and the Cardinals were lacking in this regard. Edwards was not particularly explosive (6.1 yards per carry is good, but it was based a lot on the line), and Wenning averaged just 10.3 yards per completion. None of Wenning's top four targets averaged even 13 yards per catch. This is, of course, a problem.

That most of BSU's skill position weapons return is certainly not a bad thing. But if a youngster with big-play ability were to emerge -- the best candidate is probably sophomore receiver KeVonn Mabon, last year's No. 5 target, though some redshirt freshmen (receiver Efe Scott-Emuakpor, perhaps) or freshmen (running back Teddy Williamson?) could certainly play a role -- the offense's upside might rise enough to offset the downside of a line ravaged by graduation.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Keith Wenning 6'3, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 301 460 3,095 65.4% 24 10 11 2.3% 6.4
Kelly Page


16 29 178 55.2% 3 0 1 3.3% 5.6
Kyle Kamman 6'2, 180 So. NR 0 1 0 0.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 0.0
Jack Miles 6'1, 195 Fr. ** (5.4)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Jahwan Edwards RB 5'10, 225 Jr. ** (5.2) 232 1,410 6.1 4.7 14 +15.7
Horactio Banks RB 5'10, 184 So. ** (5.4) 113 586 5.2 5.8 4 +1.4
Barrington Scott RB 93 374 4.0 2.8 1 -11.6
Keith Wenning QB 6'3, 220 Sr. *** (5.5) 45 173 3.8 3.0 3 -4.9
Kelly Page QB 15 97 6.5 3.6 1 +1.4
Toney Williams RB 9 44 4.9 2.8 1 +0.4
Jamill Smith WR-Z 5'8, 140 Sr. NR 7 62 8.9 7.1 0 +2.7
Dwayne Donigan RB 5 18 3.6 1.0 0 -0.6
Teddy Williamson RB 5'10, 184 Fr. ** (5.4)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Willie Snead WR-X 5'11, 193 Jr. *** (5.5) 139 89 1148 64.0% 8.3 29.4% 68.3% 8.2 117.8
Jamill Smith WR-Z 5'8, 140 Sr. NR 103 69 706 67.0% 6.9 21.8% 67.0% 6.8 72.4
Zane Fakes TE 6'3, 237 Sr. ** (4.9) 81 57 461 70.4% 5.7 17.2% 72.8% 5.8 47.3
Connor Ryan WR-W 6'1, 194 Sr. ** (5.2) 60 44 357 73.3% 6.0 12.7% 70.0% 6.1 36.6
KeVonn Mabon WR-X 6'3, 208 So. ** (5.3) 30 23 335 76.7% 11.2 6.4% 73.3% 10.7 34.4
Jahwan Edwards RB 5'10, 225 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 10 51 76.9% 3.9 2.8% 53.8% 4.2 5.2
Jack Tomlinson WR 10 5 49 50.0% 4.9 2.1% 50.0% 4.8 5.0
Chris Shillings WR-Z 6'1, 205 Jr. ** (5.4) 9 4 51 44.4% 5.7 1.9% 66.7% 5.9 5.2
Horactio Banks RB 5'10, 184 So. ** (5.4) 9 5 29 55.6% 3.2 1.9% 33.3% 4.8 3.0
David Schneider TE 6'2, 240 Sr. ** (5.3) 8 5 23 62.5% 2.9 1.7% 87.5% 2.0 2.4
Dylan Curry TE 6'5, 260 So. *** (5.5) 4 3 51 75.0% 12.8 0.8% 75.0% 12.8 5.2
Barrington Scott RB 3 2 14 66.7% 4.7 0.6% 100.0% 2.8 1.4
Trey Gardner WR 6'4, 216 So. ** (5.4)








Efe Scott-Emuakpor WR 6'3, 183 RSFr. *** (5.5)








Calvin Blank TE 6'4, 226 Fr. *** (5.6)








Ralph Smith WR 5'9, 166 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. Jamill Smith really is 5'8, 140

That's pretty awesome.

Smith carries a pretty big load for the offense, too; he averaged 8.5 touches (carries and targets) per game in 2012 and returned 33 kicks and 11 punts. He is probably better as a return man than a receiver, but his shiftiness is valuable to this efficiency attack.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 103.6 3.37 3.12 41.1% 65.3% 13.4% 209.8 1.3% 4.8%
Rank 56 8 72 39 78 3 11 4 36
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Austin Holtz LT 32 career starts; 2012 1st All-MAC
Cameron Lowry RT 32 career starts; 2012 3rd All-MAC
Jordan Hansel RG 6'4, 326 Sr. ** (5.2) 27 career starts; 2012 3rd All-MAC
Dan Manick C 38 career starts
Kitt O'Brien LG 37 career starts
Jacob Richard C 6'1, 285 So. NR 3 career starts
Chris Sparrow LG 3 career starts
Matthew Page LT 6'6, 300 Sr. ** (5.2) 2 career starts
Jalen Schlachter LG 6'6, 317 So. *** (5.6) 1 career start
Drake Miller OL 6'4, 289 RSFr. ** (5.4)
P.J. Scott OL 6'3, 290 Jr. ** (5.2)
Haris Vrabac OL 6'7, 310 Fr. ** (5.4)
Pat Maloney OL 6'4, 270 Fr. ** (5.4)
Vinnie Palazeti OL 6'4, 285 Fr. ** (5.4)

6. A really good line replaces some really good pieces

Ball State's line ranked eighth in the country in Line Yards per carry on standard downs and ranked third in Stuff Rate (the ability to avoid getting a runner stuffed in the backfield). It kept Keith Wenning upright, as well (though the quick passing game is pretty naturally good at sack avoidance).

It was quite obviously the biggest strength of the offense as a whole, and it must now replace four multi-year starters. Austin Holtz, Cameron Lowry, Dan Manick and Kitt O'Brien combined for 139 career starts; all four started at least 32 games, or more than two and a half seasons. It is nearly impossible to suffer this kind of loss and avoid regression to some degree. Returning guard Jordan Hansel is a two-time all-conference selection, and three other returnees have gotten a little bit of starting experience. And size certainly won't be an issue here. But wow, did this unit lose a lot.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 105 68 60 75
RUSHING 108 60 48 68
PASSING 96 74 89 72
Standard Downs 65 69 65
Passing Downs 76 59 82
Redzone 110 111 96
Q1 Rk 63 1st Down Rk 61
Q2 Rk 87 2nd Down Rk 91
Q3 Rk 19 3rd Down Rk 76
Q4 Rk 113

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 93.9 3.36 3.82 40.2% 75.0% 13.9% 100.1 4.7% 5.2%
Rank 86 117 113 75 106 121 62 62 86
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nick Miles DE 6'2, 265 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 40.5 5.3% 4.5 2 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Newsome DE 6'3, 236 Sr. *** (5.7) 11 38.5 5.1% 12.5 8.5 0 1 0 0
Nathan Ollie DT 6'1, 295 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 35.5 4.7% 8 4 0 0 0 1
Brandon Newman NT 13 22.5 3.0% 5 2.5 1 0 1 0
Joel Cox DT 6'1, 288 Sr. ** (5.3) 13 11.0 1.4% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Donovan Jarrett DT 7 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Ayers DE 6'1, 218 So. NR 12 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Keenan Noel DE 6'1, 270 So. ** (5.4) 13 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Osa Igbinosun DE 6'2, 245 So. ** (5.2) 12 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Darnell Smith DT 5'11, 275 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Garces DE 6'2, 223 Fr. ** (5.4)

Anthony Winbush DE 6'3, 220 Fr. ** (5.4)






7. Wanted: beef

As big and strong as the Ball State offensive line will be, the defensive line could use a bit more of a push. The Cardinals got shoved around up front on defense, and it cost them significantly. The pass rush had potential -- Ohio State transfer Jonathan Newsome had 8.5 sacks -- and Ball State's linebackers cleaned up quite a bit of messes. But the top three linebackers are all gone, and the safety net has been removed.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Travis Freeman MLB 13 89.5 11.8% 2.5 0 0 2 1 0
Tony Martin WLB 13 64.0 8.4% 3.5 1 1 3 0 1
Justin Cruz WLB 13 44.5 5.9% 3 0 0 0 0 0
Kenneth Lee LB 6'2, 224 Sr. NR 12 28.0 3.7% 2.5 1 0 1 1 1
Ben Ingle MLB 6'0, 224 So. ** (5.3) 12 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Julian Boyd LB 6'2, 220 Jr. ** (5.3) 9 4.0 0.5% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Trent Toothman LB 6'0, 236 Jr. ** (5.4) 5 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stephan Martin LB 6'1, 230 Jr. ** (5.4)

Sean Wiggins LB 6'3, 235 Fr. ** (5.4)

Stu Stanley LB 6'1, 210 Fr. ** (5.4)






8. Selective attrition

Is it better to lose an equal number of contributors at each unit on the field, or would you prefer to return most units intact and have to focus on a couple of specific, ravaged units? Ball State returns almost everybody of importance at quarterback, running back, receiver, on the defensive line, and in the secondary. But wow, did the offensive line and linebacking corps get ravaged. Ball State's linebackers were underrated last year -- only one (Travis Freeman) received any sort of all-conference honor (second-team), but the linebackers clearly helped the run defense out tremendously: the Cardinals' line stats were poor, but they still ranked a healthy 60th in overall Rushing S&P+.

Now, a lineup consisting of senior Kenneth Lee (who began his career at tiny St. Joseph's College in Indiana), a host of young reserves, junior college transfer Stephan Martin (who redshirted last year) and potentially some freshmen will attempt to provide the same type of safety net Ball State benefited from in 2012.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Eric Patterson CB 5'10, 193 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 53.0 7.0% 4.5 0 2 9 1 0
Jarrett Swaby SS 13 52.0 6.9% 1.5 0 0 3 0 0
Jeffery Garrett CB 6'0, 186 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 47.5 6.3% 1 0 0 6 0 0
J.C. Wade FS 5'10, 195 Jr. ** (5.3) 12 41.5 5.5% 0 0 0 5 1 0
Quintin Cooper NB 5'7, 184 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 39.5 5.2% 1 0 2 2 0 1
Brian Jones SS 5'10, 195 Jr. *** (5.5) 10 27.5 3.6% 1 0 1 1 0 1
Jason Pinkston CB 12 22.0 2.9% 1.5 0 0 4 1 0
Chris Pauling FS 5'9, 183 So. ** (5.3) 8 14.0 1.8% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Armand Dehaney CB 5 9.0 1.2% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Joseph Fazio FS 5'11, 208 Sr. NR 13 7.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Christopher Calloway NB 5'11, 202 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Andre Dawson CB 8 3.5 0.5% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Kish S 5 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Tyree Holder CB 5'11, 163 RSFr. ** (5.3)

Aaron Taylor S 5'11, 191 RSFr. ** (5.4)






Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Scott Kovanda 47 40.3 2 19 27 97.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Scott Secor 5'8, 166 Jr. 84 60.3 23 27.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Steven Schott 50-51 16-20 80.0% 9-12 75.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jamill Smith KR 5'8, 140 Sr. 33 25.6 0
Jahwan Edwards KR 5'10, 225 Jr. 7 16.7 0
Jamill Smith PR 5'8, 140 Sr. 11 13.8 0
Jack Tomlinson PR 5 5.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 5
Net Punting 23
Net Kickoffs 89
Touchback Pct 90
Field Goal Pct 36
Kick Returns Avg 30
Punt Returns Avg 28

9. A reload on special teams

Like Kent State, Ball State did itself serious favors with an altogether lovely special teams unit. Kickoffs were an issue, but the Cardinals were tremendous in the punting and return games and sufficient in the place-kicking department. But with both punter Scott Kovanda and kicker Steven Schott gone, there is a bit of a rebuild going on. And with how much field position meant to BSU in 2012 -- the Cardinals ranked 23rd in Field Position Advantage and fifth in Special Teams F/+ -- the loss of these two could mean as much as the losses on the line and at linebacker.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug Illinois State NR
7-Sep Army 103
14-Sep at North Texas 112
21-Sep at Eastern Michigan 118
28-Sep Toledo 62
5-Oct at Virginia 65
12-Oct Kent State 80
19-Oct at Western Michigan 93
26-Oct at Akron 120
6-Nov Central Michigan 96
13-Nov at Northern Illinois 50
29-Nov Miami (Ohio) 106
Five-Year F/+ Rk 89
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 107
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -3 / +2.2
TO Luck/Game -2.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (7, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** -0.8

10. Another October surge would be welcome

Last year, Ball State found its groove in late-September and cruised through October and much of November. It will be a little more difficult to do that this time around; after a light September that features four opponents projected 103rd or worse, Ball State's schedule features a season-defining stretch: Toledo, at Virginia, Kent State, at Western Michigan. Go 3-1 or 4-0 here, and you're potentially heading into November as the favorite in the MAC West. Go 1-3 or 0-4, and your bowl hopes are on life support.

Over the past 12 years, Pete Lembo has ground out winning season after winning season, and I expect him to do so again in 2013. The attrition on the offensive line and in the kicking unit is particularly worrisome considering how important those two units were to Ball State's success, and because of that I don't see BSU putting together a serious threat to win the MAC West. But with a positive home schedule and winnable road trips to North Texas, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Akron, bowl eligibility is likely. Plus, I'm willing to bet on proven track records.

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