Preview 2017: Ball State Good, But It’s Not Quite There
The Ball State Cardinals are strong, but are they ready to rise up and be a MAC star?
It’s coming, but not quite yet.
Some of the pieces are in place for Ball State to rise up and be far better than 4-8, but not all of them. Eventually, this will be one of the stars of the MAC West.
But not yet.
Head coach Mike Neu is the right head coach for the program – as a former star Cardinal quarterback with head coaching experience in the Arena League – and he showed the offense could be cranked up fast.
The passing game might not have been efficient, and there might not have been enough big plays, but the overall production was fine – finishing 37th in the nation – and it should be every bit as good.
The defense wasn’t doing its part, so in comes David Elson, a pro’s pro of a defensive coordinator to change around a group that finished 116th in the nation and had the third-worst pass D. It’ll be better, but …
The defensive front – especially the tackles – should be far better, but there needs to be more size across the line. The entire linebacking corps has to be replaced, and the secondary needs a ton of work, but it can’t be worse, especially against the pass. And it won’t be.
James Gilbert has MAC Player of the Year potential, and he should be one of the nation’s most productive running backs working behind a good-enough line that returns three starters. The ground game will crank up over 200 yards a game, but the passing attack has to be along for the ride.
The air show was productive enough last season, but there wasn’t anything happening down the field, and now the top targets are done. Fortunately, the quarterback situation is solid, with the talent to complement Gilbert to keep things moving.
The Cardinals should at least be good enough to become an X factor in the MAC. They’ll have a moment or three against the league’s better teams, and they should be stronger, with the talent and coaching to be at least two games better and go bowling.
Neu is going to make Ball State a player again. He’s a rising star of a head coach, the recruiting class was great, and there’s reason to be excited about what’s happening.
But just wait one more year, and then the 2018 team should be one of the favorites to win the conference.