Best Ball State Offensive Player
RB Justin Gilbert, Jr.
Knocked out early last year after suffering a hand injury, the 5-8, 200-pounder only ran for 207 yards and three scores before going down. But when he was on in 2016, he was among the nation’s most productive backs, hitting the 100-yard mark seven times in his 1,332-yard, 12-score season. He’s not going to have to do it all by himself with a good group of backs also in the mix, but now that he’s in one piece, the ultra-quick star should be one of the MAC’s most productive runners.
2. QB Riley Neal, Jr.
3. WR Justin Hall, Soph.
4. RB/KR Malik Dunner, Jr.
5. RB Caleb Huntley, Soph.
Best Ball State Defensive Player
LB Jacob White, Jr.
Built for the inside of the linebacking corps, the 6-0, 230-pounder led the team with 72 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss. The leader and captain of the D, he’s a tough-as-nails hard-hitter who played most of last season with a club on his broken right hand. Healthy again, he should grow into a statistical star.
2. S Bryce Cosby, Soph.
3. LB Brandon Martin, Jr.
4. DE Sean Hammonds, Jr.
5. S Romero Wade, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DE James Jennette III, Soph.
No pressure or anything, but all he has to do is replace the team’s best pass rusher for the last few years, Anthony Wimbush. The 6-3, 245-pound Jennette got his feet wet last season with ten tackles and a tackle for loss, but now it’s up to him and Sean Hammonds on the other side to boost up a pass rush that sputtered when Wimbush wasn’t doing big things.
Key Game To The Ball State Season
Northern Illinois, Oct. 6
Nine years. That’s how long it’s been since Ball State was able to get by Northern Illinois, serving itself up as little more than an appetizer to bigger and better MAC things to feast on. The 2017 season wasn’t going anywhere anyway, but still, the 63-17 thumping to the Huskies last season hurt.
If all goes according to play – beat Central Connecticut State and Kent State, and lose to Notre Dame, Indiana and WKU – a 2-3 start can turn the season into something special with a win over NIU in Muncie. With three road games in the next four, it’s not going to be easy no matter what, but a win would be one of the program’s biggest highlights in a long, long while.
2017 Ball State Fun Stats
– 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 279 – Ball State 106
– Time of Possession: Ball State 33:10 – Opponents 26:50
– Interception Return Average: Opponents 27.4 yards – Ball State 2.2 yards