One thing sorely lacking in the Pete Lembo era Ball State offense was production from the Tight End position.
During the first three, and best, seasons of Lembo's tenure, the Cardinals relied heavily on the release value brought by the productive and hard to cover Zane Fakes. Upon Fakes' graduation, the Cardinal offense was unable to find a suitable replacement at Tight End and struggled to find an option over the middle in the passing game.
During the past two seasons, the former Ball State staff has harped on the progress and ability of current senior and incumbent starter @Sam Brunner. The 6-2 240 5th year tight end was only able to catch 7 passes a season ago, which was a career high, but not enough to help move the offense when it needed a tough 3rd down catch. Brunner is capable. He is athletic enough to get open and has solid hands - he just hasn't been targeted enough to make the impact he should have. What he has lacked in the passing game though, Brunner has made up for with his ability to be a stout run blocker.
Aside from Brunner, only two other players return in the position group, and neither has any experience under their belt.
Redshirt Fr Danny Pinter was solid in practice a season ago, and also thus far in the spring. Pinter is a different athlete than Brunner. At 6-4 251, Pinter has the size to be a big time target in the passing game and has flashed good hands in practice. Pinter is also a workhorse in the weight room, which should pay dividends when blocking.
The other returner is fellow redshirt Fr Kyle Schrank. The 6-2 235 Schrank is built more like Fakes and was effective spliting out in high school. He is a solid receiver and is athletic enough to be a field stretcher. Where Schrank maybe limited at this point though will be blocking, but he will serve as a solid asset in passing situations.
On the horizon there is help coming, although it is tough to gauge how much contribution a true freshman will make, the Cardinals are adding a trio of solid playmakers in Nolan Givan, Dylan Koch & Frank Burton.