Cardinals welcome back 3 starters, 6 experienced players

Despite generating a lack of pressure, Ball State welcomes back several key contributors

Ball State's defense struggled last season to say the least. The struggle, was very real.

The Cardinals ranked last, or near to last in every defensive statistical category a season ago for the now departed Kevin Kelly. All of that, the poor play and even poorer statistical output, no longer matters. The Cardinals look to a defense led by fresh blood (two JUCO signees already in camp) and fresh approaches (new defensive coaches across the board) looking to make major improvements.

Most of that improvement has to start up front, where the Cardinals failed to make few big plays last season.

New Defensive Coordinator Tim Daoust and new Defensive Line Coach Keith McKenzie look to mold a group that includes 3 returning starters and 6 experienced players overall into a unit that can put more pressure on the QB and make more plays in the backfield.

Luckily for Daoust and McKenzie, the Cardinals welcome back their top disruptive force in 5th year senior Josh Posley and their top pass rusher in R-Jr Anthony Winbush.

Posley, a 6-1 255 DE, made a team-high 9 tackles for loss a season ago despite seeing constant double teams. Posley has the size and speed to be a major disruption with a little help and less double-teaming to face.

Winbush, a 6-1 230 Rush LB/DE, led the Cardinals with 5 sacks in a limited role as a pass rush specialist in passing downs. Winbush has the capability to be a major disruption if he can be on the field more, but his lack of size can be a determent in certain situations.

Also back are massive run stuffers, John Whitman and Kevin Willis. Whitman, a 6-1 298 Sr, had 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks while Willis, a 6-2 305 Jr, picked up 26 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.

At DE, the Cardinals will also have depth in the form of 4 players with limited or no experience. Leading the charge are a pair of players that have high potential in R-Fr Akeem Hutchinson (6-2 246) and JUCO transfer Reggie McGee (6-2 233). Hutchinson, a weight room workhorse, has been looking strong in practice while McGee is a strong pass rusher who put up huge numbers of sacks a season ago in JUCO.

Also looking to add depth are DE prospects Sean Hammonds (6-1 241) and Kenny Knight (5-11 247).

In the middle, the Cardinals welcome back 5th year Sr Darnell Smith, the small (5-11 275), but powerful and agile Smith has been a key cog in the Cardinals defensive line for the 3 years until a knee injury sidelined him a season ago. With him back in the fold, look for his ability to put pressure in the backfield as a huge benefit to the new staff.

Also adding depth in the middle are So Kevin Thurmon (6-0 282) who posted 11 tackles in a limited role a season ago and a pair of newcomers who enrolled early in JUCO transfer John Swisher (6-2 280) and Fr Chris Crumb (6-1 265).

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