All Ball State fans realize that the Cardinal defense has been less than stellar over the past several seasons, as the offense has grown into one of the nation's best, the defense continues to be an Achilles heel. Ball State fans have been waiting for a group of talented players to step up and make an impact on a defense that has some solid players (Bryant Haines, Wendell Brown, Brandon Crawford and DB's BJ Hill and Trey Lewis), but has never had the overall talent nor the depth to shut teams down on a regular basis.
Enter the class of 2007.
Some of the players made a small impact last season as Derrick Henry and Davyd Jones both made an impact on the field during the season, but now they join a whole host of players ready to take over. Here is a listing of those players from this class and what might be expected of them:
Davyd Jones, 6-1 207 MLB – Davyd playing time increased to the point where he was on the field quite a bit in the Cardinals' International Bowl game last season. On Saturday during the spring game, we got a glimpse of what Davyd can do. He led Ball State with 7 tackles and had a tackle for a loss. He admittedly needs to add some more weight during summer weightlifting, but look for Davyd to push 5th year senior Wendell Bryant for his spot at the MIKE.
Lorren Womack, 6-0 221 WLB – Lorren is a redshirt freshman who added 20+ pounds of bulk to his frame during last year. As a prep, Lorren was noted for being fast and hitting hard. I can't see that gaining 20 pounds caused Lorren to lose a step at all which should be bad news for opposing MAC offenses. Lorren also posted a team high 7 tackles and broke up a pass during Saturday's scrimmage playing for the 1st team defense in place of the injured Bryant Haines. And while he probably won't unseat the 5th year senior, Womack will certainly add crucial depth and there will be no drop off.
Dee Lett, 5-11 205 WLB – Dee is a greyshirt so technically he belongs to the Class of 2008, but the freshman made a nice impact on the 2nd unit defense on Saturday, posting 3 tackles and providing solid coverage skills. Lett probably will play mostly special teams this season, but he certainly boasts the speed to make an impact in that area.
Ryan Hartke, 6-4 205, SLB – Hartke is another greyshirt and is also learning to play LB after being a WR as a prep. Hartke seems to be tough as nails and played very well for the second unit defense. Hartke posted 3 tackles and a tackle for loss on Saturday and should bolster Kenny Meeks at SLB.
Pete Rolf, 6-4 246, DE – Pete has put on some poundage since coming to Muncie and is already looking at home on the defensive line after making the switch over from LB as a prep. Despite not being allowed to hit the QB on Saturday, Rolf was able to put pressure on the QBs and also posted 2 tackles. Rolf played in place of injured DE Brandon Crawford and will also provide depth once Crawford returns from injury.
Brandon Carnegie, 5-11 183, DB – Carnegie was a valuable asset as a special teamer last year making a big impact like Derrick Henry did. Carnegie will again back up proven starters BJ Hill and Trey Lewis at DB, but will push for playing time. Carnegie had a tackle and was called for an iffy pass interference penalty on a nice play defending over the middle.
Derrick Henry, 6-1 190 S – Derrick looks ready to step in for Eddie Burk at the starting FS spot next to Alex Knipp. Last season, Derrick played a lot in nickel and dime and also was a standout on special teams with his no holds barred style of getting down field to bake plays. Derrick is still learning his spot after transitioning from DB in high school, but after making 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and recovering a fumble on Saturday, it seems he is getting more comfortable by the day.
Rene Perry, 5-11 275 DT – Rene started a lot last season as he was thrust into early duty because a lack of numbers up front. Rene didn't look comfortable or as quick as he was in high school while learning under fire last season. Expect that to change rapidly as Perry showed on Saturday. The DT posted 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and was in the face of Nate Davis on many occasion.
Jafe Pitcock, 6-2 265 NT – Jafe came to Ball State as a heavily recruited member of the Ohio State Champion Piqua squad. Last year he was forgotten by many Ball State fans and he redshirted and added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame, but Pitcock is back with a vengeance and even though he did not post any tackles, he did put pressure on the QB and showed to be stout during his time on the field. Look for Pitcock to push to start and at the least provide depth up front for Ball State.
Koreen Burch, 5-9 162 DB – Koreen is back at his natural DB spot after moonlighting as a RB when injuries took over the Cardinals ground attack. Unfortunately for Koreen, he too was injured and is still not at 100%. Koreen is still nursing a dislocated shoulder from last season, but expect him to be 100% by fall and then we can see what he is capable of at this position.
Sean Baker, 6-1 205 SS – Speaking of shoulder injuries . . . a broken shoulder forced Sean Baker to miss his freshman season, one in which he was already pushing for playing time from incumbents Chris Allen and Alex Knipp. If Baker is healthy by fall camp, look for him again to push Knipp.
Andy Puthoff, 6-3 254 DT – Puthoff, like Rolf, also used his redshirt year to put on some bigtime weight. Puthoff was a 220 LB/FB in high school, but will enter 2008 as at least a 254 DT. Puthoff looked as though he should be able to push for some PT as well up front, especially early on, as the Cardinals try to find the right rotation of youngster who will produce at DT & NT.
Jerrod Gray, 6-3 253 NT – See above, Gray didn't put on a great deal of weight, but he was able to gain muscle during his year redshirting. Look for Grey to compete for playing time and push to see the field with the rest of the young lineman.