Former Defensive Ends coach Jay Hood takes over for the retired Doug Graber as the new man in charge of the Cardinals Defense. Hood, who came to Ball State after leading the Miami Defense in 07-08, looks to bring the same kind of stout, aggressive and attacking defense the RedHawks employed while leading the Mid-American Conference in Defense both years Hood was at the helm.
If Ball State fans remember, Hoods defenses gave the high-powered and Nate Davis led Cardinals fits in both seasons. The RedHawks beat the Cardinals on opening night of Schuemann Stadium in 2007 and then held close with Ball State in 2008.
As for the players returning, it all starts up front which might be the strength of the 2010 Cardinal Defense.
Back from an impressive 2009 season is Sr. Robert Eddins. A 6-3 245 Eddins might be the Mid-American conference's best edge rusher and is a true NFL prospect. Ball State is looking for big things from Eddins who posted 7 sacks a season ago.
At the other side of the defensive line is Jr. Andrew Puthoff. The 6-4 250 Puthoff has been a steady performer for the past two season while backing up Brandon Crawford as well as moonlighting as a FB on offense. Puthoff is a strong performer against the run and will also get to the QB when needed.
Providing depth at DE is Kaylon Woods, a 6-2 255 Sr. Woods hasn't played a ton over his career, but developed nicely last season and was able to contribute on the field. This fall, Woods has made significant strides and is being looked upon as a major contributor up front.
The fourth member of the DE corps is 6-3 235 true freshman Matt Mosely. One half of the Morgan Park connection from Chicago, Mosely has quickly turned some heads this fall. Mosely has been called a freak of nature and an athletic beast by many around the program and is being counted on to supply little to no drop off when spelling Eddins as a speed rusher.
Also turning some heads with his fall camp play has been Anthony Stryffeler. The true Fr. From Padua Franciscan in Ohio will most like redshirt to add some weight, but he has shown plenty of pass rush skill and will be counted on for years to come. Anthony is currently 6-4 225, but he would be better served to redshirt and add weight to play around 235-240.
What was once always a deficiency in many fans eyes – Defensive Tackle – has now turned into the deepest and possibly the most talented group on the field for the Cardinals.
Back for his senior year is Rene Perry. Now a 4 year starter, Perry continues to be a force in run game, and many have said he is playing at a much higher level as a senior than he has played before.
Also starting will be Jr. Adam Morris. Last we saw of Adam, he was wreaking havoc on in the Spring Game and word is he is just getting better and better. After two seasons as a steady back up for the departed Drew Duffin, it is Morris's time to shine. Many around the program believe that he could be an all-MAC player this year.
Providing depth in the middle is a group 5 strong, all of whom are good enough to contribute and all good enough to possibly start as the season wears on.
Making the transition from Offensive Line a year ago, Steve Yoder, now a So., has made significant strides at his new position in a short time. The 6-3 305 Yoder provides a big and physical presence inside against the run.
Also in the mix will be Donavon Jarrett. At 6-3 315, Donavon is the biggest and has the most upside of all of the DTs. Jarrett has made huge strides this fall and everyone believe he has the ability to be an every down interior guy.Rounding out the 7-deep rotation will be a trio of new faces in Harold Hogue, Joel Cox and Nathan Ollie.
Hogue, who was the scout team's defensive player of the year in 09 is a 6-1 270 Redshirt Fr. that earned a scholarship after his performance last season. Hogue is light on his feet and a solid football player and can provide penetration when teams are forced to pass.
Cox, a 6-1 275 Fr. from Center Grove high school in Indiana, came to Ball State after not signing with Army. Cox has been a great surprise and a strong addition already. Cox is expected to get playing time right away as he has shown in camp that he will be a force in the middle for years to come.
Ollie, a 6-1 280 Fr. from Mount Carmel in Chicago has also came ready to play and contribute. He is probably up in the air weather or not he gets redshirted or not, simply because the amount of quality depth ahead of him, but great things are expected of Ollie, Switching gears to another strength of the defense – linebackers. The corps that welcomed three very good players a year ago, adds another strong performer this year and still has almost everyone back.
Expected to start at WILL will be Davyd Jones. The local product and Sr. from Muncie Central will be a 3-year starter and is a team captain. Jones, who split time inside and on the edge a year ago as the youthful LBs gained experience, is expected to a leader on defense with his play.
Starting at MIKE will be super So. Travis Freeman. The 6-0 225 product of Cleveland Glenville started a lot last season and played well in the middle of the Cardinal defense. Freeman is one of the leaders both on and off of the field despite being just a So. Freeman has played exceptionally well this fall and big things are expected from Freeman who has the talent to be one of the best in the MAC.
Rounding out the starting 3 at SAM will be Tony Martin a So. from Missouri. Martin played well last season, but has bulked up to 6-1 230. The athletic Martin has had a great fall camp and has been one of the most improved players on the defensive side of the ball.
Cruz, the smallest of the LBs at 5-11 216, is a tough competitor and a good and heady football player.
Dixon, who is a 6-1 235 So., has the most ability of all of the LBs and the most upside (even Freeman). He is the biggest and most athletic of the LBs and could work very quickly into the starting lineup.
Graves, who was one of the last players the Cardinals took in the recruiting class has been one of the best and certainly the biggest surprise. Graves is 6-1 215 with loads of speed and played both S & DB at North Central High School in Indianapolis. Graves moves very well and has a ton of upside.
The biggest question mark a season ago came from the secondary – and some of those questions still linger. Gone is S Alex Knipp (a 3 year starter) but back is a lot of experience and some very promising looking newcomers.
The secondary begins and ends with team captain and Jr. Sean Baker. The Soul Eater is a former All-MAC and Fr. All-American, and he is back and playing healthy and at a whole other level entering the 2010 season. Baker is a coach on the field and will certainly be All-MAC once again at the end of the season. Expect big things from Baker.
Also expected to start will be Kyle Hoke. The 5-11 195 Jr. and nephew of former Ball State and current San Diego State Head Coach Brady Hoke and son of current Chicago Bear assistant Jon Hoke is back and ready to start. Hoke is a kid that truly loves football and is one of the smartest players on the team. Hoke brings a level of toughness and physicality to the secondary.
Howard, who has filled in as a reserve each of the past two seasons, bring loads of athleticism to the secondary. Many around the program say that Howard is playing the best ball of his career right now and will help out both as a reserve and on special teams.
Back after a year away from the program is Derrick Henry. The 6-1 195 Jr., redshirted because of academics last season and the coaches are glad to have him back. Henry, who was the best special teams performer his first two seasons, will again be counted on for help in that department, plus adding valuable experience to the secondary.
Morris, a 6-1 205 true Fr., has also been extremely impressive and will push Hoke from game one for playing time. Morris is a physical specimen and came in ready to play from powerhouse Glenville. Morris should be a very special player for years to come for Ball State.
Jones, a 5-10 180 true Fr., will probably be a redshirt this season, but has shown great skill and will be a factor down the road. Mosely's teammate from Morgan Park in Chicago, Jones could also contribute on special teams if he is not redshirted.
Wade, is a tall and slender athlete and the fastest of the Safeties. Wade will likely redshirt to add bulk to his 180 frame, but his coverage skills are solid and he will be a major help down the road.
The defensive back position was the single area that saw the most influx of freshman talent from a season ago as it was seemingly the focal point of the recruiting efforts.
And those efforts have paid off as 3 true Fr. are being viewed to provide depth and continually compete for at least on of the starting spots.
The starting spot that is apparently not up for grabs belongs solely to So. Jason Pinkston. The lanky but athletic, 6-1 185 Pinkston is a true 4.4 guy and a future NFL prospect. Pinkston has the size and skills to be an excellent cover corner and the sky is the limit for Pinkston. Expect big things from this young performer.
Back as a returning starter from a season ago at the other spot is the much improved Charlie Todd. A former JUCO transfer, Todd was up and down last season, but the 5-10 195 has played wonderfully and improved a ton from a season ago. Todd bring a physical presence to the DBs and will bring the thunder to opposing WRs and RBs.
Providing depth will be two returnees and the aforementioned 3 freshmen.
Koreen Burch was a starter for much of last season, but this year will be counted on as the #3 DB and probably nickel back. Burch has also improved from last season.
Sophomore Armond Dehaney, an outstanding special teams performer is also back to compete for playing time. Dehaney is a very smart player and tough physically. He will continue to contribute on special teams and play as needed.
The best of the Fr. DBs thus far has been Indianapolis Ben Davis's Jeff Garrett. The nephew of a former Ball State defensive back - football runs in Garrett's blood. Garrett stepped on the Ball State campus ready to play and brings tons of natural skills. He will play and play a lot as a true freshman.
Also in the mix are two freshmen vying for some PT. One will likely redshirt while the other one will see the field. Odis Prunty, from Cleveland St. Edwards, is a 5-11 180 natural cover corner. He has the best size and movement of the freshmen group of DBs. Odis has tons of ability. If he doesn't redshirt, look for Prunty to be a force on specials and see action at corner.
Despite being just 5-9 170 - Quintin Cooper is a very good and physical football player. Cooper is the best tackler and most physical of the three freshmen. The same goes for him as does Prunty, if he plays, he will be a special team contributor with spot duty at DB, if not, he will be a redshirt for a season and then compete for PT starting next year.