The Colts had a busy day Wednesday — they placed Mike Hart on injured reserve, signed Chad Simpson from the practice squad and Clifton Dawson as a free agent, waived La Juan Ramsey and Nick Graham. The move that went nearly unnoticed was the signing of running back Lance Ball to the practice squad.
Ball played his college ball at Maryland, seeing action in all four of his seasons with the Terrapins, and totaling 2,487 yards on 549 carries and scoring 26 touchdowns. He also added 47 receptions for 301 yards.
Possibly as a result of his size — 5-feet-9, 220 pounds — Ball was generally in a platoon situation throughout his career and picked up all but one of his career yards in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons.
He was not invited to the Combine and his lack of ideal size, lack of experience as a full-time starter, and overall lack of athletic upside led to him going undrafted in 2008.
Ball with the Rams in a preseason game
He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the St. Louis Rams, made it through the offseason, training camp, and the preseason, but was released on August 30 in the final cuts.
The Rams quickly signed him to their practice squad on September 1, but eventually waived him on September 30. He remained in the free agent pool until the Colts signed him on October 15.
Physically, Ball is very similar to Hart and has a similar running style and mentality. His 47 receptions for a college back — he actually had a better receptions-to-carries ratio than Hart — show that he at least has capable hands, but he would obviously need a chance to show, as Hart did, that he can also act as a blocker as well as a receiver in the passing game.
He had a 4.5 yards per carry average, which is close to the 4.9 yards per carry that Hart averaged during his time at Michigan — granted, Hart had nearly twice as many carries.
One important statistic that stands out for Ball is that he seems to have a nose for the end zone, scoring 12 touchdowns in his senior season.
He runs hard, low to the ground, and is a powerfully built young man, which is ideal in goal-to-go situations and gives him a unique skill set among the available healthy backs at the Colts disposal.
However, one statistic is telling for Ball and that is his yards per touch: Even with his receptions, he averaged only 4.67 yards every time he touched the ball. If he failed to produce big plays against the ACC, how will he fare against NFL competition?
Tom Marino's scouting report on Ball entering the 2008 draft seems to agree. "Ball is short and thick and runs hard, but I didn't see anything you could hang your hat on in his game. Ran the extent of the block, but didn't really do anything else with the ball. He catches the ball well in the flat and can turn it upfield, but, again, he isn't a real threat in space."
Unless the injury bug strikes again, though, Ball will not be pressed into service any time soon, since the Colts are now four deep at the running back position after Wednesday's moves.
Indianapolis has certainly done more with less in the past and, if he is surrounded by the talent in the passing game that the Colts possess, he may not need more than his blockers can give him to be at least effective.
The point remains that he is still powerfully built with a low center of gravity that has a knack for punching the ball in inside the five. If he also shares the same determination and willingness to get better that Hart does, he could be a valuable contributor in the future.