Veteran cornerbacks to headup backfield for cardinals

Steve Monson and Doug Owusu grew up together in Bolingbrook, Illinois. They played Pop Warner football together. They played together in high school. And when they came to Ball State together in the fall of 1999, Monson thought it was "weird" meeting his new teammates.

"We are from Chicago," Monson explained. "They are from Indiana? That's like two different worlds."

He soon realized, however, that two of his teammates in the defensive backfield also had childhood ties. Charles and Jesse Avant, brothers from Ben Davis high school in Indianapolis, joined Monson and Owusu in the secondary. The foursome hit it off quickly.

"We all came together," said Jesse Avant. "We've gelled together, and now we are actually the oldest part of the defense."

This season, behind secondary coach Dennis Springer, the tightly knit backs hope to have their best season yet. Not everyone, however, understands the secondary's role.

"Everybody knows what the quarterback does," said the 33-year-old Springer. "The way I explain the secondary is that we are the guys running around trying to stop the quarterback from throwing it to the receivers."

That job seems simple enough, but as Jesse Avant explains, the group's experience helps.

"With guys like Doug, my brother, me and Steve, we can give a hand gesture or a look to know what formations they are in or what check I'm making," said Jesse, who will also return kicks this season. "With less experienced guys, you have to get in the huddle, you have to talk about it."

Springer says that the scheme in the secondary is all about trust.

"It helps to know who's out there with you," he said. "You know who has your back. They can trust me and I can trust them as players and young men."

The entire foursome, however, may not start the beginning of the season due to a key injury. Two weeks ago, Charles Avant broke his jaw in practice.

"This is the first time either one of us had been injured," Jesse said, "and it bothered me for awhile, especially since it is his senior year."

The season is not over, though, for Charles. In fact, Springer says the elder Avant brother is coming along quickly and "could even be in the line-up against Missouri."

For now, though, the defensive backfield will consist of Jesse Avant at corner, Monson at the other corner and Owusu at safety.

Monson led the Cardinals in pass break-ups last season and had 29 tackles. Jesse two interceptions and added 46 tackles. Springer says he has the luxury of depth this season to go along with experience.

"Once Charles gets back," Springer said, "we will have five key guys."

Springer identified junior Quentin Manley as the other. Last season Manley earned his second letter by playing 10 games and registering 45 tackles.

The secondary, along with the rest of the team has high hopes for this season, after tying for the MAC West championship last year.

"It would be ignorant of me to say we didn't expect to win the MAC outright," said Monson. "We're picking it up where we left off from high school."