Pagnard to be only returner on D-line

What the Ball State defensive line lacks in experience, it hopes to make up for with depth and quickness in 2002.

With Evan Triggs, Rachman Crable and Mark Zackery having graduated, junior nose tackle Greg Pagnard is the lone returning starter, and end Jonas Williams is the only senior on the depth chart.

"The guys I lost were great players," said defensive line coach Larry McDaniel, who is in his fourth year with the Ball State staff. "But this group has been here since I've been here, so they've had coaching strictly from me. I think we can be as productive, if not more, than last year."

McDaniel's starting group will be Pagnard, Williams, sophomore tackle Conrad Slaughter and redshirt freshman end Blair Kramer.

In starting all 11 games last fall, Pagnard registered 55 tackles, including 10 for loss and four sacks. Williams recorded 12 tackles in nine games, including a start against Kentucky, while Slaughter played in all 11 as a true freshman, finishing with 15 stops.

Kramer earned the starting nod during fall camp when Paul Strabavy struggled with an injury.

"A guy doesn't lose his spot because of injury, but Paul wasn't as crisp when he returned," McDaniel said. "It won't be much of a dropoff, though. With Blair playing as hard as he has throughout fall camp and in the spring, he's really solidified himself as a good player.

"We'll rotate so much that being named a starter doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, because they're all going to play quite a bit. I like to play with eight guys, and I think I have a core of eight or nine that will contribute this Saturday. I'd obviously like to keep that going during the season."

Rounding out that "core" for McDaniel are Strabavy, sophomore Brad Hess, sophomore tackle Keith Anderson, true freshman Justin Schweighardt and redshirt freshman Nick Graymire. This depth is something McDaniel has been trying to develop for a couple years.

"It's a result of my philosophy of playing a lot of defensive lineman," he said. "I think the more kids you rotate through, they'll be fresher and more hungry to play. That's something we've incorporated the last two years, so when they make their first starts, it won't be a culture shock."

Being that Pagnard is the lone returning starter up front, McDaniel is looking for big things out of him.

"He's a veteran," McDaniel said of the junior. "He's been in big games and played a lot of football for us, so I'm obviously looking for a lot of leadership out of him, not only for our unit but for the defense. I think he's got the ability to possibly be an All-Mid-American Conference-type player."

Pagnard feels he has taken on the responsibility.

"I feel I have more of a leadership role now," he said. "I've always had players to look up to and it helped me, so hopefully I can be that for the younger guys.

"I want to establish myself as one of the better D-lineman in the MAC. As a unit, I want us to pressure the quarterback more. We were pretty decent at that last year. We're not big up front, but I think we're a lot faster than last year, so that will help us."


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