FOOTBALL: Ball State defense makes strides during Spring Practice

Players say coaches fit well into their new roles for Ball State

Much of the focus during Spring Practice was on Ball State University's ongoing quarterback competition.

Meanwhile, the defense toiled in relative obscurity, getting used to changes in the coaching staff and playing without some mainstays of the past.

Defensive tackle Adam Morris said the Cardinals made progress during the spring.

"A lot of guys improved over spring because at the beginning everybody was kind of rusty," the junior said. "They progressed through the spring and now they came out here and put it all together."

The defensive line especially has seen a shakeup since the fall.

Defensive ends coach Jay Hood was promoted to defensive coordinator after Doug Graber's retirement, and James Bettcher was brought in to fill Hood's old job. Three-time All-Mid-American Conference defensive end Brandon Crawford graduated and last year's standout Robert Eddins sat out the spring after off-season shoulder surgery.

"It gives a lot of guys more experience," Morris said. "We already know for a fact [Eddins is] going to be playing a lot in the fall. It gives his backups a chance to get enough reps that if he gets tired, he has someone to back him up."

The transition from Graber to Hood has gone well for the Cardinals. They are using most of the same terminology on defense and the players were already used to Hood.

However, cornerback Charlie Todd said the two coaches are very different.

"I had a good relationship with coach Hood in the beginning," he said. "He's a little bit more wild than coach Graber though, so that's right up my alley."

Morris said Bettcher has fit in well with the team, helping him grow as a defensive lineman.

"He's taught us a lot of new moves in the pass rush," he said. "He's getting on us everyday because he wants the best out of us."

Coach Stan Parrish said the biggest difference with the Cardinals has been greater experience with a year of football under their belts.

"I think we made major strides forward, which I expected because the freshmen are no longer freshmen," Parrish said. "They're all bigger, stronger, faster and we've been through the worst together. We're close to where we need to be."

Todd said the best part of Spring Practice was being able to get out on the field and make some tackles. He got one last lick in Saturday's Spring Game, laying out running back Eric Williams in the biggest hit of the day.

"It feels really good that we finally get to hit somebody," Todd said. "In the fall, they don't really let us go all out because we can't hurt anybody."