FOOTBALL: Ball State wants to show it's not an also-ran

Coach, senior leaders want to regain spotlight of 2008 season

DETROIT – Stan Parrish sat at the last table in the dimly lit Ford Field press box, packets of information about Ball State scattered in front of him.

MiQuale Lewis and Robert Eddins joined him around the table. Lewis idly checked his phone. Eddins finished an interview.

The Cardinals weren't ignored during the 2010 Mid-American Conference media day. They just were more of an afterthought than the attraction they had been the past two years.

Ball State's rise to No. 12 in the country in 2008 generated plenty of buzz at MAC media day in 2009. Coach Stan Parrish had so many interviews, then-Central Michigan coach Butch Jones joked Parrish was holding court.

After a 2-10 record in 2009, though, the spotlight turned elsewhere. Ball State was picked fifth in the MAC West by the conference's media. It's only ahead of Eastern Michigan, who was winless last season. The prediction and lack of attention didn't bother Parrish.

"In '08, we were picked third," he said of the team that won the MAC West. "I think it's really wide open [this season]. I wouldn't be shocked if 6-2 won our side."

Ball State doesn't return as many starters as Northern Illinois or Temple, the teams picked to play for the MAC championship Dec. 5 in Detroit, but Cardinals fans have reasons to be optimistic.

The NCAA granted Lewis a medical redshirt, and he is slimmer then he has been since he was a freshman. Eddins bulked up for his senior season and is expected to give Ball State the pass-rusher Parrish said it has lacked for years.

The offensive line now has the experience it lacked in 2009 and three dynamic running backs behind it. The defense has 2008 Freshman All-American Sean Baker in the secondary and sophomore middle linebacker Travis Freeman anchoring the front seven.

"We should win a lot more games," Eddins said. "The opportunity is definitely there. We have to make the best out of the opportunities."

Despite the optimism, questions remain.

Defensive coordinator Doug Graber retired. The starting quarterback competition between Kelly Page, Aaron Mershman and Keith Wenning is undecided. Madaris Grant didn't receive a medical redshirt, leaving a hole at tight end.

But August is all about good feelings for a football program, especially one determined to recover from a disastrous 2009.

"If 2-10's not enough motivation to give it your all every day, then I don't know what is," Lewis said. "We can't go 2-10 again."


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...