For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.
MUNCIE – The entire Ball State football program will be on hand today as part of the Ball State “Fan Jam” event at Schuemann Stadium from 5 to 7 p.m.
The celebration, which is free to the public, will give the Cardinal football fans an opportunity to meet all of the Cardinal players and coaches. However, if the fans don't get to know the Ball State receiving corps later today, they'll certainly know these guys once the season begins.
The Cardinals graduated 111 receptions between Briggs Orsbon and Torieal Gibson, but the next four leading receivers each return for the 2012 season and Cardinal receivers coach Keith Gaither has complete confidence that his unit won't skip a beat.
“There is no question that we lost two tremendous players and kids in Tori and Briggs,” Gaither said. “But we brought back Jamil Smith, who has played a lot of football here, Jack Tomlinson, who has made a lot of big plays here, Conner Ryan, who has played a lot of football here and had a big catch against Indiana, and you have Willie Snead, who has played a lot of football here, those four are the core. From that point on, we have a lot of question marks.”
Smith (40 catches, 422 yards, three TDs), Ryan (23 catches, 234 yards) and Tomlinson (43 catches, 394 yards) are each juniors, while Snead (28 catches, 327 yards) is a sophomore. They are part of a group of 16 receivers on this squad that, according to Smith, doesn't include a star, and they like it that way.
“I love that,” Smith said. “I was a playmaker in high school, but with this team, we have so many playmakers. There is no need for (just) one playmaker. I want Willie to be open one time because that frees me open. It's so much easier (that way).”
Smith said that the lessons taught to him by Gibson and Orsbon was to be unselfish and simply do your job regardless of what role you are filling.
“Tori and Briggs left a great, great, great message for all of us,” Smith said. “They didn't leave that message for the player; they left it for the position. No matter if you are one through four, the expectation is for the position. When Briggs was out last year and I went in, Briggs would expect me to do exactly what he would do.”
Ball State has a prolific quarterback returning in Keith Wenning, yet it will be a challenge to work the ball to all of the potential targets. Not only does he have four veterans to throw to, but Cardinal coach Pete Lembo has to restrain himself from getting to giddy about the first-year receivers.
“This group of freshmen we have,” Lembo explained, “it's exciting to watch them. They look good. A couple of them look like they are juniors in college already. Jacolby Owens is a redshirt freshman, Chris Shillings is a sophomore, but Jordan Williams, a freshman, KeVonn Mabon, another freshman, those are two guys that have done some really good things in practice so far. We're excited to see them all develop.”