New Ball State football coach Pete Lembo has had an opportunity over the past month to catch glimpses of what his players are capable of doing on the field, and his analysis has been mixed.
“What you try to do is watch last year's film and evaluate the personnel athletically,” Lembo said. “Are they in the right (positions) for our system?”
Since being hired in December from Elon University, Lembo and his coaching staff have primarily been focused on the recruiting trail.
“We're trying to pack a year's worth of work into 30 days,” Lembo said.
But here and there, both Lembo and his assistant coaches have found time to watch game films from the Cardinals season. In addition, Lembo retained a pair of assistant coaches from Stan Parrish's staff. Joey Lynch will serve as Lembo's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, while Daryl Dixon will be the defensive backs coach.
“Retaining two coaches from the previous staff has already proven to be a tremendous resource,” Lembo said. “Those guys have seen a lot and done a lot. They have a feel for how things work within the university.”
The Cardinals (4-8) played very well at times last season. But the team also lost games it had no business losing.
Ball State won impressively on the road at Central Michigan and Buffalo. However, it also lost to a winless Eastern Michigan squad (41-38) in Muncie and nearly duplicated that feat before nipping a winless Akron team (37-30 in double overtime).
“The kids played hard,” Lembo said of the 2010 season. “It's really interesting because there were some close games, games where they looked pretty good. Then there were some other games where, quite frankly, that were a little ugly.”
After the signing of recruits is announced Feb. 2, Lembo has plans to spend more time with the existing players.
Per NCAA rules, the Cardinals coaching staff can have the players in skill development sessions without a football. But that doesn't mean that the coaches won't be gathering valuable information as to how a particular athlete can actually play.
“Our assistant coaches, once they get off the road, will start to get more involved,” Lembo explained. “A lot of the morning workouts will be football related. Working on agilities, speed training, plyometrics and those types of things. But we'll build in time for position-specific work, albeit without a football.”
Since the Cardinals players returned to campus earlier this month, they have been immersed in conditioning work five mornings per week.
“They've been lifting four days each week and running one,” Lembo explained. “Once the signing day comes, we'll shift that to running two days a week and lifting three.”
As mentioned, Lembo is concerned about the inconsistency of play that these players exhibited. He is also concerned about the physical presence of this roster.
“We need to get stronger,” Lembo said. “Just looking at them, we need to really work hard at their physical development. And they have said that to me as well. They know that they need to get bigger and stronger. We're making a real push toward Olympic-style lifts, explosive lifts, which will correlate to what they're trying to do on the football field.”