MUNCIE — Ball State football coach Pete Lembo is implementing a new “culture” for the Cardinals' football program, and in the process he has lost his most productive on-the-field player.
Junior running back Eric Williams has chosen to leave the Ball State program for personal reasons.
“Everyone handles change differently,” Lembo said in a news release. “We certainly respect Eric's decision to look for a better fit elsewhere.”
Williams began his high school career at Snider High School before moving to Indianapolis and graduating from Warren Central. Once in Muncie, he made an immediate impact on the field.
The 203-pounder accumulated nearly 1,200 yards in total offense (812 yards on kickoff returns) as a true freshman. He was a co-recipient of the John Hodge Award in 2009 as the Cardinals' top freshman.
This past season, Williams led the Cardinals in rushing (613 yards), kick returns (740 yards) and all-purpose yards (1,461). He was second in scoring (eight touchdowns).
“We wish Eric nothing but the best in his future pursuits both academically and athletically,” Lembo said. “We will continue to provide him with whatever assistance he needs.”
To soothe the loss of Williams and MiQuale Lewis (Ball State's second-leading rusher), one of the Cardinals' few areas of depth lies in the running back position. Veterans David Brown (sophomore, 348 yards last season) and Cory Sykes (senior, 260 yards) will be joined by another Snider alum, Barrington Scott.
The sophomore transfer from Northern Illinois did a lot of work during this spring session, his first with the Cardinals' program.
“Barrington is a very talented young man,” Lembo said earlier this spring.
“He's big, he's athletic and he's what we call ‘twitchy.' He's got a lot of potential.”
The 204-pounder will also get competition from redshirt freshman Nick Najeem, junior Dwayne Donigan, and true freshmen Horactio Banks and Jahwan Edwards.
Lembo spoke recently of changing the mindset of his players to enable them to view the program with a broader perspective.
“There are always going to be a handful of guys that are not as mature as you would want them to be,” Lembo said. “They aren't as sensitive to the position they are in. That has to become part of the culture of your program.”
Getting young men to alter the way they view their decisions is a challenge Lembo has embraced throughout his coaching career.
“Some of the players are programmed to think ‘I'll do what you tell me to do,'” Lembo said. “My philosophy is I want you to think and see the big picture. They need to answer the question ‘Why is this in the best interest of the program and why is this in your best interest?'”