BY TYLER O’KEEFE | BALL STATE SPORTS LINK
After a thrilling 31-21 victory over the Georgia State Panthers, there seems to be some electricity surrounding the Ball State Cardinals.
And rightly so.
Quarterback Riley Neal had a tremendous 48-yard gain and connected with wide receiver KeVonn Mabon eight times for a total of 69 yards.
Junior running back Darian Green finished the game with 93 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Senior linebacker Zack Ryan tallied seven solo tackles and one sack.
Some of the staff around Ball State’s brand new Ronald E. and Joan M. Venderly Complex hasn’t changed, but Neu brought a few new faces who’ve had some success on the gridiron.
One of the familiar faces on the staff is Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Joey Lynch (@coachjoeylynch).
Lynch is in his eighth season at Ball State and second season at his current position.
Last year, under former Head Coach Pete Lembo, Lynch coached Neal to 2,276 total passing yards, ranking sixth among true freshmen competing at the FBS level.
Lynch (Delta) and Neal (Yorktown) are both from areas surrounding Ball State and both had successful high school careers.
Lynch also went on to play for the Ball State Cardinals and finished his career as one of the most prolific passers in Ball State history. He completed 391-of-613 passes earning a .638 career passing average. Neal competed 15-of-29 passes and netted 48 rushing yards in Friday’s contest.
Another returner from the Lembo Era is Wide Receivers Coach Alex Bailey (@coachalexbailey).
Last season, Bailey coached Mabon, who was already on Ball State’s top-10 all-time career receptions list before making his senior debut last week against Georgia State. Not to mention, Bailey also coached four all-conference players and helped the Dayton Flyers to a 10-1 record and a Pioneer League Championship in 2010. Bailey’s receiving core grabbed 18 passes for 130 yards in Friday night’s season opener.
Now this is where it get’s electric.
Joining the staff this year is Offensive Line Coach Kyle DeVan (@coachdevan).
DeVan was a four-year letterman at Oregon State and was a member of three bowl-winning teams. After being drafted in 2008 by the Washington Redskins, he spent three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. DeVan picked up 26 starts at right tackle including one in Super Bowl XLIV against the New Orleans Saints.
After exiting the National Football League, Devan went on to be a graduate assistant at both Oregon State and the University of Southern California.
DeVan coached USC’s offensive line to a 45-42 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in their 2014 season run to the National University Holiday Bowl. Then in 2015, DeVan became an Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the New Orleans Saints.
The 2015 Saints organization also staffed Mike Neu as its Quarterbacks Coach. In the 2016 season opener DeVan’s offensive line allowed the Cardinals 52 carries and 336 rushing yards.
Another first year Cardinal coach is Chevis Jackson (@co_jackson21).
In 2005, Jackson started every game for Louisiana State University as a sophomore cornerback. Again, in 2007, he started every game. This time, LSU made a run at the 2008 BCS National Championship and won.
In the victory against Ohio State, Jackson snagged an interception and returned it 34 yards. After the season he made an appearance in the 2008 Senior Bowl All-Star game. He ranks second in Tiger history with 44 deflected passes.
After graduating from LSU, Jackson was drafted in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons. He spent two seasons with the Falcons. Jackson ended his NFL career with 51 tackles and one interception that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown.
Against Georgia State, free safety Corey Hall, coached by Jackson, pulled in one interception that he returned 11 yards. Hall also tallied four solo tackles.
Returning to his alma mater is Ball State alum, Keith McKenzie (@coachmckenzie95).
During his career at Ball State, McKenzie tallied 25 career sacks as a defensive end and still holds the program record for most career sacks.
Later, he was drafted into the NFL and was a member of the Green Bay Packer’s Super Bowl XXXI Championship Team. McKenzie finished his professional career with 118 tackles and one interception he returned for a touchdown.
McKenzie coaches Anthony Winbush, who recorded one forced fumble against Georgia State.
Up next is Linebackers Coach and Defensive Coordinator, Tim Daoust (@coachdaoust).
In his time at Wittenberg University, Daoust accumulated 27.5 career sacks, the second most in the history of the school. Daoust once served as the Defensive Line Coach and Assistant Head Coach at Syracuse and helped the Orange to two bowl victories in their 2012-13 seasons. Daoust’s defense produced 44 tackles and only allowed the Panthers to net 77 rushing yards.
First year collegiate football coach Johnny Curtis (@johnnycurtis99) spent 19 years with the John Curtis Christian High School football program. He served as the team’s Defensive Coordinator, coaching the team to 13 state championships and one national title in 2013. Curtis’s linebackers tallied 11 solo tackles in the Cardinals first victory of the 2016 season.
Last but not least is new running backs coach, Kevin Lynch (@coachklynch).
In 2008, Lynch helped the Franklin Grizzles to an 11-2 season as a senior. Shortly after Lynch became an assistant coach at the University of Indianapolis, helping the Greyhounds to 39 wins, one of the most successful eras in the history of the school.
Lynch’s running backs dominated the ground at the Georgia Dome, netting 227 yards and scoring all four touchdowns for the Cardinals.
It’s certainly a new era and Neu has surrounded himself with a successful coaching staff, both on and off the field.
Expect some of that success to trickle down into the performance of the athletes learning from this effective group of coaches.
The Cardinals head to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10. Watch the game on ESPNews and or listen with SL Radio on WCRD.