This is probably not the news Ball State fans are longing to hear, but you'll have that in a transitional year: running back/kick returner Eric Williams has decided to leave the program for personal reasons. And that could mean anything. He thinks he can make it with a better school, or he doesn't get along with Pete Lembo and the new coaching staff, or he's sick of losing. Or perhaps he just wants to see the world, backpack through Europe, maybe make his way to California. As is every college student's dream.
But our friends at Over the Pylon are neither pleased nor shocked by these developments. When new coaches come in you're always going to have personality conflicts, and it sounds like Williams didn't hear that he was guaranteed to be the starting running back (although if not him ... who? We'll get to that in a bit) and decided to leave Dodge.
You may remember Williams was one of a couple players to get dual honors in MAC football last year: third-team All-MAC as a running back, second-team All-MAC as a kick returner. As a sophomore he ran for 613 yards and five touchdowns, as well as two receiving TDs. He also had a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown against Eastern Michigan and was second in the conference in all-purpose yardage behind only Eric Page with 132.8 per game. Erics get yards around these parts.
So suddenly the running back depth chart thins out drastically. They were counting on Williams to shoulder the load for 2011 with the departure of senior MiQuale Lewis.
That leaves only two running backs with any sort of meaningful experience lining up in the backfield: senior Cory Sykes and sophomore David Brown. Sykes, standing just 5'7" tall, will definitely not be "the guy," but he'll stand to get most. His career best performance was a monstrous 23-carry, 203-yard, three-touchdown showing against EMU in 2009, but that was about all he did in '10 with the rise of Williams. Brown had a 100-yard game in the upset of CMU last year (assisted by an 80-yard touchdown).
We knew this was a rebuilding effort for Lembo. Now it's even more of one, with the loss of their top offensive player. But hey, they have still some nice pieces on defense that haven't transferred. Yet.