If you get the pleasure of attending a Ball State game this year, I wouldn't take too many restroom breaks or concession stand runs while the offense has the ball, thanks largely to the presence of junior wide receiver Willie Snead. His last minute one handed skywire catch against South Florida was the game-winner and if you had left to get a walking taco you'd have missed the heroics of another chapter of Wenning-to-Snead culminating in the first home win against a BCS automatic qualifying conference member in program history. You'd have missed the catch that would be later featured in Sportscenter's Top 10. You'd have missed your chance to see our BSU version of Jimmy Chitwood's picket fence shot. (Don't get caught watchin' the paint dry, boys).
[Ed note: here's that catch.]
Snead is noticed by opposing fans for having blazing speed and sure hands. As a wide receiver in the passing game directed by Keith Wenning, that's a nice little bonus. But watch enough film on Snead and you'll notice something else. Namely, that the most important body part on Snead is neither his hands nor his feet, it's his mind. Most people don't know that Snead was actually a quarterback in high school at Muskegon (MI) where he led the Tigers to a 30-8 record and one state championship during his tenure. Quarterbacks who do that have a unique grasp on the fundamentals of the game and Snead has that in spades. Unlike speedsters who just blaze down the sideline, Snead lets the play come to him. Watch his film and his highlights and you'll see a WR who follows blocks when they're there or who pulls up for a beat or two to let them catch up.
That sort of grasp of football as well the results it brought helped Snead land in 3rd place all-time in single season receptions and yardage at BSU with 89 catches ad 1148 yards to match his 6th-best single season record of 9 TD catches. As a sophomore. You have two more years of this, MAC.
For Snead, 2013 looks to be another spectacular year, and his junior season could be step #3 on his quest for BSU history. He currently ranks 12th all-time in career receptions and receiving yards, and 11th all-time in career receiving touchdowns. Let's assume for a moment that his 2013 is exactly the same as his 2012. If that happens, at the conclusion of this season he'll have 206 catches for 2623 yards and 20 TDs: good for 3rd in the record books for catches and yards, 4th in TDs and needing only a pedestrian senior season to shatter all of them. He is already rewriting the record books, as he has three games in the top 40 of all-time single-game yardage, so having his name at the top of the career list seems like the next logical step.
His performance in 2012 landed Snead 1st-Team All-MAC and on the 2013 Biletnikoff Watch List. And did I mention he's only a junior? The sky really is the limit for Snead, but the whispers and chatter around Muncie and the fanbase are pointing at this year as "THE YEAR" for this group. It's Pete Lembo's third year in Muncie and depending on the success of the Cards, could be his last. It's Keith Wenning's senior season. It's the MAC West's championship to lose. It's the final year of the BCS and the final chance for a MAC team to bust it. The cards (pun?) are all aligned for something special in Muncie, and Willie Snead may very well be the highlight maker. And that's perhaps the best thing that Snead brings to the table, other than his duty as a pass-catcher in the Rich Skrosky schemed offense.
It's rare that a MAC player rises to the level of "must watch". That sort of rare air is usually reserved for BCS automatic qualifiers that have been fawned over and ESPN'd to death. Snead, however, brings some pop to the conference and the Cards that can't be overlooked. Lots of folks have swagger but no stats. Some have stats but not swagger. Watch Willie Snead and you'll see a player that brings it and knows he belongs. And then proves it on the field over and over again.