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Warren Ball Receives 6th Year: What Does It Mean?

For Akron and this young man, it could mean everything

Ohio State Spring Game Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Akron Zips sent out a press release announcing that Warren Ball received a 6th year of eligibility. In part, it read,

“The NCAA has granted University of Akron football player Warren Ball (Columbus, Ohio) a sixth year of eligibility following his season-ending injury last fall.

The running back started the first two games of the 2016 season. He had 181 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. In his Zips' debut, Ball led all rushers with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the win over VMI. His five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the first TD of his collegiate career. At No. 10 Wisconsin, Ball led the Zips rushers with 71 yards on seven carries before leaving the game with the injury.

Named a preseason third-team All-MAC by Athlon Sports and College Sports Madness, Ball earned a bachelor's degree in sports industry from Ohio State in spring 2016 before transferring to Akron last summer. He is pursuing a master's degree in sport administration.

"We are extremely happy that Warren will continue as a member of our team," sixth-year head coach Terry Bowden said. "His leadership on and off the field has been a tremendous asset so far, and we look for his continued contributions to our success."“

I was going to do a quick write up on it yesterday, but I was busy with the women’s shootyhoops power rankings. I was confident that the story would receive the attention that it deserved elsewhere. It didn’t. I guess people saw career 370 yards, and didn’t think it mattered all that much. Well, it could mean everything.

First, what does this mean for Warren Ball? A highly regarded recruit out of Columbus Desales High School, Ball originally played for Ohio State. He didn’t see a lot of action for the Buckeyes. That’s not an indictment on his ability. In his time with the Buckeyes, he was behind Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott. 99% of NCAA backs wouldn’t see the field behind those two.

Graduating from Ohio State, he took advantage of the graduate transfer rule, and took his talents to Akron. He played well in his first game and was playing fantastic in his second before his season was ended with an injury. In that game, he had 10 carries for 71 yards against a vaunted Wisconsin defense.

This year could be the year he stays healthy and fulfills his destiny. Ball reminds me, in size and running ability, of a prospect 25 years ago that played about a 10 minute drive from Desales at Westerville South High School. His name is KiJana Carter. Like Ball, Carter was injured in high school, and in college. In 1994, he was finally blessed with a full year injury free. After running for 1584 yards, at 7.8 per attempt, he was selected number 1 in the NFL draft.

Times change. Running backs aren’t in as high demand, and Akron isn’t 90’s Penn State. A great season isn’t going to propel Ball to number 1 in the draft. It wont even get him into the first round, but it could put him into the draft. That would be huge for a kid who’s career could have been over had the NCAA not made the right call.

What does this mean for Akron? After Ball’s injury, Akron all but abandoned the run. Unable to move the ball consistently cost Akron points, and exposed a defense that wasn’t up to par. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Ball’s injury very well could have cost the 5-7 Zips a bowl appearance.

With questions surrounding quarterback Thomas Woodson, and the loss of Akron’s top two receivers , Ball could be the difference maker this season. If he can give them 15-20 carries per game, at 6+ yards per, it would help make the entire team better. The offense would produce, and the defense wouldn’t be on the field most of the game.

Ball receiving a 6th year could be the biggest story not involving PJ Fleck this MAC football off-season.