Although Ball State’s high preseason aspirations eventually gave way to a pedestrian 5-7 record in 2022, a number of Cardinals’ individual stars and position groups enjoyed accomplished campaigns.
One of the Cardinal and White’s most successful — and perhaps one of its most unsung — units a year ago was its offensive line.
In the running game, the experienced and sizable line paved the way for Carson Steele’s nationally-relevant breakout season, in which he rushed for over 1,500 yards. The Ball State linemen also defended pass rushers considerably well, posting the lowest sack rate in the MAC, and the ninth-best in the country (according to Football Outsiders).
Fortunately for Mike Neu’s staff, a bulk of the Cardinals’ starting offensive linemen will return from last season — a valuable stabilizer in an offense that will be without its starting quarterback, running back, and three of its top receivers from last season.
This year’s line will feature a veteran core of upperclassmen who have combined for 66 starts in their Ball State careers. With the wealth of returning experience for the Cardinals, there are obvious candidates for four of the five slots on the line, while one position on the interior is still to be hashed out in the coming weeks of camp.
The leader of this season’s experienced group will be the bulwark in the middle of the line, center Ethan Crowe. The six-foot-five, 307-pound junior has served as Ball State’s starting center for the past two years, and has earned a reputation as one of the league’s most talented interior linemen.
Crowe earned all-MAC second-team honors in 2022, after being the only Ball State player to start all twelve games on the offensive line. The Bargersville, Indiana native’s experience and reliability will be vital to the line’s success this season.
Damon Kaylor lined up to the left of Crowe for eleven starts last year, and he will be a key returner at left guard.
Kaylor arrived in Muncie in 2021, after transferring from Michigan State, where he spent a pair of seasons. The six-foot-five, 315-pound redshirt junior has since been a critical contributor for Ball State, starting 23 games in his two campaigns. Kaylor’s considerable size and track record could combine for a potential All-MAC season.
Accompanying the accomplished duo of Crowe and Kaylor will be junior Corey Stewart and redshirt sophomore Tommy Lorincz, two Cardinals who earned starts at tackle last season.
A six-foot-six, 322-pound anchor on the edge, Stewart started nine games at left tackle in 2022, before being shut down by an injury. The Nashville, Tennessee product successfully protected his quarterback’s blindside in his stint of action last season, and he will be expected to do the same at an all-conference level this year.
Lorincz is the only other returning offensive lineman on the Cardinals roster with experience in the starting line-up. The six-foot-five, 287-pound former three-star recruit per 247Sports logged three starts at right tackle in 2023, a spot which he will likely hold down on a full-time basis this year.
The only clear opening on the offensive line is at right guard, which graduating senior Jaylen Turner admirably patrolled last season.
A few potential candidates look particularly suited for the starting role, though the competition for the position is still ongoing.
Two returners — redshirt senior Brandon Malkow and redshirt sophomore Kevin Meeder — are poised for strong consideration at right guard.
Despite not seeing the starting line in his first campaign for Ball State in 2022, Malkow is well-established at the collegiate level, as he was a team captain and two-year starter at Western Illinois. The sixth-year senior proved his ability while playing at the FCS level, which makes him a strong option for the Cardinals’ line.
Meeder was among the top backup offensive linemen for the cardinal and white last season, showing flashes of potential in seven appearances. The former two-star recruit per 247Sports will be a contender for the right guard lead, though he certainly lacks the experience of Malkow.
The Ball State coaching staff also snatched an intriguing transfer in former Sacred Heart standout, Jon Mucciolo, who could make an immediate splash for his new team. The six-foot-four, 300-pound graduate student will make the jump from the FCS level, where he was notably successful— earning a mention on the All-Northeastern Conference Second Team last season.
Mucciolo is the second player to come through the Sacred Heart-to-Ball State transfer pipeline, as Chris Agyemang made the same journey prior to the 2020 campaign. The skilled defensive lineman was a key to the Cardinals’ success in 2020 and 2021.
In addition to the signing of Mucciolo, Ball State also recruited Indiana transfer Luke Wiginton through the portal. Though the Fort Wayne, Indiana native did not receive the opportunity to prove himself for the Hoosiers, his high-level recruitment in high school positions him as a potential contributor.
Beyond the aforementioned suitors for the final starting job on the interior, the following also possess the ability to either make a run for the right guard role, or to earn playing time as a backup: Taran Tyo (sophomore), Chris Hood (sophomore), Eli Freeman (incoming recruit), Tristan Cook (incoming recruit), and Rob Fogler (incoming recruit).
This is the third in a series of Ball State football previews, with our next piece addressing the front seven (defensive line and linebackers). Please look forward to that! If you missed our other works, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
BSU’s season kicks off Friday, Sept. 1 at 12 p.m. Eastern time in Lexington, Kentucky, where they are set to play the Kentucky Wildcats.