[Bumped for informational purposes. At least one of us is keeping our heads about this whole thing. Probably helps that he's actually, you know, watched Hoke's teams play. Thanks to BSU Alum07 for a great Fan Post. - MnB Dave]
As a Ball State alum and Michigan fan who attended Ball State for four of Brady Hoke's seasons in Muncie, I thought that I would offer some observations about Ball State's offensive and defensive schemes during his time at Ball State.
Coach Hoke's first offensive coordinator Ed Stults was a disaster. He ran a conservative Lloyd Carr style offense with a lot of I-formations and two tight end sets which would've worked well if Ball State had a running back who could carry the ball productively or two good tight ends. Add in the fact that Ball State had no capable option at quarterback and wide receivers who could reliably and consistently catch passes and you have a massive fail of an offense.The only bright spots of the Cardinals' offense was wide receiver Dante Ridgeway, running back Adell Givens (who flunked out after his only season at Ball State, and tight end Michael Steinhaus. After two seasons of this debacle, Stults got demoted to tight ends coach and was made assistant head coach to sugarcoat the demotion.
To replace Coach Stults, Stan Parrish was hired in 2006 as the new offensive coordinator. Coach Parrish junked the previous offensive scheme almost completely. He still employed two tight ends due to Steinhaus and Darius Hill being two of the biggest weapons on the offense, but also used a lot more three and four wide out formations and the fullback ceased to exist in the offense. Ball State ran a balanced, one back attack with Joey Lynch and the Nate Davis excelling at quarterback, MiQuale Lewis at running back, and Dante Love at wide receiver/running back/quarterback. The offense was the engine that drove Ball State, which thank God for that, because as you'll see after the jump, the defense didn't exactly put the fear of the God in the Cardinals' opponents.
Ball State technically had the same defensive coordinator, Mark Smith, for all six seasons of Coach Hoke's tenure. I say technically, because by the end of Coach Hoke's tenure in Muncie he was also the de facto defensive coordinator in addition to being the head coach. For the first four years of Coach Hoke's tenure, Ball State ran a defense that the media mostly called a 3-4 defense, but I think would be more accurately described as a 4-3 under defense. The last two seasons, when Coach Hoke was basically running the defense, Ball State mostly used the 4-3 defense, although the 4-3 under defense was also still used.
Ball State was mediocre on defense for all six seasons, although the last two seasons were a marked improvement, with the punter usually being the best player (if you count punters as part of the defense). I wouldn't necessarily read too much into this, the MAC isn't known for its strong defenses, most of the time a defensive stand means holding the opponent to a field goal. That doesn't mean that Ball State was a complete disaster on defense, they had some very good players, just not a whole defense of good players. Ball State still had a standout defensive end in Brandon Crawford, an All-MAC linebacker in Bryant Haines, All-MAC safety in Erik Keys, a NFL draftee in safety Justin Beriault, and a possible future NFL safety in Sean Baker. The linebackers and safeties were consistently the strongest units of the defense, so the reign of the Michigan Safety Hating God maybe finally coming to an end, with the defensive line and cornerbacks taking turns being the weakest link.
[God I hope you're right about the safeties and linebackers - MnB Dave]