Hoosiers have high expectations for Ball this fall

From his office overlooking Memorial Stadium’s turf, Tom Allen sees it all.

He sees the sun-washed bleachers that will hold thousands of fans for Indiana’s season opener against Ohio State on Aug. 31. He sees the athlete wellness center construction project growing out of the ground in the stadium’s south end zone.

One particular image, however, registers above the others.

Earlier this summer, Allen noticed a familiar figure each day on the field below. It was Marcelino Ball, Indiana’s sophomore hybrid safety, working by himself. Some days, Allen saw Ball working on backpedaling and agility drills. Other days, Allen watched his pupil complete cone drills.

“That’s impressive,” Allen said.

Indeed, Ball is an impressive athletic specimen and an integral part of IU’s defense. He started 12 times as a rookie in 2016 and earned True Freshman All-American honors from 247 Sports. Last fall, Ball offered a preview of the player he could become for the Hoosiers.

This year, IU wants Ball to take even more responsibility in building IU’s future.

For Allen, that means being more consistent. One of the most impressive qualities Ball displayed as a freshman was his ability to mentally shake off blown coverage mistakes or missed assignments, then react appropriately on the next play.

While quick response is commendable, Allen would like to see a more even-handed approach from Ball as a sophomore.

“We would basically, in our mind, know because he was young, he’s going to be good for a bust or two in the game,” Allen said. “Kind of almost said, ‘Alright, he’s a true freshman, they’re going to pick on him, they’re going to do this, do that.’

“To me, eliminating those is really the next step. Obviously, he did a lot of great things. He just needs to continue.”

Ball finished third on IU’s team last year with 75 tackles, including 60 solo stops. He also made two interceptions and broke up eight passes.

Entering the regular season, IU coaches knew Ball would be physical, blitz effectively and create havoc as a free-wheeling defender. A glimpse at his chiseled and strong 17-year-old body attests.

But what surprised Hoosier staffers was Ball’s ability to cover in space as a hybrid defensive back.

“He’s a corner, basically,” safeties coach Noah Joseph said. “He’s a corner for 80 percent of the game out there, so we were pleased with his ability to cover, especially the deep ball and things of that nature.”

Joseph and the Hoosiers also recognize that Ball hasn’t come close to tapping his ultimate potential as a Big Ten defender. They do believe, however, that Ball will get there eventually.

Understanding his pedigree and his background in a football family feeds that confidence.

Ball is the latest member of his family to play college football. His brother Marcus played at Memphis, and is currently a linebacker for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Another brother, Raeshon, played defensive back at Chattanooga.

A third brother, Reggie, memorably threw touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson as Georgia Tech’s quarterback more than a decade ago.

“He’s still a work in progress,” Joseph said. “There’s times you get out there and you’re like, ‘What in the hell are you doing?’ You don’t know because of his family background, those guys have played in the NFL, and (are) playing in Canadian ball. (You ask), ‘Did you watch something on YouTube, or what?’

“The thing is that he’s a lot more mature right now in just how he’s approaching the game. We still gotta work on consistency every day, bringing that high level and high expectation every single play.”

Expectations for Ball are high this season. All that’s left is for Ball to deliver.

“He’s just a very driven individual,” Allen said. “He expects to elevate, he expects more from himself, and I expect the same.”

2 comments

  1. Ball has a chance at being the best player in the B1G with a drive that matches is physical attributes. Coach Allen has to feel good looking out seeing him put in extra work to make himself better. Every time coach sees him out there he has to know his defense is getting better. Ball will make himself the best FB player in his family which isn’t easy to do.

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