Mershman a fast learner

Aaron Mershman finally is starting to feel comfortable at Ball State.
The former Bowling Green High School quarterback had a difficult spring and threw an interception that
was returned for a touchdown on his first pass during the Cardinals’ spring game in April.
Since then, Mershman has steadily improved and the freshman is hoping to be the backup quarterback when
the Cardinals open the season Sept. 3 at home against North Texas.
"I was a fish out of water in the spring," said Mershman, who finished his course work at BGHS
in December and enrolled at Ball State in January, taking 15 hours of class.
By doing so, he was eligible to participate in the Cardinals’ 15 spring practices. He also took part in
weightlifting and conditioning workouts.
Of course, by enrolling early, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder easily was one of the youngest players on the
field by at least a year. He’ll turn 19 in early October.
"I was constantly getting screamed at," Mershman said. "Everything I did was wrong for the
most part. Every once in a while I had a good day, especially near the end, you get a hold of things and
we weren’t putting anything new in. But as young as I was, I knew things would be pretty difficult, so I
just had to be patient."
"But getting here in January worked out really well. It helped me get adjusted to college."
The team’s offense remains virtually the same, although head coach Stan Parrish is in his first season.
He was the team’s offensive coordinator last fall.
The college offense was faster, and more intense and complex for Mershman, and the Cardinals kept adding
new wrinkles each day.
But this summer, Mershman showed even more improvement during 7-on-7 practices. He had a chance to watch
film, talk with the coaches and returning players about the intricacies of every play, and continued his
lifting and conditioning.
The Cardinals run a spread offense with a lot of pro principles.
"Those are the things that really made a difference for me this summer," said Mershman, who is
a threat to run and pass. "My feet are quicker, everything is moving quicker, and the game has
slowed down a bit."
Redshirt sophomore Kelly Page is expected to be Ball State’s No. 1 quarterback, with Mershman in the No.
2 spot. Page is a transfer from the University of Oregon and has four years of eligibility left.
The only quarterback on the roster is fifth-year senior Tanner Justice, who threw just two passes in 11
games last fall.
"The players tell me over the summer that he has really progressed," Parrish said. "I’m
really excited about him.
"He’s big, athletic, smart. I’m real pleased with where he is at right now. In the last week of the
spring, I could see a significant improvement, getting more relaxed, understanding what we’re
Ball State is trying to replace quarterback Nate Davis, the Mid-American Conference offensive player of
the year last season. He completed 258-of-401 passes for 3,591 yards with 26 touchdowns and only eight
interceptions to help the Cardinals to records of 12-2 overall and 8-0 in the MAC.
Ball State lost to Buffalo in the MAC championship game and Tulsa in the Motor City Bowl.
The Cardinal started practice Wednesday.
"If he’ll let himself play, he has a lot of athleticism … he’s learning what’s going on,"
Parrish said. "This training camp will be great for him because he is going to get every other rep
even if I redshirt him, he’s going to rep up. I’m very encouraged.
"Now, we have to find out what he does best and not put a square peg in a round hole. I don’t have
Davis playing quarterback anymore, I have Page and Mershman. I’ve got to find out what they can do. We
have enough flexibility in our offense that what they’ll be able to do, we’ll be able to do. I’m tickled
to death with him."
Mershman received a full scholarship from Ball State and chose the Cardinals over MAC rivals Central
Michigan and Western Michigan
Although Mershman is hoping to play this season, he said he’d be fine with a redshirt season. He’s
majoring in psychology and is planning to join the military after graduating from college. He eventually
wants to earn his master’s degree and work for the FBI.
"Obviously, I’d like to be the starter, but it’s probably going to be (Page)," Mershman said.
"If I don’t start, I’d like to get some playing time, but I’m pointing to next year."
(Sentinel-Tribune sports editor Jack Carle contributed to this story.)