Quarterback Keith Wenning. Wide Receiver Willie Snead. Both are entering this years NFL Draft and both of these young men are not getting the fan-fare some others are. But considering they are coming out of Ball State and played in the MAC Conference, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The only time the MAC Conference was ever really mentioned was when people spoke of Jordan Lynch and the Northern Illinois Huskers. Jordan Lynch was fun to watch, but when it comes to the NFL Draft, Keith Wenning is the one to watch. Most have Wenning slotted as a pick on the third day, if that. Wenning netted over 4000 passing yards with 35 TDs through the air and he has nice size at 6’3″ 218 pounds. What he doesn’t have is time with John Gruden on ESPN and he also doesn’t have a pro day which will air on national television with the likes of former presidents and celebrities present while putting his talents on display.
Going under the radar is nothing new for Keith Wenning though. Wenning played high school at Coldwater, Ohio. His senior season saw him finish 13-2 with 3699 yards and 40 touchdowns but the only division one scholarship that was offered to him came from Ball State. This probably happened because Wenning spent most of his high school days playing wide receiver and linebacker.
In an article written by Adam Moussa, Ball State assistant coach Joey Lynch said of Wenning: “He has never lost sight of where he comes from and he knows exactly where he wants to go. Our team has truly rallied around Keith because of his toughness and work ethic.” That work ethic is something that Wenning brought up in an interview he had with Chris Shanafelt : “I think my work ethic is similar to Drew Brees in the aspect of the way he attacks the game and how he is so detailed in everything that he does, I feel I am similar to that.” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABgFdF744Cs )
Most mock drafts and draft “experts” pencil Wenning as a 7th round pick or even just a free agent at the end of it all. This is baffling considering the likes of Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech and Stephen Morris of Miami are slated to go somewhere in the 5th or 6th rounds. Wenning has showed command of a high octane offense, with the arm strength and athleticism most teams should want on their rosters. Maybe it’s because Ball State doesn’t play in one of the BCS Conferences – but we’ve seen quality starting quarterbacks come out of small schools (check Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois; Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) to name a few). In a draft class where two of it’s quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, two young men out of the same “non-BCS Conference,” are projected to go early in the first round, I don’t understand how people will still look passed the likes of Wenning.
Where Wenning is positioned to go in the 7th round, his teammate Willie Snead is projected to be a free agent for the most part. Snead is a 5’11 wide receiver who didn’t “wow” anybody at the combine with his 40 time of 4.62, but if you’ve seen him play, you know he’s got the skills for the next level. He doesn’t shy away from the big moment, has great hands and has the ability to catch the ball in traffic. Keep in mind Ball State was putting the ball in the air somewhere in the vicinity of 35-40 times a game with Snead as the number one target. Snead on the field is a chatty competitor who in 2013 racked up 1516 yards receiving on 106 receptions along with 15 touchdowns. I watched a lot of Ball State games this year and Snead’s adrenaline poured from his wide eyes and wild hair whenever a big play was needed.
During the NFL Combine, Snead said he had spoken with the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots. Both teams would be a great fit and great places for his career to start. In Cleveland, most of the defenses attention goes to the likes of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon which can open up opportunities for the crafty route runner, Snead. And of course any receiver can benefit from playing with Tom Brady. . . except for maybe Kembrell Thompkins or Matthew Slater. . . Bottom line is that it would be a real shame to not see Snead on an NFL roster. Even if he is passed up through seven rounds, he should be getting a call from somebody the minute the draft comes to a close.