Ball State put together a fantastic season in 2013. The Cardinals went 10-3 (7-1 MAC) and were a blocked field goal away from winning their first bowl game in program history. But when the season ended, the Cardinals lost a lot. Gone are Keith Wenning and Willie Snead. Gone are Nathan Ollie and Jonathan Newsome. Gone are nearly all the starting offensive lineman.
But that's what Signing Day is for, a chance to replenish, rebuild, and give people a look towards the future. The Ball State Cardinals went into signing day with several key goals in mind, and came out with a solid 19 member class, that included a grad student transfer from Notre Dame (for those that count transfers as recruits). Here's a look at the 'Cards class as whole.
|Dedrick Cromartie||Saint Louis, MO (DeSmet)||S||2-Star||5'11''/185lb||YES|
|Roy Denson||Cape Coral, FL (Ida S. Baker)||ATH||2-Star||5'11''/175lb||YES|
|Darian Green||Lafayette, IN (Jefferson)||ATH||2-Star||5'10''/185lb||YES|
|Bruce Heggie||Mount Dora, FL (Mount Dora)||OT||Graduate-Transfer||6'5''/275|
|Jordan Hogue||New Haven, IN (New Haven)||WR||3-Star||6'1''/175lb||YES|
|Jeremiah Jackson||Brooksville, FL (Hernando)||OLB||2-Star||5'11'''/207lb|
|Garrett Johnson||Saint Charles, IL (St. Charles North)||TE||2-Star||6'4''/240lb||YES|
|Matthew Johnson||Lafayette, IN (Jefferson)||ATH||2-Star||5'11''/180lb||YES|
|Alex Joss||Walled Lake, MI (Walled Lake Western)||OT||2-Star||6'5''/275lb||YES|
|Malik King||Muskegon, MI (Muskegon)||OG||3-Star||6'5''/296lb||YES|
|Corey Lacanaria||Bloomfield Hills, MI (Brother Rice)||WR||2-Star||5'8''/160lb||YES|
|Jake McPhatter||New Castle, PA (New Castle)||ATH||2-Star||5'11''/170lb||YES|
|David Morrison||Fort Wayne, IN (Concordia Lutheran)||PRO-QB||3-Star||6'2''/170lb||YES|
|Devin Reece||Westfield, IN (Westfield)||WR||2-Star||6'3''/190||YES|
|Damon Singleton||Wyandotte, MI (Roosevelt)||OLB||2-Star||6'2''/210lb||YES|
|Quentin Turner||Lithonia, GA (Quentin Turner)||CB||3-Star||5'10''/180lb||YES|
|Winfred Ward||Lehigh Acres, FL (East Lee County)||DUAL-QB||2-Star||6'2''/190lb||YES|
|Jacob White||Clarendon Hills, IL (Hinsdale Central)||ILB||NR||6'0''/215|
|Kevin Willis||Indinapolis, IN (Lawrence Central)||C||3-Star||6'3''/274lb||YES|
Ball State went into this class with some target positions in mind: namely, linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver. For the most part, Pete Lembo and his staff did a good job of filling those positions. The Cardinals signed three linebackers, including a pair of 2-star guys. In the wide receiver department, Lembo went hard after athletic players who can plug in at multiple spots on the field. Seven of these type of players were signed in all, including three that were in the Top 25 players from the state of Indiana. On the offensive line, Ball State signed four players, counting the graduate transfer from Notre Dame, and all were strong recruits.
Basically, Ball State hauled in a solid class, but the Cardinals lost Vontae Diggs, their top recruit, last week, and failed to replace him with another impact OLB prospect. They did pick up some promising prospects at non-essential positions, such as quarterback, where they signed two players, including 3-Star pro-style quarterback David Morrison, the No. 21 overall player in the state of Indiana. It was a nice mixed, balanced class.
Ultimately classes are judged on their top players. Ball State signed five 3-star players, which is a decent number for a MAC school, but lags way behind West foes Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
Malik King, the Cardinals highest-rated recruit, is one of the players to keep an eye on. The offensive guard, and Top30 recruit out of Michigan, has the frame offensive line coaches drool over. At 6-foot-5 and a shade under 300 pounds, he's large, but not fat, athletic, but not too lean. King is the type of player who could see some rotation time as a true freshman, though it's unlikely that does happen. Either way, this is the kind of player you build an offensive line around. He's big, strong, and has good feet, and is a skilled run blocker.
Another recruit to keep an eye on, is also an offensive lineman; center Kevin Willis. The No. 17 recruit out of the state of Indiana, and No. 22 center in the nation, is huge on that factor alone, but he's also literally large. At 6-foot-3, 274 pounds, his frame is lean, and with some college conditioning could turn him into a top-notch MAC center. He's got a great first punch, and is solid all around, though he could use some work on footwork and technique. Luckily, offensive lineman commonly redshirt, so an extra year could be what he needs to bulk up, and improve his skills enough to become one of the top recruits in the class.
Matthew Johnson is another player to keep an eye on. Listed as an athlete, Johnson has the right skills to work as a multipurpose back, or a slot. He's lightening quick (sub-4.4 40-yard-dash), possess top-notch explosiveness, and is agile as a cat. In Ball State's offense he could turn into a dangerous slot receiver in time, and will likely contribute in the special teams game as well. Not to mention, he's the No. 23 recruit in the state of Indiana, so landing him is also great because it keeps top-level talent near home.
Overall, this class features a fantastic mix of athletes, and more specialized players such as offensive lineman and quarterbacks. The Cardinals tapped into a little bit of everything, filling needs, picking up some quarterbacks, and even adding some pieces in the secondary.
Lembo also did a fantastic job of recruiting in state. He signed six of Indiana's Top 30 players, and several top-50 players from surrounding states. Being the only MAC school in Indiana gives Ball State a monopoly of sorts on he upper-mid-level recruits in the state, but it also makes it paramount for Ball State to take advantage of that. Losing out local guys to competing schools. The Cardinals still have a long ways to go to compete with their instate rivals (Ball state is 24 spots behind Purdue in Rivals current recruiting class rankings), but the ability to haul in those top 30 recruits is a good sign.
It is a bit disappointing that Ball State lost a player like Diggs to a school like UConn which isn't even in a "BCS" conference anymore. Another 10+ win season, and a bowl win, should lead to more 3-star recruits committing, and signing with Ball State.
OFFICIAL HUSTLE BELT GRADE: B +