The Cardinals inked four Linebackers to replace 3 graduation standouts. They also signed four defensive linemen to shore up a undermanned group, as well as 3 defensive backs to add to the group signed a year ago.
Here is a look at each player broken down by position groups:
The one position on the team that lost the most talent and experience was arguably the linebacker corps. While the Offensive line will miss 5 players who started or played considerably, there are at least 4 players waiting in the wings that have game experience on their side. That is not the case with the LB Corps. So to remedy the situation, the staff signed 4 players to help boost depth and speed..
The player who will make the most immediate impact that was picked up in the linebacker group will be JUCO transfer Stephan Martin. The 6-0 226 Martin, is already enrolled at Ball State and will be able to get ahead of the curve by competing in spring practice. Given that Martin already has 2 seasons of college football under his belt, the staff has to be expecting him to step in and make an immediate push for playing time. Martin is an athletic & fast LB that will be able to step in and make plays from sideline to sideline. He also an excellent hitter and will make an impact bringing a punishing presence on the edge .
Also in the mix for immediate playing time is MIKE LB Sean Wiggins. The 6-2 226 Wiggins was the team captain for Matthews, NC (Butler) who ended up ranked #3 in the nation. Coach Lembo called Wiggins the glue of the stout defense that Butler put on the field last season. Expect the tough, smart and aggressive Wiggins to fill in needs against the run as he learns the ropes of playing against collegiate passing games. Wiggins has good size coming out of high school and is surprisingly rangy and athletic.
Also signed to help out in the middle is Cincinnati Withrow LB Nick Isaacs. The 6-1 235 Isaacs is a monster in the middle. He has good speed and instincts and plays the run with aggressiveness and toughness. Isaacs brings a chip on his shoulder on the field and hits with reckless abandon. I expect Isaacs to redshirt unless he can prove an asset on special teams in his first year, but I do expect big things in the near future from this big and athletic LB.
The final LB in the group is Stu Stanley of Indianapolis Cathedral. Stanley, 6-1 220, is a converted Safety, but comes from a great program, which should ease his transition. Stanley is a "gym rat" kind of player that has great instincts and nose for the ball. Stanley is a much better athlete than most give him credit for and he is tough and tenacious. Stanley will play on the outside in college and he has the ability to cover as well as step in and make plays in the box against the run. Stanley has already bulked up a bit from the end of the season and could be an asset right away in the LB Corps and also in special teams. His combination of athleticism and intelligence for the game will pay dividends in the long run.
The most promising and possibly impactful players in this group (in my opinion), might be the least known. Damerrian Petty, a 6-1 290 DT from Lawndale, NC (Burns) is a force on film. He is big, but also extremely athletic. Petty played on the edge as a DE last season in high school and was effective at getting into the backfield and causing havoc. Petty will move inside as a collegiate, but expect him to still bring that amazing athleticism right into the offense's face. While Petty will probably have to redshirt to acclimate to college and a position change – I expect that Petty's enormous ceiling will prove to make him a Cardinal player to remember.
Speaking of athletic marvels, the Cardinals also signed a pair of athletic and speedy edge rushers that should help Jonathan Newsome supply pressure on the edge.
One player, who I expect big things from, is 6-2 210 DE Anthony Winbush of Indianapolis Warren Central. Winbush is lean, but has a frame to handle added weight, he also is springy athletic and has a very quick get off on the edge. I watched Winbush play a few times last season, and I will delighted to see his ability to get into the backfield and disrupt plays with his speed. Because he played at such a high level program as a prep, Winbush will come in ready to play. Also, his long term prospect are very high.
The person who may very well decide if Winbush plays as a true freshman is fellow signee Daniel Garces of Charlotte Providence High School. Garces is cut from the same cloth as Winbush in terms of athleticism. Garces, at 6-1 223, is a high powered edge guy who is disruptive on the edge and will put pressure on opposing QBs with his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and his excellent body control. Garces put up gaudy sacks numbers as a prep against high quality competition. Much like Winbush, I expect big things down the road from Daniel.
Not to be forgotten is the other DE prospect, Blake Duiett. The 6-1 255 Duiett is a guy that can either serve as a stout, run stuffing DE, or causing matchup havoc with opposing OGs at the DT spot. Duiett is a warrior type. He is touch and strong DE and plays with an edge and aggressiveness that is necessary for an excellent defensive lineman. Ball State Coach Jay Bateman called Blake "ornery, tough and mean" – which speaks volumes about this young man's ability. Duiett has the frame and tenacity to play right away if necessary.
Maybe the top recruit in the secondary is 5-9 170 DB David Moore of Butler High School in Matthews, NC. Moore was the top cover guy on a defense that sent several players to the D1 ranks this season. Moore is a tough and hard working young man that plays with great confidence and tenacity. Moore has been described as playing bigger than his frame and is also noted for his great footwork and ability at changing direction.
With just one open spot at Safety, the Cardinal coaching staff made a late run at East Forsyth High School's Chris Blair. The 5-11 200 Blair is built like a LB and hits like one. He has good body control and balance, and hits like a ton of bricks. Blair is sneaky fast and has a nose for the ball. He also is notable in his ability to make things happen on a turnover. Blair has a high upside.
Although he is slightly smaller than you wish for, Ralph Smith is described as long and rangy for 5-8 165. He has excellent speed, body control and ability to change direction. Smith was also a notable WR in high school, and his ball skills translate well as a defensive back. He is also a very capable punt and kick returner. Smith is described as a confident kid who will battle and cover you and never back down.
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