Riley Neal, 6-5 212 QB, Yorktown, IN (Yorktown) – Neal was easily one of the top QBs in the state of Indiana the past 2 years. With a major league arm and size, Neal has all of the tools to develop into one of the top QBs in the Mid-American Conference. What was surprising this past season was that Neal also was his team’s top rusher, running for over 1,300 yards and 27 touchdowns. While he won’t be expected to put those kinds of numbers up for the Cardinals, it is an added element to his game and an unexpected showing of just how athletic Neal is.
James Gilbert, 5-9 190, RB, Indianapolis (Arsenal Tech) – Gilbert chose the Cardinals over offers from most of the MAC. A powerfully built RB, Gilbert is already one of the fastest Cardinals in the 40 yard dash. Gilbert enrolled early and is already able to work out with the team and will be participating in spring practice which will put him on track to help be a part of the RB rotation this coming season.
Kevin Thurmon, 6-2 271 DE, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) – Thurmon was the big steal of the class. After having offers from Big Ten programs like Wisconsin and Purdue. Thurmon settled on Ball State and the coaching staff couldn’t be happier. With a great match of size and speed, Thurmon has the ability to get to the QB or get in the backfield and create havoc or hold the edge and be a run stuffer. Thurmon is a multi-positional player who can play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3 and also slide inside in Nickle situations to add an extra pass rusher.
Abdallah Jaffal, 6-1 205 LB, Dearborn, MI (Fordson) – Jaffal could be the steal of the class. A great athlete, Jaffal is a runner/hitter kind of player that is able to play the field LB in non-nickel situations and then slide over to the SAM when the nickel hits the field. Jaffal is stout against the run and is a sure but hard hitting tackler that is not afraid in space. His greatest asset right off the bat will be on special teams where he will be able to use his speed and hitting ability in return coverage.
Anthony Sheko, 6-3 205 S, Chicago (Simeon) – Sheko is an interesting prospect. He has but one year of playing Safety under his belt after being a prep QB in the season’s before. Sheko is big and athletic. A long strider who can cover ground quickly. He had good ball skills from playing offense for most of his career. He can cover when necessary or slide up and play as the 8th man in the box. Sheko has a great frame and can play S or project out to an LB with added weight.
Akeem Hutchinson, 6-3 247 DE, Fort Lauderdale, FL (Stranahan) – Hutchinson is a great late bloomer prospect. Completely under the radar until late in his senior year when his film came out. Hutchinson has all the tools to be great. Great size, great athleticism, Hutchinson could be a big time steal.
John Whitman, 6-2 296, Columbus, OH (Lackawanna CC) – Whitman is an intriguing prospect. Ball State doesn’t typically dip into the JUCO ranks, and when they do, it is for someone that will contribute right away? Whitman, a NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American, is a big and quick DT. He is perfect for the 1 or 0 tech who demands a double team or the 3 tech that can be disruptive and get to the QB.
What’s the Plan?
Romero Wade, 5-11 210 ATH, Longwood, FL (Lyman) – Wholly athletic marvels – Wade is a great athlete that could potentially play several different positions. Initially projected as a DB, Wade is much bigger than anticipated at 210 pounds. Does he trim down and stay there? With that size and speed combo, does he slide back and play Safety? Can he potentially play as a hybrid Nickel/WILL like Aaron Taylor? Or could the former QB potentially find a spot at RB or SLOT WR? The options are plentiful as is Wade’s talent.
Sean Hammonds, 6-2 229 DE/LB, Louisville, KY (Ballard) – Hammonds is another guy with the ability to play multiple positions. At 6-2 (and some say still growing), Hammonds looks like a perfect fit for a hybrid rush end/linebacker player. He can drop into coverage or get at the QB. He can stand up or play with his hand in the dirt. As Hammonds grows, he will also add more weight as he has already bulked up from 210 to 229 since his senior season ended. Another possibility is Hammonds sliding over to play Flex TE, where he has the ball skills and physicality to make plays in the passing game and block.