After every season a football program's roster will see major shifts and changes. Whether it be from graduation, eligibility exhaustion, grade issues, injuries or transfer, a coaching staff is tasked with maintaining a full roster and filling in areas of need as they arise.
For the Ball State football recruiting class of 2018 (#B1RDSQU8D) we have ranked the positions that Head Coach Mike Neu and the Cardinal coaches will certainly be working the hardest to fill. After we finish the rankings, we will do a series of stories on each position, outlining the players who have been offered and share our thoughts on the potential commits at each area of need. Here is what we think:
1. Quarterback - There is certainly no need greater than filling in the roster spots at QB where the room is thin and will get thinner. Starter Riley Neal enters his junior campaign which means 2018 will be his final year in Muncie, so finding the next Cardinal QB is a must. Ball State will also graduate 5th year senior Jack Milas at the end of this season, which leaves current R-Fr Drew Plitt as the only other QB on scholarship. With so much need, Neu and OC/QB Coach Joey Lynch have to find at least one, if not two QBs to fill the need in this class.
2. Defensive End - There are currently 8 scholarship athletes slated to fill the two DE spots, which sounds okay from a depth standpoint. But considering that 3 of the five are either 5th year or true Seniors and things get dicey quickly. The Cardinals will graduate starters Anthony Winbush and Brian Whitaker along with possibly Reggie McGee (who is currently injured and may end up with a redshirt). The Cardinals, luckily, are fairly young from there, boasting 2 freshmen, a redshirt freshmen and 2 sophomores as the remaining 5, but adding depth and keeping a good number, that is also high quality, will be key.
3. Secondary as a whole - while the Cardinals did sign 6 DBs in 2017, the need is still there as depth needs built and turnover is bound to happen. There is only one senior (David Moore) in the Corner and Safety spots, but there are still a few juniors and a need to keep competition and class spacing in tact.
4. Offensive Line - the Cardinals are pretty stocked right now with 16 scholarship athletes up front for coach Kyle DeVan, but it is still an area of need. For one, the Cardinals have 5 athletes that are either senior or junior in status, which means these spots must be filled, but secondly, quality depth and size are an issue as DeVan's philosophy of the "big athlete" goes full tilt against a roster built from former Coach Pete Lembo's philosophy of smaller, more agile linemen. Look for the staff to go after more 6-4 and bigger guys as the 6-3 and smaller guys graduate.
5. Defensive Tackle - Assuming that new DC David Elson sticks with the 4-3 defense that we have been accustomed to in Muncie over the past several years, then there is a need for depth and size up front. Ball State will graduate only 2 of 7 scholarship linemen after this season (Kevin Willis and John Swisher) but will not have a single interior D-lineman over 280 in the group. Look for Elson and DLine coach Keith McKenzie to seek out some beef up front.