New Ball State football coach Pete Lembo wants to embrace his new surroundings and establish a strong recruiting base in and around Indiana. That will take some work since he and most of his assistant coaches are working in the Midwest for the first time.
While Lembo is intent on being known in places such as Indiana and Ohio and Chicago and Detroit, he understands walking into high schools in those areas last month as a total unknown would be difficult.
So when Lembo announced his first signing class with the Cardinals on Feb. 2, most of the new players he secured after becoming Ball State's coach came from the South. Lembo's fall-back plan for his first class was to recruit areas in the southeast United States where he had a comfort level.
The former Elon University coach attracted nine players to Ball State since his hiring in December, and six of them came from North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.
Lembo wants to recruit those areas, where he has strong connections with many schools, but not at the expense of ignoring his new home area. But his big push to recruit the Midwest won't come until the next signing class.
"You see a swath of kids from Virginia down to Florida, which is very reflective of our staff, where we recruited in the past, where we have relationships," Lembo told the Muncie (Ind.) Star Press. "Given the incredible time constraints to put this class together, we had to go where we knew of available players and guys we had some familiarity with."
TOP OF THE CLASS
DE Nick Miles -- The Cardinals need immediate help on the defensive line, especially at end where they lost three players from last year's team. Miles was productive as a prep, setting a school record at Eastern Alamance High in Mebane, N.C., with 17 sacks last season.
OT Jalen Schlachter -- He committed to Indiana University last summer. When Bill Lynch was fired as Hoosiers coach at the end of the 2010 season, new coach Kevin Wilson withdrew the offer to Schlachter. Ball State gets a player who needs some development, but his size at 6-7, 300 pounds is perfect for his position.
WR Trey Gardner -- At 6-foot-4, he'll add needed height to Ball State's corps of receivers. Ball State's offense under Lembo needs taller receivers on the boundary, and Gardner, along with signee Jacolby Owens at 6-3, fill that need.
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