MUNCIE – The Ball State football program will immerse itself deep in the heart of the sport (Ohio, perhaps, will take offense to that assessment) on Saturday when the Cardinals travel to Denton, Texas to battle North Texas (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).
The trip for the Cardinal coaches will be dissimilar in comparison to many other collegiate programs around the country, as venturing into the Lone Star State will essentially be new a new experience for this program.
Football fans can settle in at a good high school game in Texas on any given Friday night and probably catch glimpses of college assistant coaches from every corner of the nation. But more than likely they won't see any Ball State coaches.
“It comes down to connections,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said of successful recruiting. “We have such strong ties in the southeast and when you recruit an outlying area, you aren't going to be there as much as you would be an Indianapolis, Chicago, or Cincinnati. So having ties, and being able to pick up the phone and call people that you know, can really expedite the (recruiting process).”
Because Lembo and several of his assistants developed strong recruiting relationships throughout the southeast when they were at Elon University (2008-2010), the Cardinal coaching staff has continued to work that talent pipeline, along with the Midwest, instead of expanding into new territories such as Texas, even though the talent is as deep in that state as anywhere.
“We can't recruit nationally,” Lembo explained. “A school like Notre Dame, who is going to recruit 100 guys from around the country, they are going from city to city each day.
“We might go into a city like Atlanta and stay there for three or four days and recruit the heck out of that area.”
That strategy has paid dividends.
The Cardinals have signed 18 players from the southeast during Lembo's three recruiting classes and several of those players are making a significant impact.
Lembo does believe that playing games in certain geographic areas can be a benefit in securing future players, as they get an opportunity to see the style of play that his program utilizes, as well as the depth of talent that Ball State has within its program.
The Cardinals played at Clemson during the 2012 season and will visit Virginia next month.
“The Virginia game will be awfully nice for us to play this year,” Lembo said. “When we look at some of the games against high-profile programs down the road, obviously the Big Ten makes a lot of sense because we can bus to a lot of those games.
“And then the teams in the southeast, the Atlantic Coast Conference teams, are a logical choice for us.”
Here are the Ball State starters heading into its game with North Texas.
QT - Matthew Page (5th year)
QG - Jalen Schlachter (redshirt sophomore)
C - Jake Richard (redshirt sophomore)
SG - Jordan Hansel (senior)
ST - Steven Bell (redshirt freshman)
TE - Zane Fakes (5th year)
QB - Keith Wenning (senior)
RB - Horactio Banks (redshirt sophomore)
WRX - Willie Snead (junior)
WRZ - Jamill Smith (5th year)
WRW - Connor Ryan (5th year)
RE - Michael Ayres (redshirt sophomore)
DT - Nate Ollie (senior)
NG - Joel Cox (senior)
DE - Nick Miles (junior)
WLB - Ben ingle (redshirt sophomore)
MLB - Zack Ryan (redshirt freshman)
SLB - Christopher Calloway (junior)
BC - Eric Patterson (junior)
FC - Jeffrey Garrett (senior)
FS - Martez Hester (redshirt freshman)
SS - Brian Jones (redshirt junior)