Ball State Notes
Note: All seniors have their profiles linked, although they are not yet filled out.
Ball State was a bottom dweller in the MAC sporting a 2-10 record with their only victories coming against UAB and Tennessee Tech. It's no shock that the Cardinals folded early on in the season after losing their star quarterback and running back to season ending injuries. Both will look to regain their form and spur the team into a middle of the pack finish in 2018.
The quarterback Riley Neal is easily the most impressive player on the team and a personal favorite of mine over the course of Summer evaluations. Neal is not highly talked of at this point due to an unimpressive stat line and a season that was cut short from a leg injury. Don't let those fool you. Neal's combination of skills is staggering for a MAC quarterback. He looks the part at 6'4" and 220 pounds. Although Neal does not possess any high level physical gifts like mobility or arm talent he is a smart decision maker who consistently finds his second and third target from the pocket. He understands leveraging his receivers and putting the ball in a place where only his man can get it. Neal is technically a junior this year, having received a medical redshirt due to his injury, but he could very well declare if the hype begins to build. I haven't studied the top underclassmen quarterback in detail yet, but I'd be willing to plant my flag on him as a top 50 pick if he returns to form. This is my kind of quarterback, and a guy I'd feel comfortable selecting in early day two.
Running behind Neal is the once MAC first team selection James Gilbert. Gilbert eclipsed 1300 yards as a sophomore, but tore a ligament in his thumb that knocked him out for the 2018 season. Gilbert's pro prospects aren't as good as Neal's and that's a trend that you'll see occurring with most of the Ball State players in the rest of this article. However, his effort as a runner and potential as a passing down back will likely draw some interest if he gets back into his stride from 2016. Look for him as a potential UDFA target for a team interested in adding depth for camp.
There's not too much to say about offensive tackle Kadin Booker, who seemed like the weakest link on a porous offensive line during the 2017 season. Booker doesn't have the build of an NFL player, as he has thin legs and no bulk to him. He looks more like an uncoordinated basketball player than a blocker on the field. When asked to hold up against power or technique he is easily thrust out of the way and left for the birds.
Linebacker Damon Singleton gives some more hope though, as he plays with an old school body and an old school mentality. Singleton is a reliable tackler when he gets his arms onto the ball-carrier and he can finish plays by himself. Even though his movement skills are lacking he does seem patient and aware when working coverages, taking up space as best he can. His game speed and inability to push through messy plays are what will likely hinder his draft hopes. Singleton struggles to find the ball and engage it, getting pushed out of the play by accurate blockers.
Cornerbacks Josh Miller and Marc Walton have earned more recognition than some of their counterparts on the team, but they are both likely undrafted free agents that could fill a role in camp. Miller is the more complete of the two. He is better positioned in coverage and stays tight to his man when working downfield. When asked to make plays on the football, Miller does it. Whether it's fighting at the catch point or going hard to make a tackle, he slings himself around the field to get it done. The biggest issue for Miller is his inability to mirror in man coverage and stay in control at the route break. He has some problems when his cushion is taken up. The backpedal will need refinement, as he often has his weight too far forward during the takeoff.
While Miller may be worth even a late round shot with a good season, Walton is not of the same caliber. Although he may have been hampered by injuries last year, he saw a massive production drop off and looked lethargic on the field. Walton's coverage skills just aren't capable in man or zone, and he isn't reliable in run defense. It wouldn't be shocking to see him lose the starting role for the Cardinals if his play does not improve.
QB Riley Neal: Early 2nd Round
RB James Gilbert: Undrafted
OT Kadin Booker: Undrafted
LB Damon Singleton: Undrafted
CB Josh Miller: Undrafted
CB Marc Walton: Undrafted
If you'd like to read my full notes on the Ball State Cardinals you can do so by clicking the link below.