“We had a huge group of guys here (recently) and they were some of the best recruits that we've had on this campus in my 2 ½ years,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said. “Every day we've had some really good-looking kids come in here and they are excited about what they see going on here in this program.”
Another “good-looking kid” will be in Muncie today, as former Notre Dame quarterback Gunner Kiel will be visiting Ball State as he searches for a new program.
Kiel left the Fighting Irish last month and the 2011 Indiana Mr. Football told ESPN recently that he has been contacted by Mississippi, Mississippi State and Kansas State, and that Ball State, Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) are also options.
In the case of the Cardinal program, there is a lot to like about playing for Lembo, even for one of the nation's most heralded recruits from a year ago.
Ball State has won 15 games over the past two seasons since Lembo arrived in town, and last December he guided the Cardinals to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. With 13 starters returning from a 9-4 (6-2 Mid-American Conference) squad, Lembo's group has legitimate aspirations to compete for a conference title next fall.
“This is a really exciting time for us,” Lembo said. “We feel like we are on some really good guys. We are being very thorough and being very selective. There are some other programs that might offer more guys, but we try and go through a process and are very, very thorough. It's all about being the right fit.”
The timing for Kiel would be good in that, Ball State has a senior starter in Keith Wenning for the 2013 season, one in which Kiel would be required to sit out as a transfer.
The Cardinals also have redshirt freshman Ozzie Mann on scholarship, as well as sophomore walk-on Kyle Kamman, who demonstrated promise in limited playing time last season.
Lembo signed quarterback Jack Miles (Rolling Meadows High School) as part of the 2013 recruiting class, and he will join the program in June.
Kiel graduated from Columbus East High School in December of 2011 and enrolled immediately at Notre Dame. He ran the scout team through last spring and the 2012 season, which in January; he told the News-Sentinel was a positive experience for him.
“I think I'm a lot better,” Kiel said. “From where I came in from where I didn't really understand anything, it was fast, the terminology was different. Coming in and playing scout team was kind of good for me. I could get back my confidence, sling it around and got better at the same time.”
Kiel will have three years of eligibility if he transfers to an NCAA Division I program.