When former head coach Pete Lembo resigned to join Maryland, it left Ball State with an extra challenge to deal with - retaining all the players he recruited.

His assistant coaches managed to do just that, keeping all 18 recruited players interested up until they signed the dotted line on National Signing Day Feb. 3. New Ball State head coach Mike Neu said he was impressed with the coaches' ability to hold the recruiting class together.

See all of Ball State's new recruits here.

“I think the biggest challenge was not being able to meet these kids and meet their families,” Neu said. “The challenge was trying to get out and meet their families, and to make sure that they felt good about who they're turning their son over to and that was important.”

Ball State's class was ranked fifth in the Mid-American Conference by 247 Sports. Western Michigan held the top spot in the conference, and only Massachusetts, Toledo and Miami were ranked higher than Ball State.

Following an 3-9 season, Ball State is poised to return six starters on offense and nine on defense for the 2016-2017 season.

Although the Cardinals lost proven veterans like Jacob Richard, Jordan Williams and Ben Ingle, the team brought in a wide variety of position players to eventually fill the void.

Ball State brought in a variety of players, including five offensive linemen. Twelve of the 22 new recruits are on the offensive side of the ball, including two tight ends, three wide receivers, a running back and a quarterback. 

One particular area of emphasis was on the defensive line, as seven of the Cardinals' 10 new defensive players are on the line. Last season Ball State struggled to generate a pass rush and keep teams from running on them late in games, so the coaching staff worked to fix it by adding some depth on the line.

Defensive coordinator Tim Daoust sat down with the coaching staff and decided that defensive line was one of the biggest areas of need for the Cardinals.

“A lot of the kids were committed and we did our due diligence to evaluate them ... but as you try to piece together the scholarship balance of offense and defense, that's where it appeared the need was - on defense,” Daoust said.

Neu was hired as Ball State's coach on Jan. 7. Coming in so late in the process, Neu said he missed out on one of the most important aspects of recruiting - the personal touch.

But in the end, he was happy with the class the Cardinals are getting for the upcoming season.

“I’m very excited about the class we were able to put together,” Neu said. “Considering the circumstances with my arrival so late in the recruiting process, I feel the assistant coaches did a tremendous job. It takes some good people to pull this off, and I believe this class is the beginning of something special for us at Ball State.”