Ball State football doesn't have a game Saturday, but it can still win the week.
With a couple extra days before the Cardinals take on Western Michigan Nov. 1, several of the coaches hit the road early this week for recruiting. Head coach Mike Neu said this is the biggest week they've had to connect with recruits because the team doesn't have a true bye week.
"Recruiting never stops, as we all know," he said. "It's something you have to stay on top of weekly, daily. Communicating with your prospects and commits, whether it's via social media or through letters, or obviously you can text message now. Making sure they're still committed, and making sure they know how we still feel about them."
The coaches were broken up into territories, checking in on current commits and looking at high school seniors the program is interested in.
Ball State has also used this week to get the younger guys some more reps. Many of the scout team players have been playing more snaps in practice, including mini scrimmages at the end. First-year defensive coordinator Tim Daoust said that was important to see while the other coaches were looking at incoming players.
"We wanted to make sure, as we evaluate recruits out there, we take stock of what we have in the building," he said. "It was fun to see those guys run around, and the older guys help them out. So it was good for the program."
When recruits look at Ball State's program, they have to like their chances of making an impact early in their careers. The Cardinals play a lot of young guys on offense, and seven of the current starters on defense will graduate after this season.
Neu has been a big practice guy from Day 1. If you produce in practice, you're going to get a chance to play.
True freshman wideout Damon Hazelton has probably been the biggest beneficiary of that mentality this season. The Baltimore, Maryland, product has played in seven games (four starts) and hauled in 25 passes for 275 yards and a team-leading two receiving touchdowns.
"It does not matter what year you are — freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," Neu said. "I think [Hazelton] has done a great job with the reps he's gotten and taken advantage of that. We try to create a competitive environment here because competition makes everybody better."
Ball State is currently 4-4 with a roster made up primarily of recruits from the Pete Lembo era. But Neu seems happy with where they're at and heading in the future.
"We got a lot of good things happening right now," he said.
It's hard to gauge Neu's first class outside of the few who have played this year, but many of them will likely be looked at to play key roles over the next few years.
The Cardinals don't have a chance to win a football game until Nov. 1, but winning this week could go a long way in setting them up for more victories down the line.