Louisville signs 2015 recruiting class

By on February 5, 2015

By Sam Draut–

After more than a year into his second stint at Louisville, Bobby Petrino answered the final question: could his recruiting mirror the success of former Cardinal head coach Charlie Strong?

As the dust settled on National Signing Day, Louisville’s 2015 recruiting class ranked 32nd nationally by Scout and Rivals while ESPN ranked it 30th nationally.

The 25 man recruiting class is the second highest rated class in program history, falling a few spots behind the 2011 class that included Teddy Bridgewater, DeVante Parker, Gerod Holliman and Lorenzo Mauldin.

“I’m really proud of our assistants in building relationships and putting together this class in a year,” Petrino said. “We have recruits from nine different states, so our coaches were going everywhere to make this happen.”

Louisville lost five wide receivers and three starters on the offensive line to exhausted eligibility while playmakers in the secondary Holliman, James Sample and Charles Gaines left early to pursue careers in the NFL.

Addressing these losses was the staff’s first concern.  The Cardinals signed six wide receivers and five offensive linemen.

“We did a good job of filling our needs, offensive line, wide receiver, defensive backs and defensive end,” Petrino said.

Though National Signing Day never goes without drama, it was who Louisville was able to hold onto that solidified the class.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and defensive end G.G. Robinson had been committed to Louisville since the early fall, but both received a late push from SEC schools.

Jackson, ranked a four-star on Rivals from Boynton Beach, Florida, was recruited heavily by Florida up until his official decision on signing day.

Though all three quarterbacks who started last year, Will Gardner, Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon return along with Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson, Jackson should be able to vie for playing time.

“His speed and his athleticism jump out right away when you see his tape, but I was very impressed with his release and with his deep ball,” Petrino said. “We’re not going to have to work with him that much when it comes to mechanics, but his issue, like all freshmen, is going to be grasping the offense and getting himself mentally in a place where he’s ready to compete for the job in August.”

Robinson, a consensus three star from Lilburn, Georgia spurned his father’s alma mater for the Cardinals.  Gerald Robinson played for Auburn in the ‘80s and was selected 14th overall in the 1986 NFL Draft.   

“It came down to him wanting to play in this style of defense and his relationship with our coaching staff,” Petrino said.

Seven signees are junior college transfers that will help fill the void left by Louisville’s winningest senior class.

“Because we had so many guys leaving, we had to go the juco route to fill some holes because we needed some guys to step in and be able to contribute right away,” Petrino said. “We feel like all the junior college players we took will be able to contribute next year.”

Jeremy Smith from Fresno City College is ranked as the fifth best junior college running back by ESPN and will help to replace Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer.

Offensive linemen Khalil Hunter and Kiola Mahoni are two other junior college transfers who will provide depth in the trenches immediately.

The defense bolstered their front seven after losing talent to graduation. Devonte Fields, the former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at TCU is an elite athlete with a troubled past.

The defensive end from Trinity Valley Junior College is a five star on Scout and ranked as the third best junior college transfer in the nation by ESPN.

Fields was dismissed from TCU in 2013 after facing off the field issues, but Petrino offered him a second chance at big time college football.

“It was a long process with Devonte Fields. We spoke with Gary Patterson at TCU and every coach on the Trinity staff. We talked with his mother extensively,” Petrino said. “He could have gone to the NFL, but it was important for him to go to a major college and be a student and an athlete again. He sold us on that and I feel like he earned the scholarship.

“I believe in second chances and sometimes third chances. Every one of these situations is on an individual basis. You do your research, and I feel like if you have a chance to give a young man a second chance you do it,” Petrino said.  “Some of the best moments for me have been guys coming back to the spring game or calling and saying I have a degree and a family because you were willing to give me a second chance.”

Though one player cannot replace the impact of DeVante Parker, the receivers who signed will begin to work into becoming down field threats.

“We have six wide receivers, and all but one of them are 6-foot-3 or taller. We wanted to get bigger and faster at that position and we’ve done that,” Petrino said.

Two receiver signees were included in ESPN’s top 300 list.  Devante Peete is a 6-foot-5, four-star player from Pompano Beach, Florida who is a big outside target.  Traveon Samuel is an allusive and speedy athlete who can be an effective slot receiver.

On the opposite side of the ball, three defensive backs were added in wake of the early departures of Holliman, Sample and Gaines.

The two incoming safeties could compete for playing time early on.

Dee Smith, a safety from Florence, Alabama is rated a four-star player and eleventh best at his position nationally by Scout.

Khane Pass is a consensus three-star safety who is a strong athlete with big play ability.

While some signees are finishing off their final semester before heading to Louisville, eight signees are already on campus participating with spring workouts.   

“Not sure how many of these guys will play right away next season, but the one thing we do is make sure that they’re preparing to play right away. And that starts right now,” Petrino said. “The eight guys who are here already, we expect them to contribute more because they’re already ahead.”

The school’s second best recruiting class in program history ranks fourth and sixth on Scout and Rivals respectively.

Petrino expects to be finished with the 2015 class, so the coaching staff will move onto prospects in the 2016 class looking to continue their momentum from their first full class at Louisville.

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