By Dalton Ray–
With 22 commitments, Louisville’s football recruiting class ranks in the top 30 by the four major recruiting sites: ESPN, 247Sports, Rivals and Scout. The highest ranking comes from Scout.com (25), and the lowest is 247Sports (30).
Highest ranking members: CJ Avery (safety), Russ Yeast II (athlete), Colin Wilson (running back), Ronald Russ (offensive tackle) and Caleb Chandler (offensive guard)
Considered a four-star recruit by ESPN, Scout and 247, Avery is the highest ranking defensive player coach Bobby Petrino has hauled in during his second tenure. An Under Armour All-American, Avery totaled over 130 tackles in his final two years of high school. Avery will likely grow into the two-position role of safety and outside linebacker.
Yeast is the best-known name of the class because of his father, Craig, who is Kentucky’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. Yeast finished his senior year with 2,100 total yards and 27 touchdowns. A savvy player, Yeast will likely end up at corner.
The lone back in this class, Wilson finished his high school career with 4,900 total yards with 3,900 coming on the ground. An all-around back, Wilson has ideal size for a college tailback at 6-foot, 210 lbs.
The final two recruits, Russ and Chandler, are what Petrino needs the most. Russ can likely make an immediate impact as the 6-foot-7, 305 lbs. tackle is a junior college transfer. With offers from Florida, Miami and Virginia Tech, Chandler should be a building block for the Cardinal’s future offensive line.
Position restock: Offensive line receiver, safety and linebacker
Along with Rudd and Chandler, the Cardinals bring in three more linemen. Mekhi Becton and Toryque Bateman both are Signing Day commits and rated four-star recruits by ESPN. Becton chose U of L over Michigan and at 6-foot-6, 300 lbs., he has very powerful strikes when he engages with a defender.
Bateman enters U of L as the biggest player on the team at 6-foot-8, 300 lbs. Relying mainly on his size in high school, Bateman will need an overhaul in the weight room and technique wise. Not ready to make an immediate impact, Bateman has the tools to work with to become a starter.
Graduating from Belfrey High School, Cole Bentley is the only scholarship player from Kentucky in the 2017 class. The lightest lineman of the class, Bentley has good feet and is athletic for his position.
With four seniors graduating this past season and another three next year, Louisville brings in a trio of wideouts from Georgia. Headlined by Justin Marshall, the Cards also bring in Joshua Johnson and Corey Reed Jr. At similar size, 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs., Marshall and Reed both are ideal outside receivers. Johnson, 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., is an agile slot receiver.
The largest position group coming in this offseason is safety, led by Avery. Lyn Strange and TreSean Smith have the highest potential aside from Avery. At 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-3, the pair of safeties cover space well.
Rodney Owens and Anthony Johnson are the other two safeties.
U of L brings in three outside linebackers in Dorian Etheridge, Kam Jones and Malik Clark. Etheridge, the most sought after member of the group, is a long-armed player that isn’t afraid of contact.
Other players to note: Kemari Averett (tight end), Malik Cunningham (ATH)
Averett is the classic pass-catching tight end Petrino needs in his offense. At 6-foot-6 and 215 lbs., the Georgia native will need to add bulk before seeing the field.
Cunningham committed to U of L as a quarterback but comes in as an athlete. A gifted runner, Cunningham will likely end up as a receiver, running back or safety.
Kemari Averett, TE
CJ Avery, S
Toryque Bateman, OT
Mekhi Becton, OT
Cole Bentley, OG
Caleb Chandler, OG
Malik Clark, OLB
Malik Cunningham, ATH
Dorian Ethridge, OLB
Mitch Hall, LS
Joshua Johnson, WR
Anthony Johnson, S
Kam Jones, OLB
Justin Marshall, WR
Rodney Owens, S
Corey Reed Jr., WR
Kaheem Roach, CB
Ronald Rudd, OT
TreSean Smith, S
Lyn Strange, S
Colin Wilson, RB
Russ Yeast II, ATH
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal