By Donny Yaste
What happens when a team brings in a top 25 recruiting class? You end up with a good number of freshmen that can impact your football program right away. These freshmen are key to creating a program that is consistently competitive. Even more important is getting freshmen that can compete at needed positions.
Perhaps where impact freshman were most needed this offseason for Louisville football were in the secondary and offensive lines. These areas now tout five impact freshmen, all of which are expected to give significant minutes this fall. Freshmen Ryan Mack and John Miller are both huge incoming offensive linemen that will contribute from day one, with Miller at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 304 pounds and Mack at 6 feet 5 inches tall and 316 pounds.
When questioned about possible impact freshman, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said, “John Miller and Ryan Mack are two guys who can contribute.”
Miller has even seen time at first-string offensive guard. Better yet, Miller is a proven winner; he helped lead his Miami Central team to a state championship his senior year. Mack is no slouch either; Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every tabs him as a super sleeper in the 2011 recruiting class.
Every said, “Look for him to make an immediate impact because he is physically big enough to compete right now, while having the mental toughness to take any abuse thrown his way.”
The secondary also boosts some highly touted impact players such as freshmen Terrell Floyd, Charles Gaines and Calvin Pryor. Floyd and Gaines are cornerbacks while Pryor is a safety. At the end of camp, all three of these secondary players had been listed as second or third string players at their position. Pryor played for Port St. Joe High School and was a captain not only in football but also in baseball and basketball where he received all-state recognition.
Pryor’s high school Coach Vernon Barth even said, “He’s a great young man – just a good citizen. His teachers felt he was a big leader in the classroom, too.”
Gaines, who came in as an early enrollee at wide receiver but was switched to cornerback, was also an instrumental part in Miami Central’s state championship run. He even covered Eli Rogers when Central met Miami Northwestern in the playoffs. While other freshman may not be coming in at the most needed positions that does not mean they have no chance of receiving immediate playing time. Wide receiver is one spot where a trio of young players looks to add depth. The trio consists of freshmen receivers DeVante Parker, Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers. Parker was one of the best wide receivers in the state of Kentucky for Ballard High School. He also was a star forward for Ballard and was a key part in their run to a state championship his junior year. Harris is a redshirt freshman who was one of the first players to commit to the University of Louisville once Coach Strong was brought in. However he tore his PCL before the 2010 season and it was deemed season ending, so he was redshirted. But he is now back and should contribute right away. Also of note is Eli Rogers who went to Miami Northwestern, along with Harris, freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, freshman safety Jermaine Reve and freshman running back Corvin Lamb. He was a standout at the Under Armour All-American game, and is expected to help as a slot receiver and a punt/kick returner. Prominent Miami football recruiting guru Arsenio “Dimori” Diaz said about Rogers, “I believe Eli is going to be a player for us this year – no Red Shirt. I can see Rogers returning punts and running in the regular rotation of receivers this year.”
Regardless of how much each of these freshmen play and how their careers turn out, Coach Strong is building a steady foundation for his program. That foundation is what makes a program successful for years to come.