By Sam Draut–
Bobby Petrino said the 2016 recruiting class was three years in the making, and finally, the head coach was officially able to sign the 23-member class. Pulling prospects from 10 different states, the class ranks 37th nationally by Rivals.com and 41st by Scout.com.
Heading into his third year in his second tenure at U of L, Petrino and his staff’s first priority was replenishing the defense. Three weeks ago, juniors Keith Kelsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons, DeAngelo Brown and Devonte Fields announced they would return for their senior years.
Louisville added five defensive linemen and three linebackers after losing Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei and James Burgess, among others.
“We signed a really good group,” defensive line coach L.D. Scott said. “We got some guys with some length, guys that will grow, guys that will be versatile.”
Versatility and size is a good way to describe the incoming group of defensive linemen. Michael Boykin is a 6-foot-6 Carrolton, Georgia native who held offers from SEC schools like Alabama and Auburn. Fellow defensive-end signee Kordell Slater is a three-star prospect that arrived in January for spring practices and workouts.
Montgomery, Alabama linebacker P.J. Blue is a consensus three-star prospect with a 6-foot-4 frame. Blue committed to South Carolina before head coach Steve Spurrier resigned.
“He has great size,” Scott said. “He has the potential to be a great linebacker.”
In the secondary, the Cardinal defense added four players. Three of the four play the safety position, and Petrino believes the newcomers can make plays around the line of scrimmage and also play in coverage.
Four-star London Iakopo signed with Louisville after withdrawing from his commitment to Arizona last month. The 6-foot safety is rated as the second-best junior-college safety nationally by 247sports.com.
Along with Iakopo, two other junior-college players committed to U of L on National Signing Day. Outside linebacker Gary McCrae spent one season in junior-college after being rated a four-star out of high school and signing with Georgia in 2015. Malik Williams signed also signed with U of L, Petrino said the running back has the ability to play multiple positions.
“Anytime we go out and recruit junior-college guys we are recruiting them with the idea that they are going to come in and compete to play or compete to start,” Petrino said.
On offense, Jawon Pass headlines the group and is arguably the best player in the class. The four-star quarterback from Georgia was heavily recruited by Alabama and Auburn, but committed to Louisville in July and stayed firm after an official visit to Alabama in January. Pass is rated the nation’s ninth-best quarterback by ESPN and his brother, Khane, is a freshman safety at U of L.
“We got a great quarterback, somebody we have been recruiting for a long time,” Petrino said. “One thing we were really impressed with was his ability to learn, and he is a tremendous athlete.”
Listed at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Pass signed alongside of a bevy of talented receivers. Though Louisville signed five receivers in last year’s recruiting class, Petrino couldn’t pass up on signing four talented wide-receivers this year.
Dez Fitzpatrick committed to Louisville in 2014, but the 4-star from Michigan withdrew his commitment this fall and reopened his recruitment. He took an official visit to Louisville this past weekend and announced his decision to sign with U of L on a video released by the Bleacher Report released on Monday.
Chris Taylor-Yamanoha and Seth Dawkins are two other highly-touted wide-receivers, both rated as four-star prospects by ESPN. Local product Keion Wakefield from Male High School is the final piece of the four-member group of receivers.
Wakefield wasn’t the only local prospect the Cardinals kept from leaving home. DuPont Manual defensive-lineman Derek Dorsey and DeSales punter Austin Johnson signed with the Cardinals. Both of the Louisville natives committed to the program in spring 2015. Trinity High School linebacker Vince Lococo will join the team as a preferred walk-on.
“We want to keep the best players in the city of Louisville here,” Petrino said.