But make no mistake -- this will be a different team in 2014. The Cardinals lost head coach Charlie Strong to Texas, starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is entering the NFL draft and the team will also be entering a new conference next season. Standout receiver Damian Copeland, who led the team in receptions the past two seasons, is also leaving Louisville for the NFL.
So what does new head coach Bobby Petrino have to do to gain momentum into his first season in ACC play? The first thing he needs to do is to build a solid recruiting class. I believe that Petrino is one of the brightest minds in college football when it comes to X’s and O’s, but he’ll need the players to execute these plays at a championship level.
The Cardinals are in a major football conference now, so this should be appealing to potential recruits. Come to Louisville and you can play anywhere from Syracuse to all the way down in Miami. Not to mention the television exposure, specifically playing on ESPN (the ACC is also working on creating its own television network). So let’s go Petrino, Louisville fans are expecting some five-star recruits in the near future.
In terms of this 2014 class, it’s currently ranked 48th in the country (according to 247sports.com). But let’s not get caught up too much in the rankings -- the Cardinals have addressed future needs of the program. This class is rich in defensive backs and the coaches are still targeting a few defensive lineman. If Louisville is able to land Grant Harris (DE) on signing day, he would become a major piece of next year’s defensive front for the Cardinals. Petrino is also targeting Florida native wide receivers George Rushing and Isaiah Ford, and these two players would certainly boost the prestige of this class and could help the Cardinals on offense right away.
It’s not all about rankings when it comes to recruiting. Some five-star prospects end up being busts, while a three-star player is heading to the NFL after three years. There will always be those diamonds in the rough, but if Louisville wants to compete with teams like Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech year in and year out, the Cardinals must be able to recruit competitively with these schools.
If signing day were today, Louisville’s class would be the 10th-best in the ACC. I predict that Petrino will have that ranking shoot up right away in 2015. He simply hasn’t had the time to recruit and build relationships with top-notch prospects. But Petrino does need to receive some commitments on Feb 5 to send a message to all the ACC coaches.
He’s won at Louisville before and also won in the SEC with Arkansas, now it’s time to make the Cardinals a national power. Time will tell all, but this 2014 recruiting class will be the first building block for Petrino’s journey to the top of the ACC.