The sentence, “I really like you, but I think we’re better as friends,” is nothing any man or woman wants to hear, and after hosting 18 recruits on official visits this past weekend, it appears for the moment the Louisville football staff is receiving a similar message.
Nine current Louisville commits took their official visits this past weekend, but Bobby Petrino and his staff hoped that number would rise, as they also hosted four uncommitted prospects and five prospects who are committed elsewhere but keeping their options open. As of Monday night, none of those nine non-Louisville commits left the city committed, and even some of the current commits stated they would still take visits elsewhere.
Of those who visited and gave post-visit interviews, the reviews were remarkably high. It appears all who visited thoroughly enjoyed their visit, but without any actual pledges, those words do not mean a whole lot. In big time college football recruiting, no points are given for showing a recruit a great time only to have the door slammed in your face.
So with the weekend over and nothing to show from it, it is now time to panic and question Petrino’s recruiting again, right? Not quite.
First off, Louisville is recruiting at a higher level than the program ever has before. In the past, Louisville would rarely have been considered by an top-100 recruit or Army All-American outside the state. Now, the Cards have their attention and several, including RBs Dexter Williams and Jordan Cronkrite, along with DE Mekhi Brown, have checked out the program first hand. They have not landed any yet, but they are taking their cuts and will continue to do so.
In essence, Louisville is a rookie in all this, the new kid at school, if you will. They are in a whole new class now, much like Charlie Conway and the Mighty Ducks were when they enrolled at Eden Hall Academy in “D3: The Mighty Ducks.” The Ducks took their lumps early on as they became adapted to the new people and surroundings, but in the end, they rose up and took down the cocky Varsity team (who let’s say symbolizes Florida State) in the film’s epic climax (you’re welcome for that analogy, all you 90s kids out there).
Second, there is no law that states these kids had to commit during their visit, and there is nothing to say they will not do so in the near future. Top recruits like DE Quandeski Whitlow, DE Reuben Jones, and WR Camion Patrick all reportedly were blown away on their visits. Patrick does not hold an offer at the moment, but the former Tennessee signee out of high school sounds very receptive of the idea of playing for Louisville should they want him.
It is also reassuring that 4-star QB commit Lamar Jackson, despite his openness to visiting other schools, enjoyed his visit. He may be the most important player in the class for Louisville, and should he sign, he could cause a domino effect in which other highly regarded players in south Florida follow suit.
This weekend was not the last chance for the Louisville staff, either. Over the next two weekends, the staff will host several more top-tier prospects before signing day. The Cards are in great shape with a number of them, too.
Louisville almost always finds players who fall in their lap as a result of oversigning at other programs (Lorenzo Mauldin, for one), too, and there still may be some players out there on the Cards’ wish list many do not know about.
The Cardinal faithful is certainly in need of some positive news after events like the Belk Bowl loss and Kentucky and Duke losses in basketball, but patience is a virtue.
Be that as it may, it still remains important for perception that the staff finishes this class off with a bang. They are getting the benefit of the doubt for now, but in the end, they are going to have to close on some remaining prospects, and that goes double for current verbal commit Jackson. It will go a long way in both the short term and the long term for this program if they can accomplish that feat, and it will send a powerful message throughout the conference.
Fans who are uneasy, though, can still take solace in the fact that there are few better developers of talent in the business than Bobby Petrino. How often has the man taken a two- or three-star prospect and transformed them into one of the better players in college football? Check the NFL player database for the answer. The man is still a great coach and even if he does fall short with some of his remaining targets, the talent he has secured can be molded into something great.
For now, though, there are still two weeks left until signing day, and several players may wait until the last minute to announce. Then we will see whether the staff finished off strong or whether they were “friend zoned.”