Louisville signed one the most impressive football recruiting classes in program history last week, and perhaps no member of the staff had a more significant impact on the results than defensive line coach LD Scott.
Out of Louisville’s twenty-four signees, no state is more represented than Alabama, Scott’s home state. Five members of the 2015 recruiting class hail from the Heart of Dixie, and Scott was the lead recruiter on all of them.
Whereas head coach Bobby Petrino made it a priority in his first stint at Louisville to sign talented Florida natives who were overlooked by Miami, Florida, and Florida State, it appears Scott is doing the same thing by picking off Alabama players overlooked by Auburn and Alabama.
Yet, while these players may have been passed over by the state’s marquee programs, referring to any of them as “sleepers” does not quite do them justice. Three of the five signees, for example, were classified as a four-star prospect by at least one major recruiting service, and the other two held offers from multiple BCS programs.
Traveon Samuel from Phenix City, AL is an undersized but speedy slot WR who is ranked as one of the top 10 all-purpose backs in the country by 247Sports.com. As an early signee who enrolled in school this past January, he could potentially see the field early on as both a WR and a return specialist.
Amonte Caban from Smiths Station, AL is the 11th best inside linebacker in the country according 247Sports.com, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham referred to him as a “lights out” linebacker for his ability to lay the wood to opponents. He should provide a boost to Louisville’s front seven and could eventually be the main man in the middle.
Darius Smith is a native of Florence, AL and is considered Louisville’s best recruit out of the state per 247Sports.com. The site classifies him as the 11th best player in Alabama and the very best of the state’s prospects who did not sign with Alabama or Auburn. He figures to play safety at Louisville and was courted by Notre Dame late in the recruiting process before ultimately staying loyal to the Cards.
Scott caught on to Demopolis, AL native Tim Bonner early on in the recruiting process, and at 6-5, 225 lb., he is a weakside defensive end prospect with significant upside. Some big fish eventually came calling, and Ole Miss made a strong push to flip him from Louisville before he decided to stick with the Cards in the end.
Kenny Thomas is a gargantuan offensive tackle at 6-6, 330 lbs., and is a native of Prattville, AL. He was thought to be a near-lock for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech, but Scott ultimately convinced the big man to play for Louisville.
Of the top 40 players in Alabama according to 247Sports Composite rankings, Mississippi State was the only out-of-state school land more players than Louisville, but Scott did damage outside of his home state, too.
He served as the lead recruiter for JUCO DEs Devonte Fields (Texas) and Drew Bailey (Mississippi), as well as safety Khane Pass (Georgia). Pass may windup being one of the most important recruits he could have landed, for not only is he an excellent safety with immediate impact potential, he could also be the key to landing a commitment from his brother Jawon Pass, who is widely considered to be one of the nation’s top dual threat QBs in the class of 2016 (to whom Scott is also serving as the lead recruiter).
There were many question marks when Louisville chose hire back Bobby Petrino as the program’s head coach, and one such question was whether or not he could get the job done on the recruiting trail. There was no doubt that based on his history as a head coach, the man was an offensive genius who was a wizard with X’s and O’s, but could he bring in the talent necessary to compete for ACC and national championships?
Bringing Scott, who is his son-in-law and the father of his grandchildren, with him from Western Kentucky was initially met with mixed reactions when the move was announced. Sure, he was a good player under Petrino at Louisville, but he was young and unproven at a high, BCS level. With speculation surrounding high-profile recruiters like Randy Shannon, Gene Chizik, and Ron Zook (realistic or not) as Petrino put his staff together, expectations were set high. None of those coaches ended up on the staff, of course, and some fans voiced concern on fan site message boards and call-in shows about whether the hire of Scott was too personal and whether he was the type of coach who could allure top recruits.
Soon, those concerns proved to be futile, as right off the bat, he was instrumental in securing late commitments from defensive tackle Tae Thibodeaux, who picked Louisville over Arkansas, and tight end Charles Standberry, who flipped to Louisville from Ole Miss. Thibodeaux redshirted this past season but figures to compete for playing time next year. Standberry, on the other hand, saw a good amount of playing time and was a valuable option in the passing game.
He is not a coach who is only valuable on the recruiting trail, though. While he has certainly earned his stripes there, he is no slouch on the sidelines, either. This season coaching the defensive line, he helped his group contribute to Louisville’s rushing defense finishing the season ranked 10th in the country, and under his tutelage, defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins led the team in sacks with eight.
He will lead a talented group of players again next season, as Rankins will return along with upperclassmen DeAngelo Brown, James Hearns, Pio Vatuvei, Johnny Richardson, and Kyle Shortridge. He also should be getting help from Thibadeaux and Bailey as the Cards hope to once again field a top-ten rushing defense.
Just three seasons ago, Scott was serving as an intern on Bobby Petrino’s Arkansas staff, and now he has not only helped Louisville to one of their best recruiting finishes in program history, but he is on his way to becoming one of the most valuable recruiters in the ACC. For fans who initially thought the hire was too personal, they should now take solace in that idea. It may prove to be a prime factor that will keep Scott representing the Cards for many years to come.