Another National Signing Day has come and gone which means there were cries of joy along with a few cries of tears throughout the country yesterday and yes, it was probably middle aged men crying over a decision made by 17 year old kids. Say what you want but college football and basketball recruiting have a way to bring the strongest man down to his knees and has hit a boom in the last ten years to become a multi-million dollar industry. Coming off of a Sugar Bowl win and getting the word that they will soon be in the ACC, many expected the Louisville Football program to soar to new levels on the recruiting trail. Expectations accomplished!
Charlie Strong and his staff secured a commitment and signed letter of intent from 16 signees and 1 transfer from Florida in Willie Bailey. Among those 16 signees was what is believed to be the highest rated recruit to ever sign with the program in Trinity high school wide receiver James Quick. Here’s a breakdown and quick look at the entire class:
(5 Star WR James Quick at the Army All American Game)
- (WR) James Quick- (Trinity) Louisville, KY - 6’1” 180lbs. – Parade All America honorable mention rated as a five star wide receiver. The Mr. Kentucky Football award winner led Trinity to its third straight state title while catching 85 passes for 1,413 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games as a senior. Quick was the MVP of the Army All American game January 5 in San Antonio after recording 3 receptions for 71 yards including the game winning 34 yard touchdown. He recorded 102 all-purpose yards in the win. James is an electrifying playmaker and even with the deep and talented receivers that the Cards will bring back in 2013, James has the ability to see reps immediately and could be a staple in the return game. Also a basketball and track star, James ran the 200 meters in an astonishing 20.94 (state track record) seconds. The Paul Hornung (State’s top player) award winner had offers from just about every major school in every conference including National Champions Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee, West Virginia and many others.
(4 Star Richard Benjamin On His Official Visit To UofL.)
- (CB) Richard Benjamin– (Tampa Bay Tech.) Tampa, FL - 6’1” 195lbs. – Four star recruit by most services and the 67th best prospect in the state of Florida by 247 sports. ESPN ranks him as the No. 38 wide receiver and No. 46 player in Florida. He’s a two way player that is very versatile and was named MVP (along with fellow signee Terrence Ross) of the 58th Annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association All Star game when he recorded three interceptions. Had 509 receiving yards and five touchdowns to go with 718 rushing yards and six touchdowns. On defense he collected four interceptions his senior season. Had offers from Clemson, Michigan, Mississippi, Rutgers, USF, Tennessee, Texas A&M, West Virginia among others.
(4 Star Donel Elam - pictured to the left - Showing the Bird)
- (S) Donel Elam– (Fleming Island) Orange Park, FL – 6’1” 200lbs. - Four star prospect by espn.com and No. 91 outside linebacker by Scout.com. In my humble opinion, Elam is one of the guys that you could see on the field immediately whether it’s at safety or making big hits on special teams. No. 31 OLB by espn.com and he was named to the Florida Times Union Super 24. Great run stopper that hits as hard as anybody you’ll see and is fast enough to cover receivers and make plays in the secondary. Good size and frame to add more muscle. Had offers from FIU, West Virginia, Western KY and others.
- (DE) De’Asian Richardson– (First Coast) Jacksonville, FL – 6’3” 285lbs. – Four star recruit considered one of the fastest rising prospects in the nation. Very good athlete and very big and strong. No. 34 defensive tackle and No. 80 player in FL by espn.com. No. 14 strong side defensive end by Rivals.com and No. 51 in FL. His athleticism shows evident as he also played some wide receiver and tight end in high school. He was voted to the Jacksonville Times Union Super 11 and was the first commitment to UofL after the Sugar Bowl win as he flipped from West Virginia. At one time he was committed to FSU and was heavily recruited with offers from Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, Michigan St., Missouri, North Carolina, Penn St. and Oklahoma among others even after missing his junior year with an ACL injury. Huge upside and potential to dominate the defensive line.
- (CB) Charles “Chucky” Williams – (Champagnat Catcholic School of Hialeah) Hialeah, FL - 6’2” 180lbs. – Four star prospect and a very versatile player that can play both sides of the ball. Excellent speed, quickness and lateral movement. Ranked as the No. 36 overall athlete in the country and No. 87 in FL by Rivals. Had a phenomenal showing at the IMG 7 on 7 Tournament as a defensive back. Dangerous and electric kick and punt returner who had a 92 yard kickoff return for a touchdown vs. the Florida Heat at the IMG tournament. Totaled over 1,200 yards receiving with nine touchdowns and four interceptions on defense. Chucky has the height, frame and long arms that Coach Strong wants for his defensive backs. Watch out for Williams as I think he could compete for playing time immediately. Had offers from Arkansas, Clemson, West Virginia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Purdue, Wake Forest, Illinois, Indiana and many others.
- (QB) Kyle Bolin– (Lexington Catholic) Lexington, KY - 6’3” 185lbs. – Four star recruit and No. 4 prospect in the state of Kentucky. No. 17 QB in the country by Scout.com and passed for 7,038 yards and 63 touchdowns during his career that was limited due to injury. Threw for over 3,000 yards with 29 TD’s and only 11 Int’s as a junior. Fairly mobile for his size and has good footwork. Rushed for 300 yards and five TD’s as a junior and was Lexington Catholic’s first sophomore ever to win the Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Year award and the Coaches award. Kyle is a very smart player and true student of the game. He makes the right decisions and is a born leader on the field with a very accurate arm. Arm strength is decent to good but will obviously get better with Coach Pat Moorer pushing him in the gym. Great player recruiter too and he helped get a few of the other guys to commit to UofL. The sky is the limit for Kyle and getting to learn behind Teddy Bridgewater should be very beneficial. Offers from Kentucky, Illinois and Cincinnati among others.
- (DT) Kyle Shortridge– (Seminole Ridge) Loxahatchee, FL - 6’2” 273lbs. – Rated as a high three star prospect by every service out there. Kyle plays like a raging bull and is very strong but will need to add some more mass to play tackle at Louisville. He has a great looking frame that will probably add about twenty pounds of muscle over the next year or two. Has good use of his arms and good technique. Kyle is very good at getting the advantage in leverage against offensive linemen. He played for the Florida all-star team that pits the best players from Florida against the best players from Georgia in a 7 on 7 Tournament. Had offers from Purdue, Nebraska, Michigan St., Mississippi St., Missouri, USF, WVU, Wisconsin and others.
- (LB) Keith Kelsey– (Gainesville) Gainesville, FL - 6’1” 220lbs. – Three star and rising prospect from the 6A state runners up, Gainesville high school. No. 46 inside linebacker by espn.com and No. 33 by Scout.com. Has great speed and good size for a linebacker and does a great job hitting, wrapping up and taking down opponents. Named first team All-State this season and credited with 193 tackles, 6 ½ sacks, five forced fumbles and two blocked field goals. Had 14 tackles in the State Championship vs. juggernaut Miami Central. His father, Keith Kelsey Sr. played for Strong at Florida in the 90’s. Kelsey should be a very good player for the Cards and will compliment a very good group of linebackers in the next few years. Had offers from Kentucky, Duke, Minnesota, Wake Forest, Utah, UCF, South Carolina, Iowa St. and others.
(4 Star Keith Kelsey - pictured to the right - Is A Physical Specimen)
- (QB) Brett Nelson– (Southwestern Community College) Chula Vista, CA - 6’4” 220lbs. – Rated as a three star quarterback by espn.com after playing two seasons at Southwestern Community College. Enrolled at UofL in January and was named one of the top “pro style” QB’s in California. Threw for 4,472 yards and 34 touchdowns with 17 interceptions in two seasons as the starting quarterback. Nelson has the prototypical body type for a pocket passer as he is big and strong but also possesses decent speed and running ability. Nelson has a very strong arm, can throw on the run and his accuracy is pretty good too. Has a quick release and like Bridgewater in the Sugar Bowl, he takes what the defense is giving up instead of trying to do too much. Coach Watson really likes Nelson and with him getting on campus early and having the skill set that he does, he should push Teddy to stay on top of his game and if needed could be a valuable replacement. He and redshirt freshman Will Gardner could prove to be a very intense and fun battle to watch in the spring.
- (OG) Chandler Bridges- (Flowery Branch) Flowery Branch, GA - 6’4” 270lbs. – Rated as a three star recruit by espn.com and scout.com but only two star by rivals.com. Was being heavily recruited by several big time schools before tearing his ACL after the second game of his junior season. Bridges is a very physical blocker that finishes his blocks and grades out well. Versatile lineman that could play offensive tackle if need be but will likely play guard. With added strength and mass in a collegiate weight lifting program, Bridges could be the steal of the class. Coach Borberly really likes him and because of the staff sticking with Bridges after his injury, he chose the Cards over Southern Mississippi and Western Carolina among a few others.
- (OT) Skylar Lacy– (Southport) Indianapolis, IN - 6’6” 290lbs. – Big! Big! Big! The three star prospect is very big and not just tall. He’s every bit of 6’6” and his frame is very big and could probably hold 320 plus pounds easily without affecting his abilities. Reminds me of a slightly smaller Jamon Brown who excels at run blocking. Rivals.com lists him as the No. 64 offensive tackle in the country. Lacy has gone up against some of the best defensive linemen prospects this past year and done very well for himself. Was an All-Region selection and two year starter at Southport high school in Indianapolis, IN. Chose Louisville over Cincinnati, Ball St., Western Michigan and others.
- (TE) Keith Towbridge– (Central Catholic) Toledo, OH - 6’3” 230lbs. – The three star stud was formerly committed to Nebraska but after seeing what the Cardinals could offer he made the switch. Keith has a big body but has very good speed and is capable of going past defensive backs. He is a matchup nightmare as he is too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs. Possesses great hands and good jumping ability as evident from his play on the field and the basketball court. Helped his Toledo Catholic team beat Trotwood-Madison for the OHSAA DII state championship. Played tight end and defensive end in high school but will likely be a tight end for the Cards. Keith is a great run blocker as well as route runner and with his size and speed he could play every down, lining up at either tight end or a slot receiver. Huge upside and potential!
- (DE) Finesse Middleton- (Gadsden City) Gadsden, AL - 5’11” 255lbs. – Like Brett Nelson, Middleton is a three star recruit that enrolled at UofL in January and has been learning the system for just over a month now. Finesse is what most say “undersized” to play defensive end but his style of play along with his body type remind me of former Cardinal and current Denver Bronco sack master, Elvis Dumevil. Middleton has a motor that never quits and the raw ability to excel on the collegiate level. He could play defensive end or even a hybrid style linebacker and the coaches have told him that he may end up at linebacker indeed. Finesse finished ranked in the top 50 of talent rich Alabama and recorded 75 tackles with 35 (12 sacks) of those behind the line of scrimmage. Middleton is not your typical linemen/linebacker as he is very athletic and faster than you’d think with his thick muscular frame. He snagged a pair of interceptions this past season including one in the playoffs that he returned 49 yards for a touchdown. Formerly committed to Mississippi, he chose the Cards over other schools such as UAB, Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee, Georgia and Clemson.
- (OL) Cameron Fraser- (Central) Phenix City, AL - 6’4” 290lbs. – Three star offensive lineman Cameron Fraser was originally committed to Willy Taggert and USF but decided to cast his final vote with the Cards. Fraser did not grow up playing football and only recently started during his sophomore year of high school. A talented and still learning prospect has great work ethic and learns quickly. Borberly could have him molded into a very good lineman very quickly and with his technique and long arms, he could play any position on the line. Had offers from Arkansas, UAB and Ole Miss among others.
(Is 3 Star Recruit, Terrence Ross, the "Hidden Gem" of the Class?)
- (S) Terrence Ross– (Wekiva) Apopka, FL - 6’2” 190lbs. – My pick for the “steal” or “hidden gem” of this class is the talented three star prospect from Wekiva high school in Apopka, FL. He is the first player in Wekiva history (school is only five years old) to sign a division 1 letter of intent. Espn.com ranks him as the 73rd best safety in the country while rivals.com lists him as the 56th best at that position. He was selected to the Bright House Sports Network Top 20 even though he missed three games with a knee injury. Committed to Strong and UofL back in May and stayed loyal when many big schools came calling. He is a fierce competitor and has a knack for making big plays and I see him as a Calvin Pryor type of player. Along with Richard Benjamin, he was named MVP (for the North squad, Benjamin was the South MVP) of the 58th Annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star game. Ross was tabbed as the No. 16 player in the Florida Sentinel’s Central Florida Top 60 which is a very fertile area for BCS caliber players. Ended up with over twenty offers including offers from Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Mississippi St., N.C. State, Wake Forest and Minnesota. **Keep your eyes and ears open about this young man**
- (LB) Lyn Clark– (O.Perry Walker) New Orleans, LA - 6’2” 225lbs. – Clark was a late target for the Cards but the three star Linebacker appears to be a very nice get. He was named to the All-New Orleans Area Large School teams and was an All-District and honorable mention for the state 4A team in a very good high school football area. He has good speed and great size with a muscular frame and collected over 100 tackles this past season. Chose Louisville over Tulane and Louisiana Tech.
- (CB) Willie Bailey– (Florida) Hallandale, FL - 6’2” 175lbs. – Bailey was a high three star recruit and top 25 cornerback in the country coming out of high school in 2011. He redshirted last season at the University of Florida and enrolled at UofL this January. He was selected to the Class 5A All-State Second team in high school as a senior and collected many big time offers including Miami, Florida, North Carolina, USF and others. He has good size and great hip swivel which is something you like to see with defensive backs. He will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have four years of eligibility starting in 2014 and should provide quality depth if not gain a starting spot.
Nobody knows for sure which recruits will show up on campus ready to put the work in and which ones might show up not ready for the major jump in competition however, the staff looks like they have gained commitments from several super talented players and many that are proven leaders. More importantly, like Coach Strong talked about in his press conference, they have gained good character guys and all around great people that want to be here and succeed. While this class is low in numbers due to limited scholarships to offer, it is very strong is high caliber and big upside players that fill the needs of the program. The defense is shaping up to be one of the best in Louisville history in the very near future and with the speed and athleticism that has been brought in at the skill positions over the last few years, the offense could be back to putting up “video game” like numbers like they got used to under the Bobby Petrino era. It really is a great time to be a fan of the University of Louisville!
Click HERE to see the class per espn.com