Petrino photo: Tim Haag/CardinalSportsZone.com Strong photo: livestream7.com
The Louisville Cardinals had a school record 10 players selected in this past weekend’s NFL Draft. They had the second most of any team, behind Florida State’s 11 picks. Regardless, that looks great for the program. But who do you think should get the most credit? The guy who coached them last season? Or the guy who brought most of those guys to UofL and developed them?
Just for the record, when I refer to Bobby Petrino or Charlie Strong in this, it obviously includes their whole staff as well. Clearly guys like Todd Grantham and Clint Hurtt have a lot to do with the success of those head coaches, but for the sake of time, I will just refer to Petrino and Strong.
Let’s take a look at the 10 draft picks and try to figure out who is most responsible for them getting drafted…
I think DeVante Parker would have come to UofL regardless of who was coaching. At first glance, you would think if he played under Bobby Petrino for four years, his numbers would have been even greater. However, he wouldn’t have had Teddy Bridgewater throwing the ball to him, so you can’t really say that. But man, he did put up some crazy numbers in just 6 games with Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon, and Kyle Bolin throwing to him. No disrespect to those guys. Parker is just one of those freaks of nature that would be a pro no matter who coached or what team he played for.
Moving on to Jamon Brown and John Miller, this part gets a little tricky. Yes, Charlie Strong brought those guys in, but would they have been drafted without Petrino coming in? Let alone in the 3rd round? The knock on Strong was that he didn’t bring in a lot of talent on the offensive line and certainly didn’t leave much talent there when he left. Bobby Petrino runs a completely different system and needs his linemen to be slimmed down and agile. The line struggled early on, and for good reason because this was a group of guys that were recruited to play in a system where they needed to be big and bulky and not move much. They improved as the year went on, and I think you can credit Bobby Petrino for getting these guys drafted so high. Would they have been draft picks under Charlie? Maybe, but probably not 3rd round.
There is absolutely no question that Charlie Strong and Clint Hurtt deserve a ton of credit for Lorenzo Mauldin. After the upbringing that he had, and then South Carolina oversigning and telling him they didn’t have room for him, he was taken in by UofL. He saw Strong and Hurtt as father figures and really opened himself up, and wow were we lucky as fans to see this happen right in front of us! Had Strong left a year after Mauldin got to UofL, it may have been detrimental to him and his development. He may have lost all trust in anyone ever again. But I think that by the time Strong did go, Mauldin was old enough and mature enough to handle it. He was hurt, but he embraced it as his time to be the leader of the team, which he was.
As far as Mauldin on the field, remember he played defensive end for three years at UofL. It was Bobby Petrino and Todd Grantham that moved him to outside linebacker. This showed his versatility that he could play either spot, much like former Card Elvis Dumervil. This could be the biggest example of both coaches deserving a lot of credit. Strong molded him into the man he is, Petrino put him in his new position that he would be drafted at.
The next pick was James Sample. This one is all Petrino, no question. He got to campus about two weeks before the 2014 season started, so a no brainer here. In fact, Sample may have helped another player get drafted. More on that later.
Moving on to Round 6, the next picks were Deiontrez Mount, Charles Gaines, and B.J. Dubose. It is clear that Charlie Strong had a knack for great defensive players. Yes, Charles Gaines came in as a wide receiver, but that didn’t last too long. He was switched to cornerback and it ultimately got him drafted into the NFL. Good move there by Charlie and his staff. Mount and Dubose developed very well under Charlie and then played in a great system for outside linebackers and defensive ends in 2014. I still remember Vance Bedford talking about B.J. Dubose during his “Get on the Train” speech, which seems like so long ago. They knew young talent when they saw it, that’s for sure.
Speaking of Bedford, I didn’t plan to include this, but I have to now.
The next player picked was Gerod Holliman. Strong brought him to UofL, but he never really saw a lot of game action until 2014 under Bobby Petrino. He didn’t get picked until the 7th round, and some people may have thought that was way too low after his record season of 14 interceptions. But honestly, a lot of the interceptions he got were thrown right to him. And going back to a player mentioned earlier, a lot of passes were thrown Holliman’s way because of how good James Sample was. The knock on Holliman is that he doesn’t want to tackle. He made some big hits, but it seemed to be big hit or nothing. So I am not sure who gets more credit on Holliman. Strong brought him in, he flourished under Petrino, but also benefited from quarterbacks thinking he played for their team.
The last pick was Gerald Christian. He started out at Florida but came to Louisville because of Charlie Strong. He didn’t put up the big numbers I expected under Bobby Petrino, but still found himself as an NFL draft pick, so you can’t hate on that. His impressive numbers at the NFL combine contributed to him getting picked also. But ultimately, he doesn’t come to Louisville if not for Charlie Strong being here.
So here is what I conclude after all of that: Charlie Strong and Bobby Petrino are one hell of a tag team. There is absolutely no doubt that Charlie Strong and his staff could recruit. There is also no doubt that Bobby Petrino is one of the best football minds in the country. Now in saying that, the Cards did just sign their highest rated recruiting class, so Bobby can do some recruiting too.
But for this year and the 10 draft picks–if I have to put a number on it–I am giving Charlie Strong 70% of the credit. Bobby Petrino gets full credit for James Sample, but that is the only player that Strong had nothing to do with. Both coaches had a hand in the other 9 guys, but they committed to Charlie Strong. That can’t be ignored.
Now, will the Cards ever top this year’s record of 10 NFL draft picks? I say no, and here’s why. This was such a unique crossover situation. Not to repeat myself, but you basically had two great head coaches combining to put these guys into the pros. Charlie Strong brought in most of these guys, but Bobby Petrino got a few of them drafted on his own (Sample and the offensive linemen I believe). The situation is just too rare for that to happen again.
We could see Petrino get anywhere from 5 to 8 guys drafted in the NFL every year, and that would be a great number. But 10? That is a little crazy to expect something like that every year. It certainly could happen, but I just can’t convince myself of it because of the situation of both Strong and Petrino having something to do with this year’s draft for the Cards.
So here is what this all means Cards fans: We have been VERY fortunate to be fans of Louisville football in these last few years. We have had the guy come in and rebuild the program and make things fun again and get us into the ACC, and now we have the guy to take over that program and take us to the next level.
If you ask me, this Bobby Petrino-Charlie Strong tag team that just produced 10 NFL draft picks is one to be reckoned with. Hey Charlie, if it doesn’t work out at Texas, go get Clint Hurtt and come back here and recruit. I will allow it.
Go Cards…Go Krogering!