Yesterday, Louisville signed one of its top recruiting classes in the football program’s history. With a Heisman Trophy winner, new offensive line coach and defensive coordinator, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding Louisville’s 2017 season. Who else is buzzworthy from this year’s recruiting class?
(Click on more below for the breakdown)
Big Winners: Offensive Line Prospects, Secondary, Kemari Averett
Most Louisville fans will tell you that it is hard to point out one specific recruit or skill position that really stands out, but that wasn’t the case after watching each recruits tape for the first time.
With the return of offensive line coach Mike Summers, and all five offensive linemen coming in, there is a lot of optimism to be had. The offensive line group has impressive size already, and with how poorly Louisville played to end 2016, some like Cole Bentley and Mekhi Becton may be able to play right away as true freshmen. Bentley, Becton and Caleb Chandler all showed a mean streak and good first step in their technique, which is encouraging given that some sacks were allowed by a slow first step. All three could start this season at some point, and that will please fans to no end. Ronnie Rudd is also someone who can play right away with his JUCO status. This isn’t even considering Toryque Bateman, who is a proverbial mastodon at 6’8″, 300 lbs.
The lone tight end recruit, Kemari Averett, stood out on National Signing Day. He isn’t being talked about a lot due to how much hype the offensive line and secondary got, but he has some promise. For a 6’7″, 240 lb. player, Averett showcased some exceptional route running and hands. It remains to be seen where he will fit in the tight end depth chart with Micky Crum and incoming transfer Jordan Davis, but he could see some early playing time as a third tight end in goal line packages or blocking situations.
Russ Yeast has to be the most exciting prospect Louisville has on their roster. Most sites have him listed as a cornerback, due to his agility and ball skills. It shouldn’t surprise Louisville fans if he eventually transitions to wide receiver or makes an impact on special teams. Anthony Johnson and C.J. Avery are two guys who could be big time contributors for Louisville in 2017, as both showed great awareness in pass coverage. Adding Ronald Walker and possibly two years of Jaire Alexander to the mix, Louisville will be fine at defensive back going forward.
Most Likely to See Redshirts: Malik Cunningham, Wide Receivers
It’s hard to find a blemish on Louisville’s recruiting trail, but due to the sheer depth that Louisville has at quarterback and wide receiver, most of those recruits could see a redshirt at some point. Malik Cunningham has some notoriety as an exceptional runner, but due to a three deep quarterback position (Lamar Jackson, Kyle Bolin, Jawon Pass), it’s really hard not seeing Cunningham redshirt in 2017.
Louisville will enter 2017 with one of the deepest wide receiver groups in the conference, maybe the entire country. Petrino added to that group with a trio of Georgia receivers; Justin Marshall, Corey Reed and Josh Johnson. Johnson strikes me as a stereotypical slot receiver, with a lot of speed. Reed comes into Louisville as the #7 WR out of Georgia, and his tape validated that. Reed had multiple highlight reel catches, adjusting to the ball and making unreal catches. Reed’s ability to catch the ball and blocking in the running game could make him the most likely freshman receiver to get playing time.
The Rest: Colin Wilson, Top Special Teams Headline Class
The rest of the class rounds out what projects to be one of the better groups that Louisville football has ever seen. Running back Colin Wilson headlines the group as a four-star running back, and chose Louisville over a bevy of bluebloods like Alabama, Auburn and Clemson. With Brandon Radcliff and L.J. Scott leaving, Wilson should compete for a third-down back role with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and one-cut ability. His size (6’1″, 221 lbs.) and ability to catch passes out of the backfield remind me a lot of his running back coach, Kolby Smith.
Special teams also saw a noteworthy upgrade, as Army All-American Mitch Hall and top-ranked kickoff specialist Jakson Wine both committed to the Cardinals. Hall will replace Colin Holba, who is currently ranked as the top long snapper on NFL Draft boards, while Wine could compete as the starting kicker at a position that could use an upgrade.