Louisville put together another outstanding recruiting class under the leadership of coach Charlie Strong and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. So how did the Cardinals do it? I had a chance to catch up with Hurtt to find out.
Just to start off, what are your overall thoughts on the class you signed?
Clint Hurtt: We're all really excited. We met a lot of needs that we were looking to accomplish coming into the class. We wanted to make sure we shored up some depth on the offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. Those were key points in the class. We feel like we got that done.
CH: The biggest thing is identifying right away kids physically who can help you early on. Some kids come in a little more advanced than others. If you have a position where you need a freshman or two to help you out, that is what you look for. Once you identify those kids, then there are a lot of things based on your numbers and how many guys you need to bring in to your position.
When did you know you had the makings of another solid class?
CH: A lot of that started happening the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We were able to get to the contact period and go into homes. When you get into their homes and you get a chance to sit down face to face -- the one thing Coach Strong always says going into homes and official visits, we have kids who have unbelievable families. We’ve got kids with a solid foundation, great character, integrity, and you can see why with the families we brought into the program. We knew about their ability. Obviously the thing you find out after is you want to find out what kind of personality they have, how driven are they, where do they come from? We feel we got a special, special class that we are so excited about.
You had to play a lot of freshmen last season. Will you have to do the same this season?
CH: Obviously we are bringing in a full class of 25. I'm sure there will be some kids who will have to redshirt coming in, but we don’t come in saying this is our plan. We'll let that be determined by how kids handle the transition. All kids want to come in and play but so much is how can they handle concepts coming in? We're going to have to still play some young guys. The program is still building. We're nowhere near set. We're still building our foundation. A lot of it is we had some success early and obviously some things are going really well. But we also understand there are a lot of things we have coming along. We played a lot of freshmen, but those kids will be sophomores. We only have 11 seniors and very few are featured contributors for us. We still have a lot of growth to do. We’re one more recruiting class away from saying we set the foundation for our football program and now we're pressing forward.
What was a bigger sell on the recruiting trail -- Coach Strong getting a contract extension or saying you were co-Big East champs?
CH: It was a combination of both. Obviously everyone wants to know security, are Coach Strong and our staff going to stay in place? We have great people on our staff. Coach Strong did an unbelievable job putting together the right group of people. Kids want to make sure we're in place. That's a lot of the negative recruiting part. Everybody expects Coach Strong to follow suit with what past coaches have done here, but we have to help them understand this is a place we enjoy. This is not a quick stopping place for us as a coaching staff. Obviously it's a lot easier to go into homes and say we have a part of the Big East championship, but we have nowhere to go but up. We want to represent the conference in a BCS game. We feel like the cup is half full. The Belk Bowl is great but we have a bigger plan.
You have a lot of coaches with ties to the state of Florida, and you signed 10 players from there. How much do your ties help, and how much did it help having so many guys from South Florida play as freshmen?
CH: Having coaches that recruit in the state of Florida is huge. We all have previous ties to the area. For us particular in South Florida this year, it was a huge advantage because everywhere we went they saw how great a year Teddy [Bridgewater] had, B.J. Dubose, Michaelee Harris, Eli Rogers, Andrew Johnson. They see Louisville is a place I have to check out and go to see, so it helps.
Which of these players is the best of the group?
CH: We are excited about them all. It’s hard to put a finger on who we say we like the best. We're excited and fired up about all of them. The kids who have a head start -- Keith Brown, James Burgess, Gerod Holliman – they’re showing early signs of being heavy contributors and special players in the program.