Louisville looks to finish strong

Charlie Strong's recruiting class ranks as the best in the Big East. Now, one week before National Signing Day, the Louisville coach plans to finish strong as the Cardinals try to crack the Top 25 rankings.

Charlie Strong's 2011 recruiting class has stood alone atop the Big East rankings the past few months. Now a week before NSD, Louisville looks to hold off Rutgers in the battle for the league's best recruiting class and move up the national rankings.

In the past two weeks, Strong has paired his recruiting class down to 19 commitments heading into next week's National Signing Day.

Louisville asked several early commitments to delay their enrollment until next January. Guys like Chris Dukes (Toledo), Eric Robinson-Berry (Western Kentucky), and Zay Sharp (Georgia Southern), as well as others, opted to drop down a level and accept scholarship offers from other schools instead of ‘greyshirting' at Louisville.

Charlie Strong plans to finish recruiting class with top recruits.
Those commitment list subtractions are why Louisville's lead over Rutgers has diminished recently. Once as high as No. 18 in the Scout.com rankings, Louisville's class has dropped to No. 35, two spots ahead of Rutgers. Still, Strong's 19 commitments have the highest star average per recruit in the Big East (3.05), compared to 2.73 for the Scarlet Knights.

But Strong's class isn't finished just yet. Louisville is still targeting several talented players in the final week before National Signing Day that would vault the Cardinals back into the Top 25 nationally and secure Big East bragging rights.

Charlie Strong's plan includes four key targets: Four-star tight end Jon Davis (Louisville Eastern), three-star offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson (Jacksonville Edward White), three-star defensive tackle Elkino Watson (Miami Booker T. Washington), and three-star defensive end B.J. Dubose. Three-star offensive lineman Spencer Region, an Under Armour All-American, also remains on Louisville's recruiting board.

It's clear that Strong wants to round out an excellent recruiting class by bolstering both sides of the line. If Louisville is to finish strong on the recruiting trail, they'll need some late commitments from their top remaining targets, as well as convincing wavering quarterback commit DaMarcus Smith to remain in the fold.

Here are Louisville's top targets to watch closely in the final week before signing day:

Elkino Watson – Defensive Tackle – 6-3/280 - Miami (FL) Booker T. Washington
SCOOP: The Cardinals have loaded up on Miami talent this year and Charlie Strong hopes that Watson, a talented defensive lineman, continues the pipeline to Louisville. It's not going to be easy to get Watson out of the Florida. Florida and Miami both want to land Watson's services, so convincing him to play in the Big East won't be an easy task. Louisville continues to be a major factor in Watson's recruitment. Watson will hear final recruiting pitches from the Cardinals, Gators and Hurricanes this week, and this recruitment appears headed for an exciting finish. Will Watson stay home? Play for the Gators? Or head out of state to join Teddy Bridgewater and co. at Louisville?

OUTLOOK: Too close to call. If Louisville beats out UF and UM it will be a major coup for Charlie Strong's ascending Cardinal program.

Kaleb Johnson – Offensive Lineman – 6-4/285 - Jacksonville (FL) Edward White
SCOOP: Johnson has finished his visits. Miami, Louisville, North Carolina and Rutgers are fighting for the three-star offensive lineman's commitment. Louisville is viewed as a favorite, while Miami, a late entrant to his recruitment, made up ground last weekend during his official visit. Coaches from all four schools will visit with Johnson this week in a last attempt to sway him for their schools.

OUTLOOK: Here's another one too close to call. Louisville is right there. So is Miami. If Johnson stays in-state, keep an eye on Spencer Region.

OTHER OPTIONS: Spencer Region, 6-6/320, Cullman, AL (No. 20 OG).

Jon Davis – Tight End – 6-4/230 - Louisville Eastern
SCOOP: Davis, the first player to commit to Kentucky, is up for grabs in the final week before National Signing Day. Though Davis has remained publicly committed to Joker Philips, his recruitment has been trending away from the Wildcats. Davis visited Illinois over the weekend, and checked in with Charlie Strong early this week. According to sources, Davis had a "great" visit to Louisville, and the Cardinals have a great shot to flip the No. 7 tight end in the nation. Louisville has the advantage of being the hometown school with a need at Davis' position, while Illinois is the sleeper choice. Though he's in no rush to make a decision, an announcement from Davis about his future is expected in the next day or so.

OUTLOOK: Scout.com analysts Allen Wallace, Allen Trieu, and Brian Eldridge believe Davis will switch to Louisville. I think that's a strong probability, too. This one looks good for the Cardinals.

B.J. Dubose – Defensive End – 6-4/245 - Oakland Park, FL, Northeast
SCOOP: One of the top defensive ends in the state of Florida, Dubose could be a major late addition to Charlie Strong's recruiting class. Dubose had a great visit to Louisville two weeks ago and the Cardinals are the clear favorite. Louisville has only one remaining hurdle to overcome to land the three-star prospect – Miami. Dubose will make a final visit to see Al Golden's program this weekend before announcing his decision. Unless the Hurricanes blow him away, Dubose will sign with Louisville next week.

OUTLOOK: This recruitment also sets up well for Louisville. It would be somewhat surprising if Dubose doesn't land with Charlie Strong's Cardinals on National Signing Day.

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