Strong adds more Sunshine to the roster

The University of Louisville football coaching staff continued to raid the state of Florida for top prospects. Charlie Strong and his staff signed eight of 17 prospects in the Class of 2013 from the Sunshine State. Cardinal Authority has a look at the connection in the fertile state of Florida.

University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong has deep ties in the state of Florida. He also has a staff full of ties to the Sunshine State, which produces top talent.

Strong again used those ties to help bolster the Cardinals' new recruiting class.

Eight of the 17 players announced by the Cardinals in the signing class played their high school ball in the fertile grounds of the state of Florida.

"Louisville is growing on kids down here in South Florida," Hialeah, Fla., Champagnat Catholic School coach Mike Tunsil said. "Kids see other kids from down here going to Louisville and having success."

The Cardinals eight signees from Florida are all players on the defensive side of the ball, including University of Florida transfer Willie Bailey and three-star linebacker Keith Kelsey of Gainesville, whose father played for the Gators.

The signees include three players from the Miami area and two from the Jacksonville area along with one from Gainesville, Tampa and Orlando.

"It's just the number of guys in that area," Strong said. "And it's where our ties are down there. We would like to say, ‘Hey we want to do a better job in Atlanta, Georgia.' And we should do that because there are a lot of players there

"But we have the ties in Florida and we have to continue to be aggressive there in recruiting. But in Florida it's just because of the ties the coaches have down there and we just have to keep going down there."

In Strong's first four classes at U of L, the Cardinals have signed 79 prospects and 33 of those players were from high schools in Florida.

Typically one of the best states for producing elite-level talent, Strong spent a lot of time in the state of Florida. He was a longtime assistant coach at Florida and was the defensive coordinator there before coming to Louisville.

U of L defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, who had the same positions at Miami from 2006-09 and has strong ties in Miami.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford is a former assistant at Florida, along with running backs coach Kenny Carter. Wide receiver coach Ron Dugans played at Florida State and was an assistant there, while defensive backs coach Tommy Restivo was a graduate assistant at Florida and linebacker Brian Jean-Mary has ties to the state from his days as an assistant at Georgia Tech.

Strong said he was "really excited" about the haul his staff landed this recruiting season from Florida. The Cardinals had 35 players on the roster last season from the Sunshine State - almost twice more than every SEC school except Florida - and continue to add key pieces.

Among the players that could play early out of this recruiting class include Kelsey, Jacksonville, Fla., First Coast defensive tackle De'Asian Richardson and Florida defensive backs Chucky Williams of Hialeah, Richard Benjamin of Tampa and Donel Elam of Orange Park near Jacksonville.

Bailey will sit out a year because of his transfer but is expected to be a major contributor to the defense in the future.

And speaking of the future, the Cardinals won't stop recruiting Florida.

Strong has already offered a bunch of top Florida prospects for next season, including Miami Booker T. Washington four-star defensive back Treon Harris, Tallahassee, Fla., North Florida Christian running back Jonathan Vickers and Michael Johnson, a teammate of new signee Chucky Williams.

"Louisville is going to keep getting kids from down here," Champagnat Catholic coach Mike Tunsil said. "Kids knew who Louisville was before the (Sugar Bowl), but then they go and beat Florida and a lot of kids took notice.

"They've been in with and gotten a lot of good kids before. Now, if you are a top five player in South Florida you have Louisville on the list."

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