Building for the Near Future

<B>Commentary</b> - With a talented and deep offense, as well as a rapidly developing defense, the Louisville football program is poised to reach new heights and commitments from prospects such as James McKinney, Brian Cushing, Earl Heyman and others could help fuel the rise of Petrino's Cardinals.

Since that winter evening in December of 2002 when Bobby Petrino was introduced as the University of Louisville's 19th head coach, the Cardinal football program has been on the fast track to becoming a national contender.

On the day of his hiring he immediately targeted one of the top prospects in the country in Michael Bush. Petrino didn't flinch from his determination as he fought an uphill battle against the likes of Ohio State and Tennessee. On signing day Michael Bush announced his decision to come to U of L and play for Petrino.

A year later Petrino targeted the top high school quarterback in Brian Brohm and again the end result was the same...Brohm chose Louisville.

During those first two recruiting classes, Petrino brought in other highly sought after prospects such as Kolby Smith, Malik Jackson, Shane Bailey, Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia, Johnnie Burns, Terrance Butler, Lamar Myles and others.

As witnessed through three games this year, including shutouts of Kentucky and North Carolina, the Louisville program is one on the rise. The move to the Big East Conference beginning next season will be a major catalyst, but so will be the 2005 recruiting class.

Maurice Grinter
With solid commitments already in hand from Darius Mann, Maurice Grinter, JuJuan Spillman, Blake Boyd and Steven Black, the coaching staff has an excellent jump to what could be the most talented group to commit to U of L in one season.

As was the case with the previous two classes, it all starts at home and the River City has an abundance of top prospects this year, highlighted by Central's James McKinney, Ballard's Earl Heyman, as well as Spillman and Grinter.

A possible defensive line that includes McKinney and Heyman is one that any program in the country would love to have. However the possibility doesn't end there.

A commitment from defensive tackle L.D. Scott of Auburn High School in Alabama, along with Heyman and McKinney would without question give the Cardinals one of the best defensive line classes in the country.

Brian Cushing
Another prospect that would be a difference maker is linebacker Brian Cushing of Bergen Catholic in New Jersey. A commitment from Cushing, coupled with the previous pledge from Mann, would send a strong signal about Louisville's goals to those in the Big East Conference and throughout the region.

The list doesn't end there, as many other top prospects are realizing the possibilities at Louisville and are strongly considering the school as their next destination.

Many are now discovering the quality of the program, the commitment from the coaching staff and its impressive facilities, as well as the potential successes on the field.

Coach Petrino's decision to donate $100,000 towards the construction of a new indoor practice facility is a prime example of the belief and commitment that he and his staff have for the school's program. They realize that the possibilities are limitless at U of L.

The school already claims two Conference USA crowns and appears to the be the frontrunner for the 2004 title. Additionally, the staff has assembled what looks like the right parts to be a favorite for the 2005 Big East Conference title and the school's first presence in a Bowl Championship Series bowl.

If Petrino and company can secure commitments from McKinney, Heyman, Cushing, Scott and others, they could have the program, possibly as early as the 2006 season, playing for a National Championship.

Bobby Petrino
So, while the Cardinals current rankings in the two major polls is impressive, it is just the beginning.

Coach Petrino summed it up perfectly prior to the start of the season when asked about expectations and national rankings.

"Get used to it!"

Here's to getting used to signing highly-rated prospects, constant national rankings, Big East Conference titles, sold out stadiums, annual bowl games and competing for the National Championship, because it is all within reach.

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