The Cardinals, who finished 11-1 and ranked No. 6 nationally, have secured verbal commitments from 27 prospects heading into signing day and four - possibly five - junior college transfers are expected to be a big part of Petrino's third recruiting haul since taking over for John L. Smith in December 2002.
Headlining a talented group of JUCO transfers is 6-4, 266-pound Zach Anderson of East Mississippi C.C. Anderson, a former high school quarterback, recorded 137 tackles and 15 sacks in two junior college seasons, is expected to compete for the starting spot at defensive end vacated by two-year starter Marcus Jones.
"He was a leader on defense and on our football team," East Mississippi C.C. coach Roger Carr said. "He has a great attitude and work ethic and a motor that constantly runs. He's got god-given quickness off the edge and I think he cancome into [Louisville] and make people sit up and take notice."
Two mammoth offensive linemen, 6-7, 320-pound Marcel Benson and 6-6, 330-pound Marcus Gordon, could also help boost an already strong group upfront for the Cardinals next season. While Gordon is already enrolled and taking classes at U of L and is expected to participate in spring drills, Benson still must graduate from San Diego Mesa C.C. this spring.
"His biggest strength is his willingness to learn," Mesa head coach Martin Moss said recently of Benson. "Combine that with tremendous athletic ability and he has outstanding potential. He has quick feet, works hard and is a quality person."
Gordon, orginally from Memphis, Tennessee, verbally commited to Nebraska before changing his mind to enroll at Louisville last month.
"I committed to Louisville because I wanted to be closer to home," said Gordon. "Louisville's coaches said that I could come in and get a starting spot at tackle because they have an opening there."
That opening, of course, could be created if Petrino shuffles his returning starters to replace departed center Will Rabatin. If that happens, Jason Spitz is expected to transition to center, while Travis Leffew appears a strong candidate to move from tackle to replace Spitz at guard.
"[Louisville's] getting a good football player and a great kid," said Gordon's JUCO coach, Marty Allen. "He's a big kid who can move and is a hard worker. Marcus was an outstanding player for us. He's a kid that has a lot of athletic ability.
Wide Receiver Stevin Williams is also already on campus and taking classes at U of L. Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Williams was ranked the No. 15 prospect at his position by Scout.com prior to his sophomore season at Dodge (KS) C.C.
However, Williams' 2004 season was cut short as he suffered a season-ending injury in his teams second game. Known as a speed-burner, Williams could challenge for a spot in the Cardinals rotation at receiver this spring.
"Stevin has big-time speed," Dodge C.C. coach John Rossetti said. "He's very strong and a physical player for his size. He runs good routes and has good hands.
The fifth - and expected to be the final junior college addition this year - 6-2, 220-pound linebacker Nate Harris, would be the highest regarded prospect in a talented and deep list of recruits this year.
Out of high school, Harris signed with hometown Miami and was considered one of the Hurricanes top prospects in 2002. After signing with Miami, however, Harris was arrested for his part in an armed robbery and his scholarship was revoked by the Hurricane administration.
He then headed west to Dodge (KS) C.C. where he teamed with Williams the past two seasons. Ranked Scout.com's No. 2 JUCO linebacker in 2004, Harris recorded 167 tackles in two junior college seasons. He's expected to sign with Louisville tomorrow after turning down Kansas State, Florida State, South Florida and others.
U of L's 2004 JUNIOR COLLEGE ADDITIONS
Star rankings next to prospect's name are Scout.com player ratings.