Gator Bowl provides Cards recruiting benefits

With 23 players from Florida on Louisville's roster this season, it's evident that the Sun Shine state has played an important part of the Cardinals success this season. That's why playing in the Toyota Gator Bowl in Jacksonville will be an important recruiting tool for the Cardinals this winter.

With 23 players from Florida on Louisville's roster this season, it's evident that the Sun Shine state has played an important part of the Cardinals success this season. That's why playing in the Toyota Gator Bowl in Jacksonville will be an important recruiting tool for the Cardinals this winter.

Louisville already has landed two verbal commitments from a pair of three-star running backs from Florida this year – James Poe from Orlando and Anthony Allen from Tampa.

Last weekend, the Cardinals hosted Jeramy Devane, a 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman from Daytona Beach, on an official visit, and also received official visits from three-star defensive end Rodney Gnat (Jacksonville) and linebacker Jeremy Campbell (Port Orange) earlier this month. The Cardinals will also host four-star WR/S Latarrius Thomas, and three-star wide receiver Johnny Patrick, on official visits while preparing for the Gator Bowl next month.


Johnny Patrick.
"We've had a lot of success in recruiting in Jacksonville," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said at his weekly press conference. "My brother Paul actually is the one that has that area and has done a great job (down) there. It's going to be an exciting time for us. It certainly should be something that helps our recruiting."

While Louisville can't provide tickets for recruits to attend the Gator Bowl, there's no rule that prevents prospective student-athletes from dropping by the Cardinals practices in Jacksonville to get an up-close look at Petrino's program in the days prior to the Jan. 2 game.

"We're going to always count on Florida to provide a lot of our players," said Petrino. "In living down there, I know the emphasis there is in football when they start at six, seven, or eight years old. We're excited to come down and we know we'll have a lot of recruits within the area that come by and watch us practice."

Besides the obvious recruiting benefits, Louisville Vice President of Athletics said the Gator Bowl provides the university many other tangible benefits.

"The great thing we get are the extras," Jurich said. "The benefits for our fans and alumni are great. The exposure we get from again being on (national) T.V. And it's our eighth straight bowl game and I think that's got us in the national picture more than anything else we could do."

Jurich also views the Gator Bowl invitation as clear proof that the Big East Conference provides far greater benefits to the U of L program than did Conference USA.

"I think right now this is a great moment for this program, and says a lot for the Big East and what it's done for us in this move," Jurich said. "Certainly I think that's already paid major dividends just with this announcement today."

Plus, Cardinal fans won't have to spend another New Year's Eve at the Liberty Bowl.

"We're not going to Memphis, it's not going to be cold, we're going to be playing in a stadium that was good enough to host a Super Bowl, it's in a fabulous city and all of our fans want to go to Florida," Jurich said.

Mike Hartley, chairman of the selection committee, said Gator Bowl officials are excited that Louisville will be a part of this year's game.

"We're very excited about having the Cardinals here," Hartley said. "Louisville is a wonderful team and they have won their way into this game. Besides being a terrific college football team and a great tradition building there, they also have a great fan base. I think Louisville is going to be here a lot of years in the future and this is the start of a wonderful relationship."

And though Louisville just missed out on a BCS bid after dropping a 46-44 heartbreaker at West Virginia earlier this season, Jurich sounded pleased with how the Cardinals responded to that disappointed and earned their way into the league's next best bowl slot.

"For us, it takes a year that had some bitter-sweet moments, and shows the character of this team and this coach staff to keep them focused," Jurich said. "I really truly believe we got better every game. We had a slight meltdown at West Virginia, but I think our kids bounced back and continued to move on. And that's what I like."


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