Whitehead heads big, fast and physical class

Bobby Petrino was excited about his 24-man recruiting class that might be the best haul in Louisville football history. The class, headed by Deantwan Whitehead, is ranked No. 26 nationally by Scout.com. Petrino said his newest recruits add size, speed and toughness to the Cardinal football program.

Bobby Petrino was all smiles Wednesday afternoon when he introduced Louisville's 2006 recruiting class. And the Cardinals certainly have every right to be excited about their blockbuster class.

In all, the Cards signed 24 prospects to national letters of intent in what is arguably the best recruiting class in school history. Led by five-star defensive end Deantwan Whitehead, the Cardinals haul also includes four 4-star prospects, and eleven 3-stars, easily the most decorated class ever.

"We're very excited about this class," Petrino said. "A lot of these guys can contribute right away."

The Cardinals class took a huge leap in the national rankings in the days leading up to signing day. Beginning last week, Louisville landed several highly regarded prospects, including DT L.T. Walker, DT Kareem Crowell, WR Josh Chichester, FS Brandon Heath, and WR Latarrius Thomas.

"We're real happy about the guys that we got late in the process," Petrino said.

But it was Whitehead, better known as "Peanut," whom Petrino couldn't contain his joy about. The Cardinals won a heated recruiting battle against Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee for the 6-6, 245-pound Whitehead Tuesday.

"When I was growing up my mom sang a song called ‘I found a peanut,'" Petrino said. "Now I know why she sang that song so many times."

Petrino said he expects Whitehead to make an immediate impact on the defensive front. "He has an opportunity to come in here and contribute right away," said Petrino. "That's one of the reasons he chose Louisville to hopefully come in and have an impact."

Brandon Heath was a huge pickup
for the Cards on signing day.

Perhaps the main focus of Louisville's recruiting efforts were to find several talented defensive linemen. On paper, it appears the Cardinals struck pay-dirt, landing eight linemen that rank as a Scout.com Top 10 defensive line class. "The defensive line was one of the biggest areas we felt we had to address," Petrino said. "Any time you lose Montavious Stanley, Elvis Dumervil, and Chad Rimpsey you have needs there."

Petrino said there were three major themes he wanted to address with this class. "We wanted to go out and get bigger, faster, and continue to recruit tough guys," Petrino said.

There's no question the Cards succeeded in each every. Louisville addressed their size needs by signing six players that weigh 300 or more pounds, including Jeremy Baker (6-5, 358), Conrad Thomas (6-6, 330), and Josh Hawkins (6-7, 330). "This might be the biggest class I've ever been associated with in terms of height and weight," Petrino said. "And the thing that I like most about it is they can all move. Being in the Big East, we felt like we had to go out and get bigger and more physical."

Johnny Patrick adds plenty of
speed to Louisville's class.

Louisville also signed plenty of speed with the additions of wide receivers Johnny Patrick, Troy Pascley, Latarrius Thomas, Josh Chichester and DE/LB Rodney Gnat. "We feel like it's important for us to be the fastest team in the Big East conference," Petrino said. "Johnny Patrick has legitimate track speed and is exciting with the ball in his hands, and Troy Pascley is very fast." Thomas and Chichester are both four-star recruits, while Patrick and Pascley are three-stars.

Louisville also got a lot more physical, signing three running backs that each weigh more than 220-pounds and hard-hitting FS Brandon Heath. Heath announced his decision Wednesday morning to attend Louisville, picking the Cardinals over Big East rival West Virginia. Rated the eight-best player in Florida, Petrino believes the 195-pound Heath can play early. "He has an opportunity to contribute early at free safety," said Petrino. "He runs full speed, delivers a blow, and plays the ball in the air."

Petrino also said it was vitally important to sign several running backs, and the Cardinals landed three talented ball carriers in Anthony Allen (6-0, 228), Tyler Wimsatt (6-1, 230), Eugene Sowell (6-0, 220). "I felt this was a big year for us at running back," Petrino said. "Anthony Allen is a big, physical running back with good hands and the ability to separate. Eugene Sowell can go the distance and we're really excited about his speed, and Tyler Wimsatt likes to run over people."

The Cardinals signed just one quarterback, 6-5, 198-pound Tyler Wolfe from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, whom Petrino called a ‘hidden gem.' "He's a great find for us. He can make all the throws and can move around in the pocket. He really knows the game."

Louisville signed 10 prospect from Florida, four prospects from Alabama and Kentucky, three from Ohio, and one each from Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana. Louisville Manual defensive lineman Aundre Henderson was the Cardinals top-rated in-state recruit. "We're very excited about getting him," Petrino said.

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