Orange Bowl could be fruitful for recruiting

Recruiting talented players out of Florida has played a large role in Louisville's rise to elite status on the college football map. That's why the Cardinals appearance in next month's Orange Bowl could provide a major recruiting advantage for Louisville heading into February's national signing day.

To say that the state of Florida has played an important part in Louisville's rise to national football power would be an understatement. Historically, the Cardinals have placed heavy emphasis on recruiting the Sunshine State and Bobby Petrino has only strengthened and enhanced that philosophy since coming to Louisville four years ago.

With 21 players on Louisville's current roster from Florida, the Cardinals boast more players from the Sunshine State than any other state except Kentucky. That's nearly ¼ of Louisville's 85 scholarship athletes.

Last February, Petrino landed the best recruiting class in Louisville football history. And while that class, rated among the Top 25 in the nation, was headlined by Birmingham, Alabama standout Deantwan Whitehead, Louisville benefited from the signatures of ten players from Florida, including a pair of four-star defensive standouts– Brandon Heath and Latarrius Thomas.

With Florida being such fertile recruiting territory for the Cardinals, it's important to note the potential impact of playing in a BCS bowl game in Miami just one month before national signing day. In 2005, Louisville played in Florida twice, once against South Florida and again in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville against Virginia Tech. Though the Cardinals lost both of those games, the benefits from a visibility standpoint were enormous.

"It's great for our recruiting in that state," Petrino said of the Orange Bowls impact on his teams recruiting efforts. "And it's great for our players to go home and play there."

The Cardinals enter the month of December with 10 verbal commitments in a class that will likely total about 20 when completely wrapped up. Louisville will host several prospects on official visits leading up to the Orange Bowl, including several talented prospects from the state of Florida.

Rai-Shawn Wilson

Linebacker Aaron Gresham from Mayo, Florida, is slated to make an official visit this weekend, while three-star St. Augustine, Florida running back Rai-Shawn Wilson and Fort Myers, and two-star Fort Myers, Florida tight end Mat Williams will make official visits the following weekend when Rick Pitino's team plays host to in-state rival Kentucky.

Besides those three prospects, Louisville is also actively recruiting many talented prospects from Florida, including four-star linebacker Josh Bynes from Lauderdale Lakes, four-star running back Bo Williams from Oakland Park, three-star safety Joseph Nicolas from Homestead, three-star cornerback Rudell Crim from Tallahassee, three-star defensive tackle Dontee Nicholls from Pompano Beach and two-star linebacker Ronnie St. Fleur from Hollywood.

"Just being in a BCS bowl game and the excitement that generates from all the recruits is great for recruiting," Petrino said.

Another benefit of playing in a bowl game in Florida is the up close exposure it will provide recruits, many of whom will visit one of the Cardinals pre-bowl practices in Miami.

"There always have been a number of players that will come by and watch practice," Petrino said. "We're not able to talk to them or anything like that because it's a non-contact period, but that certainly helps recruiting."

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