Prior to Petrino's departure, the Cardinals, who finished the season 12-1 and ranked #6 nationally after defeating Wake Forest last week in the Orange Bowl, had eight verbal commitments. Last Saturday, four-star Illinois running back Dale Martin committed to the Cardinals over Iowa and Tennessee, only to watch Petrino head to Atlanta the next day.
Kragthorpe's challenge now appears two-fold – hold on to the prospects that have already made verbal commitments to the Cardinals and convince the players Louisville is in good shape with that U of L is still a viable option even without Petrino at the helm.
This weekend, the new Louisville coach will have a tremendous opportunity to show several talented recruits scheduled to make official visits that the Cardinal football program will continue to succeed in the Big East and on the national level under his guidance.
"I had to move fast for recruiting and to keep the continuity," Jurich said. "We've got a big recruiting weekend set up for this weekend and I wanted to have someone in place. It's a battle and we have a lot of obstacles to overcome to keep kids (that have committed), but we're going to overcome all of that."
Since Petrino's departure, the Louisville assistants have been busy calling recruits trying to reassure them about the coaching situation. It's a certainty that Kragthorpe will be busy working the phones the next few days calling recruits, and top prospects like Martin, New Jersey quarterback Matt Simms, North Carolina running back Ryan Houston and Florida linebacker Josh Bynes figure to be a high priority.
"On the recruiting front, we'll get up to speed as quickly as we possibly can," Kragthorpe said. "Sunday will be the first day that we can go out and see prospects. I've got a pretty good handle on the present prospects that have been recruited by the previous staff."
Houston, a four-star running back, is slated to visit Louisville this weekend. So too are four-star JUCO linebacker Brian Ellis, three-star cornerback Rudell Crim, talented defensive lineman Rene Perry and standout New Jersey offensive tackle Greg Tomczyk.
"I know we've got a number of recruits coming to campus this week. So I'm excited about that," Kragthorpe said. "I can tell you this. I went on the road as a first time head coach at Tulsa on January 12th my first year and I'll just miss two days this year. So I'm confident we can put together a great recruiting class. I think I've got a great feel for the players that we're presently targeting and I believe we'll have a very successful recruiting year."
Ryan Houston to campus this
Louisville had tremendous success recruiting in the south under Petrino, particularly in Florida and Alabama. And while Florida will likely remain a priority with Kragthorpe in charge, the new U of L coach wants to explore state's that the Cardinals haven't traditionally recruited heavily, especially Texas.
"Recruiting is recruiting," Kragthorpe said. "It's personal sales and developing relationships. I've lived on the east coast and the west coast. I recruited Florida when I was at Boston College and I've recruited Texas extensively, which is an area we'll investigate because I believe Louisville has an unbelievable reputation in the state of Texas."
Whether it's Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, or Texas, Kragthorpe has a very simple formula for success on the recruiting trail.
"We're going to try to find the best players that fit the University of Louisville," Kragthorpe said. "Really the way I look at it is the three C's – character, class, and commitment. We want guys that are committed to being good people in the community, on the football field and the classroom. We want guys with great character and guys that are classy people. We're excited about selling the University of Louisville. It's a great opportunity to come to a school that has a great academic reputation and the ability to play at a championship level. I believe that I can recruit any place in the country."
Kragthorpe also wants to leverage Louisville new-found respect on the national level, particularly after the Cardinals recent BCS victory over the ACC champs in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
"There's no doubt that's something that I will have to capitalize on as quickly as I can," Kragthorpe said. "It will be a whirlwind the next three and a half to four weeks, but I'm used to doing this and I'm confident we can put together a great class."
in the Louisville fold?
Dale Martin:The four-star running back appears solid in his commitment – for now. Martin's recruiting contact at U of L, assistant Reggie Johnson appears likely to remain on Kragthorpe's staff. So does running back coach Greg Nord. Those two things certainly help Louisville's chances with Martin. "Basically it comes down to if I feel comfortable with the new coach there," said Martin.
Matt Simms: Simms re-opened his recruitment yesterday, but is still considering Louisville. Retaining Jeff Brohm would go a long way toward keeping Simms' in the Cardinals fold.
Rene Perry: The two-star defensive lineman from Florida will still make his visit to Louisville this weekend. Perry told InsideTheVille.com that he's considering three schools – Louisville, South Florida and Ball State.
Ryan Houston: The four-star running back is scheduled to make an official visit to Louisville this week. Houston's coach didn't know whether that trip would still happen Tuesday afternoon. "I feel like if the new coach assures him that he wants to use a big back in his system Ryan will keep his scheduled visit to Louisville this weekend," Butler High coach Mike Newsome said.
Josh Chichester The talented four-star wide receiver who signed with U of L in 2006 and attended prep school last fall said Monday he will enroll at Louisville Thursday.