Kragthorpe, the 20th head coach in Cardinal football history, has assembled an impressive coaching staff, which includes former linebacker Matt Sanders as a student assistant, helped convince Brian Brohm to return for his senior season, met with the returning players, began watching game film and hit the recruiting trail just as hard - if not harder - then any head coach in the country.
"I'm very pleased with the job Steve has done and I think I'd be crazy to say anything else," said Tom Jurich, U of L's Director of Athletics. "He really hit the ground running. These last three weeks he has really exceeded everyone's expectations and not just mine."
Jurich's personal relationship with Kragthorpe, as well as strong positive feedback from peers throughout college football, made his choice for a new head coach a simple one.
"I knew Steve, I knew him well, but I didn't really know him in the coaching capacity that I am seeing him in now," said Jurich. "When I had him (at Northern Arizona), I had a 24-year old assistant coach who really grew and did so many things. So many people around the country told me so many things about him over the last four years and (it's great) to be able to see him put that in action."
The buzz about Kragthrope's efforts, including from Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Jamie Newberg, has primarily focused on his success on the recruiting trail. While he agrees that the recruiting success has been impressive, Jurich is most impressed by the new coach's ability to retaining the entire returning roster from the Big East Conference and Orange Bowl champions squad.
"The thing that really catches my eyes is that we haven't lost a player off this team," said Jurich. "Usually when you lose a coach - school hadn't started yet when Bobby left - it's a feeding frenzy. Our kids ended up 6th in the nation and people start cherry-picking your team, so that is the most impressive thing to me. We've even had some kids that defected last year that are coming back to the team, so we're excited about that."
Two Cardinals that made the decision to leave or transfer from the program that have since returned are wide receiver Troy Pascley, who contemplated a transfer to a Big Ten program, and 2004 Louisville Male product Steve McKinney, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound defensive back.
Kragthorpe will also welcome a number of new Cardinals next Wednesday and by all accounts it will be another stellar recruiting haul. Part of the recent recruiting achievements should be attributed to Kragthorpe's personal approach and sincere interest in getting to know the potential future Cardinals.
Kragthorpe on Sunday
"We'll have a nice class," said Jurich. "I'm impressed. You never know until Wednesday (February 7) when you see the ink dry. I think this one seems pretty solid. He's a real genuine guy. He's hit a home-run in homes - I know that."
After spending the vast majority of his time traveling across the country - he's been to California at least twice - Kragthorpe, who currently resides in a hotel room during the rare times that he is in town, is certain to receive the well deserved applause when he points out the reasons for signing and shares the expectations of each new recruit during U of L's annual signing day event next Wednesday. The event, which will begin at 4:00 p.m., will once again be held at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.