"I like this group of guys in terms of fit that they will give us in our program," said Kragthorpe. "I think they fit our needs in terms of some guys being able to come in here immediately and have an impact on our football team. And I also think they fit in terms of character and quality of people – not just quality of football player. I'm excited about this group."
Kragthorpe brought in nine junior college prospects – seven of which are already on campus – who he expects to make immediate contributions on the field next season.
"I think that's a big benefit to them," Kragthorpe said of the JUCO's who have already enrolled on campus. "I think there are a lot of guys who can come in and have an immediate impact and we're going to need them to that."
QB Zack Stoudt.
Kragthorpe hit the junior college ranks this year to help his programs overall depth and to provide help on defense, where the Cardinals struggled last season. Asked if he would continue to recruit junior college players in the future, Kragthorpe sounded like he would.
"I believe junior college players will be a big part of our program," Kragthorpe said, citing changed admission and core course requirements as reasons why.
Kragthorpe signaled out several positions where he hopes his new signees can come in and help right away, including linebacker, tight end, offensive line and in the defensive backfield.
"We lost some talented linebackers that were very productive players for us," Kragthorpe said. "That's one of the reasons we brought in some junior college guys with some experience. And the tight end position losing Gary (Barnidge) and Scott (Kuhn), who were very good players for us. I feel like Nate (Nord) can make an impact there."
Junior college linebackers Chris Campa, who led Butler (KS), the NJCAA national champs, in tackles with 105 and Jon Dempsey could help off-set the losses of Malik Jackson, Lamar Myles and Preston Smith.
Kragthorpe was also excited about adding 6'5, 220-pound quarterback Zack Stoudt from Dublin, OH. Stoudt backed out of his commitment to Pittsburgh Tuesday and signed with the Cardinals on national signing day. He led Dublin to a 13-1 record and threw for 3,600 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior.
"I think this class has speed, athleticism and we brought in a quarterback in Zack Stoudt who I really like," Kragthorpe said. "I think he can throw the ball down the field. He's a big, tall pocket-passer."
Kragthorpe was also pleaded to announce the additions of three talented prospects from Ohio's top team – Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Cardinals landed RB Darius Ashley, TE Stephon Ball and DE Greg Scruggs from coach Steve Spectch's 15-0 Ohio Division I champs.
"Those guys are ahead of the curve in terms of the way they were coached," Kragthorpe said. "They should be able to come in here and hopefully be able to compete fairly early for us. They know what it takes to win."
Scruggs might be the best story of all. A drummer in the band his first three years in high school, Scruggs made the most of his only high school football season, garnering big-time offers from Tennessee, Boston College and Michigan State, among others.
"I hope he drums a few quarterbacks," Kragthorpe said. "He's a legitimate big-time player and a natural leader."
With 22 prospects signed, Kragthorpe still has a few scholarships to give at a later date.
"We have a couple of slots available," Kragthorpe said. "That's something we wanted to do for the possibility of guys who are four-year transfers or junior college guys who maybe didn't have the hours that they needed right now. There are a lot of different avenues for guys to come into our program. So saving a couple of scholarships allows us to do that."
But for now, Kragthorpe and his staff can take a deep breath and appreciate their efforts over the past year.
"From top to bottom I think it's an excellent class," Kragthorpe said.