'Strong' recruiting impact

Louisville's roster needs a serious talent upgrade after three sub-par recruiting years under Steve Kragthorpe. Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong could deliver it for the Cardinals.

After three years of sub-par recruiting efforts under Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville's roster needs a serious talent upgrade. Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong could deliver one.

Strong, who has been named one of the nation's Top 25 recruiting assistants, has serious recruiting ties throughout the south, particularly in the state of Florida. And while he hasn't been out on the road often since becoming Florida's defensive coordinator, Stong is considered an outstanding 'closer' in recruiting circles.

"He hasn't been asked to do a whole lot as far as going out [recruiting] because he is the defensive coordinator," said Bob Redman, publisher of FightinGators.com. "But he does like to do it and he is very good with the prospects. He is the closer with prospects. If there's a player that the staff likes Charlie Strong is a guy that they make sure that player talks to."

Redman worked on Florida's staff from 1994-2004 and saw Strong's effectiveness as a recruiter up close and personal.

"He's certainly a closer-type of recruiter," Redman said. "I just think he relates to the kids very well. He's a guy the players on the team sit in his office and talk to often. And I'm sure the players relate that to the recruits. He's able to associate with the players and understands that. They like that."

Certainly, it's not a hard sell to convince Florida prospects to stay home and play for the Gators. The big question for Strong: Can he convince Florida players to come north to Louisville and help him turn around the Cardinals? Strong has a strong relationship with Jeff Luc, the nation's the No. 1 middle linebacker from Port St. Lucie, Fla., and could make a pitch for Louisville.

"Do I think he's going to be able to recruit the Jeff Luc to Louisville? No, probably not," Redman said. "But I think he's going to be able to get kids from Florida that Louisville wasn't able to get before. It's still going to be hard for him to get a Top 10 player from Florida, but I think he'll get that next level prospect. He'll get one or two of those guys a year to go up to Louisville."

Louisville's best teams were built around speedy athletes from Florida. That's a major reason why the Cardinals are interested in Strong, in addition to his exceptional coaching abilities. Strong has recruiting connections throughout Florida and could get the Cardinals back into the mix with the Sunshine state's three and four-star prospects.

"His area is in Orlando, and South Carolina," Redman said. "He pulled Carlos Dunlap, who will be a first round pick whenever he comes out, from South Carolina. He's got huge ties in Central Florida – Tampa, Orlando and even down south on the Treasure Coast. Melbourne is another area."

Strong might also try to bring Florida wide receiver/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales with him to Louisville as offensive coordinator. Gonzales is a relentless recruiter with extensive ties and seldom takes no for an answer from his top recruiting targets.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he can pull a Billy Gonzales off the staff of Florida," said Redman. "Billy Gonzales is well thought of around here and in other parts of the state. He's gotten two NFL offers to coach as a receivers coach and LSU and Tennessee offered him to leave Florida. I would think it would take Gonzales to be a coordinator for him to go to Louisville."

With or without Gonzales, Louisville's recruiting fortunes will take a turn for the better, especially in Florida, with Charlie Strong in charge.

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