NCF On The Trail: Louisville Cardinals

On Sept. 1 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville will begin the 2014 season with a game against the Miami Hurricanes. This will be the Cardinals' first game as a member of the ACC with a schedule that features conference games against Clemson and Florida State, and a late-season matchup with Notre Dame.

That means a lot of prospect eyeballs will be on Louisville all season as the Cardinals make the jump to the ACC in the very competitive Atlantic Division. Out are games in which Louisville should be heavily-favored against Temple, Memphis and Connecticut with little fanfare and viewers watching, and in are competitive toss-up games along with the marquee matchups that are recruiting wins for Louisville, win or lose.

[+] EnlargePetrino
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe key to Louisville's success in its new conference will be Bobby Petrino's ability to recruit Florida and Georgia.
For ACC fans, Louisville will bring speed and skill with an excellent offensive mind in coach Bobby Petrino. Louisville will evaluate and recruit high-level offensive talent like it did under Petrino from 2003-06 when the Cardinals won 41 of 50 games and finished in the AP Top 20 three times. The Cardinals also have a head coach that proved he could win at a high level in the SEC at Arkansas with lesser talent than a number of his opponents.

The challenge for Louisville will be continuing to enjoy the same recruiting success it had under Charlie Strong in the key state of Florida, while adjusting to the weekly grind of the ACC, which produces the second-most NFL draft picks annually. Not only did Strong leave for Texas and take his deep Florida roots with him, but a number of NFL draft selections from the 2013 team have waved goodbye, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That means the challenge of competing from day one in the ACC and setting a tone on the field and in recruiting could be a challenging one.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It was just two years ago that current Ohio State star freshman Joey Bosa was a top national prospect coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.

Now there is another budding star at the high school that produced three 2014 NFL draft picks, and the last name remains the same.

Class of 2016 defensive lineman Nick Bosa has been a standout the past two years for the Raiders, and like many who have come before him at the talent-rich school, he will be a national recruit with a quickly growing offer list.


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TAMPA, Fla. -- Two of the top uncommitted quarterbacks remaining in the Class of 2015, Deondre Francois and Lamar Jackson, have many of the same college programs pursuing them.


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ACC recruiting scorecard

May, 21, 2014
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Clemson has had a big week on the recruiting trail, as the Tigers picked up the nation's No. 2 tight end, Garrett Williams on Monday. With that, we figured now is as good of a time as any to compile an ACC recruiting scorecard.

Below you will find each ACC team, its number of commitments and its most recent recruiting news. There's obviously a ways to go between now and national signing day on Feb. 4, 2015, but here's a look at where everyone in the league currently stands.

(Note: ESPN has only ranked the top 15 recruiting classes for 2015.)

Boston College
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The highlight of the Eagles' class is No. 7 tight end-H Jakeb Burt, a 6-foot-5, 238-pound three-star prospect. BC’s other big commits include three-star, No. 35 cornerback Lukas Denis and three-star, No. 52 offensive tackle Anthony Palazzolo.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Clemson
Current commitments: 16
Spotlight: The Tigers' best recruit is five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt, the nation's No. 7 overall player and the highest-ranked offensive lineman to commit to the program in the 10 years ESPN has ranked players. Clemson has nine four-star commitments as well, with Williams and three other offensive linemen among them.
ESPN 300 commitments: 7
ESPN rank: 5

Duke
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Blue Devils have just three commitments, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 39 defensive tackle Brandon Boyce and No. 37 defensive end Zach Morris.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Florida State
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: The Seminoles have hauled in No. 25 overall player Derwin James Jr., the nation's top safety. They also scored a major win by beating out in-state rivals Florida and Miami to get No. 5 cornerback Tyrek Cole. Florida State has six four-star players among its 11 commitments.
ESPN 300 commitments: 4
ESPN rank: 7

Georgia Tech
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: No. 25 athlete Jaylend Ratliffe highlights this haul for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-1, 200-pound four-star is ranked as the No. 278 overall player in the nation, flashing tremendous athleticism as a left-handed quarterback at the prep level.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Louisville
Current commitments: 1
Spotlight: Bobby Petrino's only commit in his first class with the Cardinals is 6-foot, 205-pound safety T.J. Jallow.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Miami
Current commitments: 11
Spotlight: No. 5 running back Dexter Williams has been the biggest get for the Hurricanes, as they stole him out of Gator Country. Miami also boasts No. 5 tight end-Y Bowman Archibald and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback Dwayne Lawson, two of seven four-star commitments for the program so far.
ESPN 300 commitments: 5
ESPN rank: 11

North Carolina
Current commitments: 9
Spotlight: The Tar Heels have landed the nation’s No. 3 tight end-H in ESPN 300 prospect Carl Tucker, a four-star recruit and the nation's No. 260 overall player. They have landed two other four-star prospects: No. 31 offensive tackle Mason Veal and No. 22 safety Ronnie Harrison.
ESPN 300 commitments: 1

NC State
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: Three of the Wolfpack's four commitments have come from within the state, with the lone exception being wide receiver Freddie Phillips.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Pitt
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Panthers have just three commitments for this class, but two of them are three-star players who are nationally ranked at their positions: No. 27 outside linebacker Kevin Givens and No. 42 offensive guard Alex Paulina.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Syracuse
Current commitments: 7
Spotlight: The Orange's run game should look pretty good down the road: Five of their seven current commitments are either offensive linemen or running backs, with the top three prospects coming on the offensive line, and two of them currently prep teammates: tackle Colin Byrne and guard Samuel Clausman.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia
Current commitments: 3
Spotlight: The Cavaliers' 2015 recruiting class doesn't quite stack up to its 2014 haul as of now, but among their three prospects are nationally ranked, three-star players: No. 22 pocket-passing quarterback Nick Johns and No. 28 safety Juan Thornhill.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Virginia Tech
Current commitments: 4
Spotlight: The Hokies' class is also short on numbers but features three nationally ranked, three-star prospects: No. 39 athlete Mook Reynolds, No. 29 cornerback DuWayne Johnson and No. 37 defensive tackle Harry Lewis.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0

Wake Forest
Current commitments: 2
Spotlight: Dave Clawson's first full class currently has two players: defensive end Paris Black and offensive tackle T.J. Haney.
ESPN 300 commitments: 0
The state of Georgia is loaded in both the 2015 and 2016 classes.

In the 2015 class, the linebacker position is one of strength, as a number of rangy, athletic prospects -- highlighted by ESPN 300 prospects Adonis Thomas and Roquan Smith -- are available.

Five schools made the final cut on Thursday night for Thomas, one of the nation's top prospects.


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The state of Florida has always been known for producing some of the top athletes in the country. The term "athlete" is sometimes looked at as a negative term, but it really means our scouts believe these talented prospects could play more than one position in college. Here is a closer look at some of the top athletes from the Sunshine State in the 2015 class.

ESPN 300 athletes from Florida

No. 8 Torrance Gibson: Gibson is a skilled athlete who can make plays on offense. The five-star athlete led his high school, Plantation American Heritage, to the state championship game. In the game, he had a touchdown run of 80 yards and also a long touchdown pass that was among the "SportsCenter" Top 10 plays. He wants to play quarterback on the next level, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on his South Florida Express 7-on-7 team. Whatever position he chooses, Gibson has a bright future ahead of him.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: With coaches on the road visiting high schools in the spring, they bump into prospects all the time wearing gear of a rival school. So does that make coaches think differently of those prospects? Plus, one of the nation's top quarterbacks makes his decision Friday.


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ACC class rankings analysis 

January, 22, 2014
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video NC State coach Dave Doeren told ESPN colleague Jeremy Crabtree that the Wolfpack would finish the 2014 recruiting cycle strong despite a winless ACC campaign. Raise your hand if you believed him.

NC State was one of the few risers in the updated class rankings this week. A look at the Wolfpack's rise and other trends across the ACC:


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Isaiah Ford (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) will have one of the more interesting recruitments up until signing day. The four-star receiver is only looking at schools that will allow him to pursue football and basketball.

Ford, No. 46 among receivers, found another school this week when Miami contacted him. Miami football coach Al Golden and basketball coach Jim Larranaga signed off on Ford playing both sports so Ford will officially visit this weekend. It is his first official visit since decommitting from Louisville earlier this month.


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Hours after top commit Poona Ford decommitted from Louisville, the Cardinals lost another 2014 pledge along the defensive line.

Three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian) is reopening his recruitment, he told ESPN.com in a text message Friday.


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While a decommitment has been expected, defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) has officially backed off his verbal commitment to the Louisville Cardinals Hilton Head High head coach B.J. Payne confirmed.

“Poona Ford has decommitted from Louisville and will take official visits to Texas, Oregon and Missouri,” Payne said. “He has taken time and re-evaluated his recruitment, and decided this morning. As of last night, he was still evaluating everything with his recruitment.”

Ford, ranked No. 271 overall in the ESPN 300, plans to make official visits to Texas on Jan. 17, Oregon on Jan. 24 and Missouri on Jan. 31.

With Charlie Strong taking the Texas job last week, the Longhorns get the first shot at the 6-foot, 285-pound Ford. The nation’s No. 23 defensive tackle has held an offer from the Tigers for a few months and, after originally being high on Mizzou, Ford is reconsidering the reigning SEC East champs. As for Oregon, the Ducks are the latest to the party, having extended an offer to Ford on Thursday.

If there is to be another program that has the opportunity to quickly jump into the picture for the athletic defensive tackle prospect, it’s Michigan State although the Spartans have yet to extend an offer. Purdue is also an outside possibility for a mid-week visit.

Ford is the No. 10 ranked prospect in South Carolina in the 2014 class. He was a standout in last week’s Semper Fidelis All-American Game.

With Ford’s decision to re-open his recruitment, the Cardinals now have 20 commitments, including a quartet of four-star prospects led by local quarterback Reggie Bonnafon (Louisville, Ky./Trinity High).
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Round one of the new Charlie Strong-Kevin Sumlin recruiting rivalry goes to Texas A&M, as the Aggies were able to flip Zaycoven Henderson in what will go down as one of the wildest recruiting stories of the season; Bobby Petrino's hiring at Louisville received mixed reviews from coaches and recruits; and what type of recruiter is Michigan getting with new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier?

Aggies win first battle against Strong
College football’s second season is known for plenty of twists and turns, but few will match the bumpy ride that four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) gave Texas and Texas A&M fans Wednesday. Henderson, the No. 36 defensive tackle, decommitted from Texas, then recommitted to the Longhorns, only to flip to Texas A&M in less than a 24-hour span. Henderson’s decision came in the wake of coaching changes at Texas and the Horns chances slipped majorly when defensive line coach Bo Davis accepted a position at USC. It also marks the first victory for A&M coach Kevin Sumlin over new Texas coach Charlie Strong. Henderson is an early enrollee that was scheduled to start classes in Austin next Monday, but now he’ll be attending classes in College Station. Henderson originally committed to TCU last February but decommitted in September. On Dec. 9, Henderson gave Texas his verbal pledge during a ceremony at his school.

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Bob Beatty asked if the reports were true. Was Bobby Petrino indeed coming back to Louisville?

When told that Cardinals athletic director Tom Jurich confirmed the reports on Wednesday night, Beatty, the immensely successful coach at Louisville (Ky.) Trinity High School, kept his answer short.

“I have one word for you,” Beatty said, before an extended pause. “Beautiful.”


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National signing day is approaching quickly. With three official visit weekends remaining before Feb. 5, here is a look at a number of prospects who could flip to and/or from SEC schools in the coming weeks.

Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead): Lane, No. 28 in the ESPN 300, is scheduled to officially visit national champion Florida State with the Gators fighting hard to keep the uber-talented wide receiver. The flip from Florida to the Seminoles by Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High), the nation’s No. 20 prospect, makes the chore even tougher for the Gators


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Louisville’s class is in free fall after Charlie Strong’s departure for Texas, but would Bobby Petrino be able to salvage things? And, Wednesday produced a mix of both bad and good news for Strong.

Louisville’s class needs a shepherd

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