The 2014 football recruiting class is the most important class for the near future of the program. That's not hyperbole either. This class will be the first of the ACC era and it will be a class that will need to replace 18-21 scholarship players. After a small 2013 class lacking immediate impact guys, Louisville absolutely has to bring in a class with guys that can both provide depth, and possibly step in and play right away. For the first time in the Charlie Strong era we could see multiple underclassmen declare for the draft and the team will need to be replenished with talent.
Here's a breakdown of every player that has committed to Louisville so far:
Williams is a flat out playmaker. He seems to fit the mold for a theme I'm seeing with this class. Charlie and his staff know what they want out of every position and they are really going after players that fit that mold. Williams will be a perfect at weakside outside linebacker. His pursuit skills are great. He has plenty of speed to chase plays across the field. He's can also make plays against the pass. Williams isn't a very big kid, but he doesn't need to be to play the position.
Williams won't move much in the rankings unless he has a breakout year. He's a guy that is under the radar in my opinion because of his size. He's made two visits to FSU but he doesn't have an offer there. I think he stays firm with UofL unless FSU offers him.
Cardinal Comparison: James Burgess
Evaluating offensive linemen is borderline impossible unless you're watching a kid in person. It also might be the only position group that's easier to judge by watching drills as opposed to game tape. With that being said, Harkless looks like a guy that's gotten away with being bigger than everyone so far. He has a lot of work to do on his pass protection or guys will just run past him. He's got good size that we all know will be molded by Pat Moorer.
Cardinal Comparison: Ryan Mack
Louisville has already started telling wide receiver recruits that they are not accepting any more commits at that position right now. That's insane for a staff that is known for how well they close, not for landing commitments in the spring and summer. I have Foster as an "athlete" because I think there's a chance he will end up at safety. Foster can flat out fly. He's the type of guy you see make a 5-yard slant, make one move, and he's gone. But he isn't a fluid route runner and he doesn't catch the ball with his hands all of the time. But I also don't know if he can tackle and make the plays we expect out of our safeties on defense. He's shown good ball skills, but that doesn't mean much if he can tackle anyone.
Wherever he ends up, Foster will rise up the rankings this year. That's a fact. You can't teach speed and sometimes it just takes analysts having a reason (committing to a top 10 team) to give you a closer look for your rankings to shift. Foster is a diamond in the rough for this class.
Cardinal Comparison: Hakeem Smith (signed as a WR by the way)
Crum is a jumbo athlete that might be the most interesting player in the class. He has played everywhere from tight end to safety in the last two years and he might be the most gifted athlete of the class so far. Crum has the potential to play four different positions at UofL in my opinion. He could play tight end or fullback on offense, or he could be a defensive end or strongside linebacker on defense. He's not your typical lumbering big kid from Ohio like some of the tight ends we have signed over the last few years. He lines up out wide a lot but he can still block very well. On defense he uses his hands well but mostly uses his quickness to get past blockers. It'll be very interesting to see where he ends up. Also, he wins the award for accessories.
Cardinal Comparison: Marcus Smith (Multiple positions)
Cannon could end up as a cornerback or a safety. He doesn't have ideal size for a safety but he is a big hitter for his size and he plays center field extremely well. He isn't a burner that will be able to run with every wide receiver on the outside, but he has the length and toughness to play press coverage. I'm not totally sure where Cannon ends up position-wise but I do think he has better instincts than some of the other safeties we've signed in the past.
Cardinal Comparison: Anthony Floyd
Polk was taken in this years class as an "athlete" according to Jody Demling. I haven't seen or heard of Polk playing any other position than wide receiver so I'm not totally sure what the plan is for him but I'm sure the coaches have one. It could be part of an understanding that the coaches and Polk have from a space standpoint, or they could honestly see him lining up on defense next year. Either way I think that Polk is a player that will end up surprising us down the road. He might redshirt or be a special teams guy initially but he is extremely underrated in my opinion. Polk has really, really good hands and is plenty fast enough to earn playing time here. We will have to wait to see what position he will play for the Cards.
Cardinal Comparison: Damien Copeland (A slower version)
Burns is a massive offensive tackle prospect that surprised some by taking home a Rivals Best Lineman award recently. Big lineman don't usually do all that well during camps because the drills tend to favor athletic defensive lineman and there's not always a lot of live hitting going on. Burns impressed with his pass blocking and that's a very good sign for any high school lineman. With his size and build, Burns will really just need to work on technique and fitness when he gets to campus. That gives him an upper hand on some of the guys from previous classes.
Cardinal Comparison: Jamon Brown
Some guys just know how to get after it. They play hard every single down and they give you maximum effort every play. Famurewa is that kind of player. He is has plenty of speed and he sheds blockers really well but his explosion at the snap and his relentlessness when the ball is going away from him are great. He consistently beats his man to the spot to make plays deep into the backfield. He has made it known that the coaches see him as an outside linebacker and I think he could excel there if he can show that he can play the pass.
Cardinal Comparison: Deiontrez Mount
Gayot likes to hit people. A lot. He's a kid with a big frame that meets the ball carrier with bad intentions. His abilities as an open field tackler really make me believe that he can be an excellent strong safety for Louisville. Coach Bedford asks a lot of his safeties as both cover guys as well as the last line of defense. We've been spoiled with two really, really good players that know that role well. I think that Gayot could step in and make a run at replacing Hakeem Smith or Calvin Pryor next year. At the very worst he will provide much needed depth. Gayot's big frame could also see him moving to linebacker if he packs on pounds.
Cardinal Comparison: Calvin Pryor
Blair's rankings are all over the place, which sums him up pretty well. Blair has 4-star potential but he's really only shown 3-star production. That's not really a bad thing though. It's really obvious when you watch him play that he is the big kid that has been used on deep balls all the time. But his routes and his body control on those deep balls are very good. He looks fluid on slant-and-go routes. He keeps moving downfield on poorly thrown balls instead of stopping or jumping. Where he will need to improve is his short routes and making a play after the catch. Both will come with more time on the field and coaching. His willingness to block downfield as well as make plays on special teams tells me he's a hard worker that will improve where he needs to.
Cardinal Comparison: Mario Urrutia
Jared McCray made an offensive lineman highlight tape that I enjoyed watching. Pigs are flying. McCray is a really good run blocking offensive lineman. He follows his assignment and does a great job of carrying out that assignment. Whether he is to seal the outside to open a hole or he is to get to the second level to block a linebacker, he makes that play. He plays both ways for his team and doesn't carry a lot of excess weight. He will learn how to use his hands better with more coaching and he will become a better pass blocker with that coaching. His lack of pass blocking ability showed up in his scouting reports.
Cardinal Comparison: Breno Giacomini
Rushing's ranking took a free fall after a rough camp performance this spring. Ron Dugans still offered him, and Charlie Strong still accepted his commitment. Charlie and his staff trust their scouting and Rushing is a prime example of that. He is electric in the open field. His routes are crisp and timed very well. He catches the ball with his hands and has a good catch radius. He really brings a lot to the table. I think he will see a good amount of offers come his way once the season starts. Rushing taking over for Kyle Bolin as this class's resident Twitter recruiter bodes well for us hanging onto him.
Cardinal Comparison: Eli Rogers/Deion Branch
Numbers don't lie and Shaw's 26 tackles for loss are evidence of that. Shaw is another guy that saw his rankings drop after the spring camp circuit even after having two monster seasons. His on field production as well as his film are enough to sell me on Shaw being a very good player for Louisville. He is unbelievably fast for his size. He pursues the ball relentlessly. He will really just have to work on developing true pass rushing moves when he gets here. He's completely game ready other than that. I think he will be the player in this class that makes an immediate impact.
Cardinal Comparison: Lorenzo Mauldin
Pat Moorer must look at guys like Ballew like Shawn Watson probably looked at Teddy Bridgewater. Ballew is a really talented kid that could be really good player once he adds some bulk. He has tons of speed and he can make the big hit when it's available. But he struggles to get off of blocks because of his lack of strength. The effort is all there. He really gets after it on the field, but that only gets you so far. Ballew probably has the most raw talent out of the class so far and I'm really looking forward to seeing how well he plays this season. He can really set himself up for earning some playing time at safety next year.
Cardinal Comparison: Hakeem Smith
Bonnafon was the first commit for the 2014 class and he was a big one. Despite not playing quarterback at the varsity level last year, scouting services had no issue ranking him as a top 15 dual-threat quarterback. Bonnafon responded by performing admirably against full-time quarterbacks during the spring camp circuits.
Taking out the competition levels in the videos that are linked you can still see that Bonnafon knows how to play quarterback. He stands tall in the pocket and has really good form. He was a young player then and he's only gotten better. Getting instruction at camps as well as working out on his own (I stumbled upon him throwing in a church field recently) will really show this season and his running ability will end up being an added bonus.
Cardinal Comparison: Stefan Lefors
Charlie Strong and Kenny Carter have really honed in on the type of running back they want for this offense. Scott is a stout back with decent speed and good quickness. He will put a shoulder into someone if need be or he will cut and make a man miss. He won't be a guy that hits the homerun like Senorise Perry or Corvin Lamb. He is a guy that will pound the ball and wear down the defense over and over again. Strong has had a rotation of running backs since Bilal Powell graduated and I think Scott will add depth next year if Senorise Perry comes back from his injury and plays this year.
Cardinal Comparison: Brandon Radcliff
Talk about a guy that fits the system. Culver's high school team runs mostly press coverage. They ask him to blitz at times. And the also expect their corners to beat blocks on the outside to provide contain against run plays. Culver does a really good job in all three phases and has a good mean streak to him. He pushes wide receivers around and plays with the air of confidence you like to see from a corner. The only question is his big play ability. He didn't pick off a lot of passes and he didn't record a lot of PBUs for a kid with his talent. Offenses could have just avoided him, but it's something that stood out to me. I think Culver will need to work on getting stronger before he hits the field but he's a really good pickup because of his ability to play the system.
Cardinal Comparison: Johnny Patrick
Michael Johnson is the big time athlete of this class. He is extremely long. Extremely fast. And he's only going to get better. Like Marques Gayot, I think that Johnson has a great chance to replace one of the starting safeties next year (Calvin Pryor is leaving early barring injury). He really knows how to play in space and he flies to the football. He could use an extra 10 pounds or so, but he plays the position like a veteran and I think he will really make a seamless transition to college ball. His numbers last year were really impressive. Especially his seven forced fumbles. I think the fact that schools like LSU and NCState are offering him months after he committed speaks volumes to what kind of talent this kid is.
Cardinal Comparison: Kerry Rhodes
Ford has the rare ability to always be open. Whether it's on a slant route or he's double covered on a jump ball. He is rarely truly contested when the ball is coming his way. He has the speed to get behind the defense and the jumping ability to be an absolute redzone nightmare. But what separates him from a lot of wide receivers is his route running. You tend to see corners in bad position or off balance in his videos and its not because they're just not good. He is so crisp in and out of his breaks and he has outstanding body control. Ford is also a high energy guy and it shows in his blocking and his effort when going after the ball. He wants to make every play and we all know that all high level players aren't those types of guys. Ford's impact could be big if DeVante Parker decides to leave early next year.
Cardinal Comparison: DeVante Parker
Without researching it, I'm pretty sure Gresham is Charlie Strong's first high school commitment from the state of Texas. And he is a big one. Gresham decommitted from Texas and pledged with Louisville as a true running back. Most saw him as a blocking back with versatility but Kenny Carter saw him as a guy that that can carry the ball and punish defenses. Gresham really stands out on film because of his build. He is a rock of a human and actually looks really good in shorts and t-shirts at some of the camps he's visited. He's a fluid athlete and has amazing feet for a 230 pound back. Guys bounce off of him like cartoon characters but notice that he runs by a lot of defensive backs. The fact that Coach Carter saw him as a guy that can play tailback shows you just how well this staff scouts. I think Gresham will play early on in his career in some capacity.
Cardinal Comparison: Brock Bolen
*Cardinal Comparison is who the player remind me of. It doesn't mean I think that the recruit is as good as said player.