Undoubtedly, the best thing that could have happened for's Louisville legacy was the sudden and complete collapse of the program that has taken place since his departure. Even those who were secretly hoping his flight to ATL would never make it there are now casting him as the tragic hero whose genius couldn't be fully understood until he was replaced by someone inept.
While I'm fully aware of all the tremendous things Petrino did for this program I also haven't forgotten his inability to beat ranked teams on the road, his freezing up in games when adversity struck and, of course, the way in which his coaching career here ended. Like your high school sports career, time and the stresses of life that come with it have made Petrino's tenure at U of L far more glorious in drunken conversations with friends than it ever was in reality.
With that said, I have serious issues with Rick Bozich's column this morning, which places a heavy dose of the blame for the state of the program on Petrino's final recruiting class. Dr. Bo notes that just three members of that recruiting class will be starting for the Cards on Saturday, while UK boasts eight starters from Rich Brooks' class of '06.
It sounds like a solid point, except that it completely fails to address the numerous players from that class who either transferred, quit or saw their careers end because of injuries after Petrino left.
Among that group: Anthony Allen (Louisville's all-time leader in single game rushing yardage who will be starting tonight for Georgia Tech), Latarrius Thomas (a true freshman starter on the Orange Bowl team who was widely praised for his character and chose to follow Ron English to Eastern Michigan) and Peanut Whitehead (the most highly touted defensive recruit to ever sign with the program).
According to Scout.com, Petrino's final class was the 26th best in the country (still the program's highest ranking, I believe) while Kentucky's was 34th. The other major recruiting service, Rivals.com, also had the Cards' class ahead of the Cats' (34th and 36th).
I like Bozich a lot, but this was not a well thought out column.
UPDATE: Eric Crawford also tackles the topic on his blog.
In addition to the players mentioned above, Crawford lists Aundre Henderson (quit the sport), Jeremy Baker (dismissed), Tyler Wimsatt (dismissed) and Kareem Crowell (now at Arkansas) as members of that class who didn't pan out under Kragthorpe.