Louisville added seven new players to its roster on the first day of the signing period for junior college and mid-year high school enrollees to officially sign with schools. In all, Louisville signed five players from the junior college ranks and two high school players are also set to enroll and join the team in January, allowing all of them to go through spring drills.
Anyone alarmed that Louisville is returning to the desperate Steve Kragthorpe days where recruiting classes were heavily dependent upon junior college players to immediately fill roles should take a deep breath. For two reasons. First, the current coaching staff has, in a short time, shown a pretty good eye for junior college talent that can help right away. James Sample and Pio Vatuvei were instrumental in the success of the Louisville defense in 2014 and both enrolled late and arrived relatively late. The only really questionable signing from the JUCO ranks last year was Kelby Johnson, and we still don't know how he might turn over a new leaf with another year to play.
Second, not all junior college signees impact the roster the same way. Typically, junior college players are around for two years and then gone. This is why they're usually at best a stop gap measure and coaches like to limit the use of them. In Louisville's case, they signed five junior college players, but three of the five have three years to play, not the customary two. So the roster impact of five JUCOs is mitigated by three of them having three years to play and all of them being enrolled in January essentially adds another half of a year to be on campus, learn the plays, and train.
If anything, think of the three year JUCOs as lessening the impact of signing a less than full class back in February (Jeremy Smith is Marlon Mack, Paul Harris is Isaiah Ford, etc). 247 Sports listed Louisville as having the #4 best junior college signing day for its haul.
Two Year Junior College Players
Khalil Hunter - 6'4, 300 - Offensive Tackle - Hunter has the chance to come in and make the biggest impact of all the mid-year signees. With Ryan Mack transferring and Jamon Brown off to the NFL, Hunter can grab the strong side tackle position the moment he arrives. Hunter is very aggressive and gets up to the second level quickly, making him an asset on outside runs and stretch plays (which are a big part of the Louisville offense under Petrino).
Tim Cook - 6'1, 235 - Fullback - All of Cook's highlights and stats are of him being a primary ball carrier, and I could see him getting carries in certain situations, but at Louisville he'll be a fullback and a really good receiver out of the backfield.
Three Year Junior College Players
Paul Harris - Wide Receiver - After Hunter, Harris has the chance to have the biggest impact right away. A tall receiver, he will probably slide right into DeVante Parker's role. Harris was a four-star recruit out of high school who went to JUCO after leaving Tennessee in the wake of the coaching change. Having a starting receiver trip of James Quick, JaQuay Williams, and Paul Harris will give Louisville's passing offense plenty of options. Harris did not play this year while recovering from an injury. He'll be good to go for spring practice.
Jeremy Smith - 6'1, 225 - Running Back - While Brandon Radcliff will surely get the majority of the carries in the spring and next year, but Smith will have a chance to be the next guy up right away. Especially with Corvin Lamb again beset with a knee injury. Smith is a really big back but isn't slow by any means. If this year's three-headed monster was Dyer, Brown, and Radcliff, it's easy to see next year's being Radcliff, Smith, and LJ Scott.
Drew Bailey - 6'5, 285 - Defensive Line - Bailey isn't being lauded as much as some of the other signees, but he's actually the one I'm personally most excited about. At 6'5, 285, Bailey can play inside in certain packages like Sheldon Rankins did this year, while also being quick enough and being a good enough pass rusher to come in and play end in the role that BJ Dubose held down for much of this season. With DeAngelo Brown, Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei, Johnny Richardson, already playing well, and Tae Thibodeaux and Terry Ramsey on campus and redshirting, Louisville has more really quality depth along the defensive line for years to come.
High School Early Enrollees
Jaire Alexander - 5'11, 170 - Defensive Back (or Receiver) - Alexander will likely wind up at cornerback, but ultimately chose Louisville after a long commitment to South Carolina because Louisville offered him at least the opportunity to contribute at receiver (he also, like several recent decommits from South Carolina, expressed concern over how long Steve Spurrier would hang around). He also had listed an offer from Kansas State. If you watch his Hudl video, Alexander is fearless as a hitter and to get that kind of instinct in a defensive back, to me, means his future is on defense.
Traveon Samuel - 5'8, 180 - Wide Receiver - Traveon Samuel is only rated a three-star prospect because of his size. We're he 5'10, 190, he'd be four-stars by everyone. In his high school's offense he ran the ball as a tailback, carried it on reverses and direct snaps, and was a dependable receiver. He's also a dangerous kick and punt returner. Samuel will have the spring and summer to learn the playbook, get stronger and put some weight on, and recover from his leg injury that ended his season (he'll be fine for spring). He reminds me so much of Joe Adams that Petrino had at Arkansas and it is very easy to envision him stepping right into Eli Rogers' role as dependable punt and kick returner and slot receiver. He's most likely to be a star out of any of the 2015 eventual signees.