The old saying goes, “defense wins championships.” Whether that’s true or not will be debated for eternity, but one thing that we know helps win championships, and builds those precious defenses, is recruiting.
It’s the reason why we have multiple outlets like 247, Rivals, ESPN, and On3 covering every tweet, Instagram, and word from high school athletes across the country. It’s the reason why we care so much about things like the Blue Chip Ratio, an elite recruiting level coined by 247’s Bud Elliot where he’s figured out that “to win the national championship, college football teams need to sign more four- and five-star recruits (AKA “Blue Chips”) than two- and three-star players over the previous four recruiting classes.” Teams that don’t reach this ratio are virtually incapable of competing for national championships.
Recruiting is important!
And for all of the successes the UofL football program has experienced over the last few decades, including three BCS/New Year’s 6 bowl wins, multiple conference titles, a Heisman winner, etc., the average college football fan, or even a casual Louisville football fan, may not realize how little success the program has had in the blood sport of recruiting.
However, for a program that has brought in just two top-30 recruiting classes (according to 247) since the recruiting services began ranking players and classes in the early 2000s, UofL all of the sudden finds itself with a Top-5 recruiting class in the country for 2023 and the top class in the ACC, according to 247. Yes, yes, I know it’s only April. But even if Louisville finishes this recruiting cycle with a Top-20 class it would be BY FAR the best class in school history.
The players Scott Satterfield has received commitments from thus far are the type of guys fans aren’t seeing commit to UofL. Sure, we’ve seen huge talents with high recruiting rankings like Michael Bush, Brian Brohm, and James Quick who never had to leave Jefferson County for college, as well as guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Gerod Holliman, and Keith Brown, who came from Miami pipelines Charlie Strong had built for decades. But today Louisville’s App State influenced coaching staff has three four-star commitments, all of whom are from California. Not exactly normal stuff happening here.
You can easily explain away how Louisville was able to pick top talent out of their backyard, or how Charlie Strong used his South Florida connections to pull kids from Miami-Dade, but how on earth is a guy who spent most of his life in Boone, North Carolina all of the sudden getting commitments from blue-chip talent in California? Some may say that QB Coach Pete Thomas, who was born and raised in Southern California, but has spent almost his entire adult life in the Central and Eastern time zones, has been able to establish a small pipeline in Cali all of the sudden. Others may attribute this recruiting success to the new recruiting landscape that includes Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities which allows student-athletes to profit through various marketing and advertising channels, and the job Louisville has done to capitalize on the new rules.
But I’m not so sure those legitimate and reasonable theories are what’s driving Louisville’s unprecedented recruiting surge. Perhaps, the
person(s) thing we should be crediting and thanking is this small piece of astro turf.
HEAR ME OUT!
In Scott Satterfield’s first three seasons on campus whichever media team UofL uses to take cool photos and videos during recruiting visits (please don’t kill me for not knowing which one, media teams) used multiple polyester-looking backdrops for their shoots. For the uninitiated, when recruits visit a school they usually get to dress up in a team’s official gear and take pictures and videos. It’s a great idea…unless…those recruits are wearing cleats!
Week after week, visit after visit, the polyester backdrops fell victim to the sharp cleats, and ultimately gave way to unsightly holes that were included in official visit photos for all to see.
This was a small nuisance at first until fans (myself) began to notice. I cried foul and tried to bring attention to the poor backdrop and the eyesores the punctures were bringing to the recruiting photos, but things progressively got worse.
But the polyester backdrop wasn’t the only thing that was struggling. In Satterfield’s first three full recruiting classes he has yet to sign a class ranked higher than 40th in the country, as he signed the 42nd-ranked class in 2020, the 40th in 2021, and the 54th in 2022, levels Louisville hadn’t really seen since the Kragthorpe era. Coincidence?
As fans called for Satterfield and Co. to improve their recruiting, others (there are dozens of us!) begged for a solution to the gaping holes in the polyester backdrop. Suggestions ranged from sensible ones including putting a pad underneath the backdrop, not letting recruits wear the cleats to building a backdrop out of chainmail and Kevlar. But these pleads and recommendations went unheard as Louisville signed its worst ranked class (with a full season to prepare) since the Cards were playing football in Conference USA, and we witnessed the saddest recruiting-backdrop photo of all:
But then in late January 2022, in what may go down as the biggest recruiting weekend in UofL football history, there was something different about the recruiting photos…
How genius! How simple! It was right under our
noses feet this whole time. Of course this was solution! Just throw down the fake turf the players will be playing on anyways. Looks good in photos, saves the poor backdrop from being stabbed to death, and most importantly, gets recruits.
Don’t believe me?
Look at this photo
In this photo are Pierce Clarkson, Aaron Williams, Jahill McClain, and Deandre Moore. All four are rated as four-stars. All four from California. The first three mentioned are already committed to UofL, including Aaron Williams who committed yesterday. Pierce Clarkson and Aaron Williams would rank in the Top 10 of highest rated recruits to ever sign with UofL.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the the four to five other commits which are mostly high three-stars and have helped propel this class close to the top of the recruiting rankings, who committed after the lucky astro turf was put down.
So am I saying that the astro turf is solely responsible for the outlandish recruiting success and momentum Louisville is experiencing at this moment?
Am I saying that this little piece of lucky turf is going to save the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville?
The time has come for us to thank the media department for saving the cursed backdrop that plagued our football program, and praise Louisville football’s newest ace recruiter.
Viva la Lucky Astro Turf.