LOUISVILLE — Louisville Coach Charlie Strong logged so many miles on one weekend trip to Florida that he had time to critique recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt's driving skills. Crisscrossing the Sunshine State paid off for the Cardinals.
Strong dipped into his deep Florida ties again and loaded up his third class with another group of highly touted defenders to add to a young team that will return 18 starters and started 11 different freshmen last year.
"We started down in Miami. We worked from Miami to West Palm (Beach) from West Palm to Port. St. Lucie, to Orlando up to Valdosta, (Ga.) up to Savannah back down to Lake City," Strong said Wednesday. "That was a trip. I told Hurtt, I don't know if I can drive around with him that much the way that man drives. It was a fun trip."
A worthwhile one, too.
Strong signed 10 players from Florida in his 24-man class headlined by linebackers Keith Brown and Nick Dawson.
"That's a position that we do need help right now," Strong said.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown received more than 30 offers from BCS schools and had originally committed to Miami and Illinois before choosing Louisville and enrolling in January. He'll likely be an inside linebacker with the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Dawson on the outside. Strong said his two other freshman linebackers — James Burgess Jr. and Lamar Atkins — would be in the mix for playing time.
Louisville's class ranked between second and fifth in the Big East among the major recruiting Web sites and between 38th and 46th nationally among the 120 teams in the FBS. The new group includes six defensive linemen and five offensive linemen.
"The game is won up front so you have to go and get your offensive and defensive linemen because that's where it all starts at," Strong said. "You can go find a skill guy, they're everywhere, but it's always hard to get those offensive and defensive linemen."
Small class, big talent for Western Kentucky
BOWLING GREEN — Western Kentucky Coach Willie Taggart received a couple of pleasant surprises as part of 13 signees in the Hilltoppers' latest recruiting class.
Running back Anthony "Ace" Wales selected WKU over Louisville, and defensive lineman Tyrone Pearson out of Louisville's Seneca High chose the Hilltoppers despite offers from BCS programs.
"I think it is always great when you can get an in-state kid of that caliber," Taggart said of Wales picking WKU. "We talked about it from day one — we want to be able to get those kids to not only stay in-state, but to be able to come to WKU."
Taggart stressed quality over quantity with the class with seven signees rated three-star prospects by Rivals.com.
Six of Taggart's signees are from Florida and four from Kentucky. The new recruits don't include a pair of Louisville natives: 2010 four-star quarterback DaMarcus Smith, a Central Florida signee from Seneca High School who didn't qualify last fall, and Louisville transfer Jerrell Moore from Fern Creek.
The Hilltoppers' class Wednesday ranked anywhere from second to last in the Sun Belt Conference according to the major recruiting Web sites.
WKU addressed needs at nearly every position on both sides of the ball, signing six offensive and seven defensive players. Five of the seven defensive signees are linemen, while three running backs highlight the class on offense.
EKU adds depthto experienced team
RICHMOND — Eastern Kentucky Coach Dean Hood announced a class of 27 signees on Wednesday.
The class includes 10 offensive linemen, four defensive backs, four defensive linemen, three running backs, two quarterbacks, two linebackers, one wide receiver and one tight end. The players come from nine different states.
"I think the biggest thing was that we were able to replace what we lost in the 2011 senior class with our mid-year additions," Hood said. "All of our high school signings were just icing on the cake and will help us in the future. We had to hit the offensive line hard because we lost four players this past year and will lose four more following this fall."
Seventeen of the 22 starters from last season's playoff team are slated to return for the Colonels in 2012, including eight first-team all-conference players
Murray State loads upon offense
MURRAY — Murray State Coach Chris Hatcher announced the signings of 16 players to national letters of intent and seven others who have already enrolled in school for the spring semester.
All told, the Racers added five wide receivers, four running backs, three quarterbacks and two linemen to the offense, and five linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs to the defense.
"This group has the potential to make an immediate impact," Hatcher said.