Cards building a Strong foundation
LOUISVILLE — New Louisville coach Charlie Strong says the Cardinals are laying the foundation to get back to the top of the Big East.
The Cardinals inked 20 players on National Signing Day, a group the first-year head coach feels will eventually help Louisville return to prominence.
Louisville signed two in-state players, both from Louisville: PRP defensive lineman Brandon Dunn and Central wide receiver Stephan Robinson. Strong lost out on Central linebacker Tim Patterson, who chose Kentucky over U of L on Wednesday.
The new Louisville coach said he will concentrate on in-state players going forward.
"What's going to be critical is that we start in the state of Kentucky," Strong said. "And if you look at right now, I want to say from the 2011 class, we have four young men committed.
"But what's going to be important for us is to win the state. We will still go aboard, but we want to win the state of Kentucky before we go anywhere."
Strong credited his coaching staff for helping land impact players like wide receiver Michaelee Harris from Northwestern High in Miami and quarterback Marcus Smith from Columbus, Ga.
Strong gave the class a "B" but said the real grading begins once the players get on campus. Strong said selling Louisville to potential recruits wasn't difficult even though the Cardinals haven't been to a bowl game since 2006.
"The main thing is that you're in a city," Strong said. "When you look at recruiting with the city of Louisville, there is a lot to offer with the Muhammad Ali (Center), where we took the recruits on Saturday nights to have dinner. ... And then you take them to a basketball game, where you have a coach here like Rick Pitino who is a legendary coach."
Strong was hired in December to replace Steve Kragthorpe and said he's been so busy recruiting his family is still looking for a house in the area.
WKU class No. 1 in Sun Belt
BOWLING GREEN — New Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart has cast a wide net while trying to rebuild the Hilltoppers.
WKU signed 16 players from seven states on Wednesday, including 10 from Florida. Taggart's first recruiting class was rated No. 1 in the Sun Belt Conference by Rivals.com.
The group includes three-star recruits in safety Xavius Boyd, offensive lineman Cameron Clemmons, quarterback Brandon Doughty, cornerback Jerome Speights and defensive back Cam Thomas. The Hilltoppers also signed junior college quarterback Matt Pelesasa from College of San Mateo.
Taggart's first class suffered a significant hit on signing day when four-star quarterback Brion Carnes of Manatee, Fla., had a last-minute change of heart and signed with Nebraska after having committed to the Hilltoppers last weekend.
"He came in this morning and felt like Nebraska is the place where he wanted to be," Chris Conboy, Carnes' high school quarterbacks coach, told the Omaha World Herald. "His goals were to play for a BCS championship and to win a Heisman Trophy. Nebraska is the place where he feels best about the chance to do that."
Taggart, who was hired last fall to replace David Elson, said the class will make an immediate impact on the program. WKU went 0-12 last season, its first year as a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"We are a lot better today than we were yesterday," Taggart said. "I am very pleased with the guys we have added to our program. We targeted specific guys at multiple position groups, and each of these guys we signed today will immediately make us more competitive."
EKU signs eight Ky. players
RICHMOND — Eastern Kentucky Coach Dean Hood announced a signing class of 21 players, including eight from Kentucky.
The class includes six offensive linemen, three running backs, three defensive backs, two quarterbacks, two linebackers, two defensive linemen, one kicker, one tight end, and one long snapper.
"Every one of these players can be productive for us and help us in our goal to win a championship," Hood said. "We recruited this year just like we have in the past — we started close to campus and worked our way out. This was a really good year for football in Kentucky, and we're thrilled to get eight players from the commonwealth."
The eight players from Kentucky are kicker Austin Delpont (Hazard), defensive lineman Allan Fugate (Hazard), linebacker Tyrelle Johnson (Henry Clay), offensive lineman Dylan Kupper (Trinity), quarterback Jacob Russell (Anderson County), running back Eric Shaw (Lafayette), running back Caleb Watkins (Corbin), and offensive lineman Andrew Wolter (Henry Clay).
Delpont was a first team all-state kicker who was rated the ninth best kicker in the nation by www.prokicker.com.
Murray adds 22 players
MURRAY — Murray State Coach Chris Hatcher announced the signing of 22 players Wednesday.
The group of incoming players includes nine on offense, 12 on defense and one athlete. Three players are from Kentucky.
"We are excited about the guys we were able to sign today. Murray State sells itself," Hatcher said. "We have a great group of assistant coaches that worked hard and a great support staff that made today happen."
The Racers lost 12 seniors from last year's 3-8 team, including All-America defensive end Austen Lane.