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3 Recruiting Q&As: Louisville, Kentucky, WKU
Posted Jan 24, 2014

3 Recruiting Q&As with Scout's Louisville, Kentucky, WKU publishers

3 Recruiting Questions With Scout Publishers
- Auburn, Illinois, Hawaii | Alabama, Duke, Idaho
- Florida, Boise State, Arkansas, Ball State, Georgia Tech
- Arizona State, Fresno State, Georgia, Northwestern
- East Carolina, Kansas, Miami Univ. | BYU, Purdue, Nevada
- LSU, Rutgers, Southern Miss | Oregon, Texas St, West Virginia
- Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State | Louisville, Kentucky, WKU
- Notre Dame, UCLA, Pitt

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Jeff Drummond, - 1) It has already been a strong recruiting season – what has been the main selling point? What’s working?

Mark Stoops has really thrived in his home state of Ohio, where Kentucky coaches have always talked about needing to recruit harder, but have never really been able to break through and land many players. He and assistant coach Vince Marrow, the Wildcats' recruiting "ace," have done a great job of using their old relationships to get some impressive Buckeye State talent to come south. Almost half of this class might be from Ohio by the time the ink dries on National Signing Day. Stoops has also done a great job of keeping the in-state talent (like Elite 11 quarterback Drew Barker) in blue despite the great job that Charlie Strong was doing at Louisville.

2) Does the success at Louisville matter in any way to instate recruiting? What’s the attitude toward the return of Bobby Petrino when it comes to Kentucky prospects?

Interestingly, no, with the notable exception of Jefferson County, where the Cardinals are still on equal or greater footing than the Wildcats. Kentucky still gets most of the key guys it wants from across the state. It will be interesting to see what impact Petrino has. His reputation was damaged the last time he was at Louisville, and some high school coaches really soured on him recruiting their kids. But the guy wins and plays an exciting brand of football, so we could see some exciting battles between him and Stoops in the years to come.

3) What’s the No. 1 need the team needs to fill?

The main areas the staff continues to stress are getting bigger and more athletic on both lines -- especially the D-Line -- and to get bigger corners who can play aggressive man-to-man coverage. Kentucky had only two interceptions the entire 2013 season, and both came from linebackers, a statistic that did not sit well with Stoops after spending most of his career as a DB coach.

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Jordan Wells, - 1) Everyone knew Bobby Petrino was a rental, but are his recruits sticking around?

Almost all of Petrino's commitments have been retained. Most of the recruits knew that (then) offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm was a contingency plan for head coach in the event Petrino left early, giving them a "safety net" of sorts in committing. Right on cue, Western Kentucky made Brohm's promotion official the same week as Petrino was introduced at Louisville. There have been a couple of decommitments, but that's to be expected when any coaching change occurs. DeAndre Farris, Randy Anyanwu and Nacarius Fant are three top targets they've held on to, with a fourth (D'Andre Ferby) still verballed, but Petrino's flirting with the idea of offering him at Louisville. If Ferby does get a Louisville offer, he told me he's still "90 percent" on signing with WKU.

2) How does the move to Conference USA help? Does it really make a difference?

The C-USA move has definitely been a boost, at least initially. The Sun Belt has been on the upswing in football the last two years, but the additional bowl tie-ins and history of programs like Marshall and Southern Miss keep most recruits holding the perception that C-USA is a clear step-up, despite the recent defections. Louisiana Tech, Rice, and UAB for example are simply more household names than Louisiana-Lafayette or Texas State. It will be interesting to see how the conference perception shifts though as more departures like East Carolina and Tulsa become permanent.

3) What’s the No. 1 need the program needs to address with this recruiting class?

The No. 1 need for WKU is easily linebacker. Departing the roster are three senior starters, including potential 2014 NFL Draft picks Andrew Jackson and Xavius Boyd. WKU will offset the losses starting with three-star mid-year enrollee Dejon Brown, outside linebacker who held offers from Tennessee, North Carolina State and Iowa State among others at various points in his recruitment. Two-star Nick Holt Jr. is another junior college mid-year enrollee, and is the son of defensive coordinator Nick Holt. High school commits Masai Whyte and Joel Iyiegbuniwe project well down-the-road at the position. WKU also returns DaQual Randall, who I think is a lock to start alongside Brown in 2014.

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Nicholas Medine, - 1) Did last year’s clunker matter on the recruiting trail? Has anything changed from the coaching staff’s recruiting pitch?

No one expected 1-7 from Northwestern. The majority of its 2014 recruiting class joined the program after NU's impressive 10-win season—with more success expected to come. Though the Wildcats lost three players to decommitments, the core of their class remained intact. They held onto Scout top 300 players Justin Jackson and Parrker Westphal, with Clayton Thorson expected to be a standout player at quarterback or wide receiver. Better, they had backup plans. When defensive end commit Noah Westerfield opted to visit Cal, NU snapped up a sleeper backup (James Prather) within the day.

As for the 2015 class, they're just moving slower. They still have the same ambitions, believing that the '13 season was a fluke–it was in many ways–and that they can snag a mixture of local studs, four-star guys and sleeper recruits.

2) Is Pat Fitzgerald’s status and tenure opening more doors? Or, is there a concern that he might be gone at the next huge job opportunity?

Two things: First, Pat Fitzgerald still has something to prove at Northwestern. He's been excellent in his time here, recruiting better and leading his team to some excellent seasons. There's no reason, though, for the team to tank as it did last season. The Wildcats need more consistent results, but there's no reason to think Fitzgerald can't lead them back to prominence. Second, he's the perfect guy for this program. It's all about character for Fitzgerald, and he holds true to that in every single way. And, really, kids cite "coaching stability" as one of the primary reasons behind their commitment more often than not. He'll be around for another handful of years, if not more.

3) What’s the No. 1 need the program needs to address with this recruiting class?

For the '15 class, they'll need to build backup plans at the linebacker position. They lost starting middle linebacker Damien Proby to graduation after last season, with other starters Collin Ellis and Chi Chi Ariguzo gone following this year. It's not urgent–especially not if current projects like Anthony Walker excel–but they'll want to add some talented players as insurance. Also, the other key thing to recognize about this recruiting strategy is the staff's obsession with a "stable" of running backs. They like using them in a variety of ways, and last season exposed the need for depth there. Overall, though, I can't say that I expect much drop off in their recruiting success.

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1) Did the timing work out? Did the program sign Bobby Petrino early enough to make this a successful recruiting season?

Jody Demling, - The timing was great. Petrino had one week to hire and staff before they could get back out on the road (after the dead period). He had six coaches on the road the first day after the dead period and had eight official visitors the week after he was hired. So, it was plenty of time for him.

2) How are Petrino and Strong different when it comes to recruiting?

Petrino - more than Strong - will go for the under-the-radar guys. He will recruit the four and five-star kids, but will make it a point to have every class with a couple of guys he finds out there. He had 11 NFLers in his first two classes the last time he was at Louisville. Strong concentrated 50 percent on just Florida, Petrino will move more into Alabama and Georgia while also staying strong in Florida.

3) What’s the No. 1 need the program needs to address with this recruiting class?

The top need is OL and DL depth. Both of those positions lack depth now and will lose key players next season, so that's the biggest need.