Guarded Optimism At Signing Event

Good to be around optimistic football fans again, between 300 and 400 of them at the Brown & Williamson Cub for the University of Louisville’s football signing event, people wanting to size up the 2009 class. The optimism, of course, would have be to described as guarded. After all, these same fans have sat through the last two football seasons.

Charlie Torstrick and Bob Reel check out expansion renderings
Charlie Torstrick and Bob Reel check out expansion renderings.

The incoming players look good on video but who wouldn’t look good if you could go through an entire season and select only the best plays. What was interesting was that the videos included offensive and defensive highlights from numerous recruits.

“We wanted players that every position coach on the team would want to have playing for them,” said Greg Nord, recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach. “Sometimes your best defensive players starred on offense in high school We have a lot of versatile players in this class.”

Kragthorpe signs autograph for Jared and Lance Edward.
Kragthorpe signs autograph for Jared and his dad Lance Edward.

Players like Zed Evans, for example, from Seagoville, Texas, who was recruited as tight end. He averaged 10 tackles per game as a cornerback. But he was also a running back his last six games, recording 1,136 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns and 9.1 yards per carry. “He can do it all,” said Larry Slade, who will coach the defensive backfield. “One he gets a step on you, that’s it. It’s going to be interesting to watch him develop.”

Sherard Holton, from Warren East, Ky., was known as “Bear” to his teammates, and he does look ferocious on video. He ran for 1,312 yards while scoring 18 touchdowns. As a defensive back, he had 97 tackles, three interceptions, and two sacks. The question is whether he winds up on offense or defense.

“We wanted players who were not afraid to stick their faces in the fan,” said Coach Steve Kragthorpe. “We believe we have shored up the defensive side of the ball, which was our primary focus. But we are also bringing some talented offensive players.”

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

14 thoughts on “Guarded Optimism At Signing Event

  • February 5, 2009 at 7:18 am
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    Nice recap of the event, Charlie. We’ll see how the recruits pan out in the fall. A lot of two stars. Just remember that Harry Douglas, Gary Barnidge and Eric Wood were two stars. This is Kragthorpe second class that he claim full responsibility for. I hope they can contribute. We need a lot of help. .

  • February 5, 2009 at 9:28 am
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    Thanks for the update,wanted to make the trip up from Richmond,but still dealing with weather related issues.

    Now is the time for team, coaches & fans
    to come together and move forward!

  • February 5, 2009 at 10:25 am
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    Bruce,

    Lets just move forward and forget that we are hoping the guy who tore down our once great football program can build it back up? I am only optimistic in the idea that this will be Crapthorpe’s last year. Rucruiting classes ranked in the 60’s or low 70’s are not something to get excited about. Neither is the idea of playing true freshman again. The deffense will not be as good as it was last year under English, and the offense has to many questions like the line, and the qb. I will never quit being a UofL fan but I don’t understand how Crapthorpe has ruined this program so quickly. He was the wrong guy after Petrino b/c he was a softy who was a players coach. Petrino was a hard @ss who never let up on the field. Crapthorpe wants over acheivers, and good kids, but this isn’t C-USA, and good kids who over acheive will never bring a program consistency. Crapthorpe can’t control talented kids with egos or attitude problems. Every good program in the nation has to deal with those issues, mediocre programs do not becuase they don’t get the great player, the one with the ego. Now I’m not saying you can just go after problem kids, but you have to go after talented kids, some of whom have been pampered in High school and need some tough love to become gentleman.

  • February 5, 2009 at 12:17 pm
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    FINALLY!

    Cardfan4life hit the nail on the head. That is the best explanation of the situation I’ve heard yet. There is no doubt that K is a nice man. And that is exactly the wrong guy to handle talented tough guys who need a Marine Corps DI to scare them into doing what he wants them to do.

    Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer aren’t recruiting choir boys. They know how to turn mama’s boys, street thugs and prima donnas into model citizens who win games. It’s what they’re PAID FOR!

  • February 5, 2009 at 8:49 pm
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    Great to see that many fans out on a very cold day backing the team and Coach K! Go Cards!

  • February 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm
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    So Cardfan4life and Tom think that the only way to build a winning program is to take street thugs and momma’s boys and turn them into gentlemen. Why, sure–Brian Brohm and Harry Douglas were real punks until Bobby Petrino straightened them out with Marine Corp discipline.

    The key to success for a program in Louisville’s situation is to do exactly what Kragthorpe and his staff have done here: find athletes who can do a lot of different things well but have been overlooked by big programs. And don’t kid yourselves that the subscriber services that rate these recruits know a damn thing about how good they are–Scouts.com and rivals.com want subscribers, and they consistently rate Notre Dame recruiting classes high because their fans subscribe to read about how great next year will be. How has that worked out for the Irish lately?

    Kragthorpe has to get kids who can contribute immediately, just so he can try to keep his job (and this is a key problem with all the naysaying and “crapthorpe” jabber). But he knows what he needs to do: get athletic kids with size and speed and give them a year to grow. I hope that by next year he can redshirt almost every freshan and give them some room to grow.

    Living here in Virginia, I get to see a lot of Virginia Tech football. I think their situation is instructive for us. Since 1993, Frank Beamer has taken Tech to a bowl every year, including BCS bowls in three of the last five. They almost won the national championship out of the Big East in 1999. Ths is a quality program that wins consistently.

    Beamer came to Tech from Murray State, where he had wowed them with a 42-23-2 record over six years–he was no supercoach hired away from an SEC school. He started very slowly at Virginia Tech, starting with with 2-9 rookie and 3-8 sophomore years, and showing only 24-40 after his first six campaigns, the last of which ended only 2-8-1 mark in 1992.

    This rocky start came after Bill Dooley had lead them to a 10-1-1 mark–their best ever–in 1986. Beamer had his critics–who like Kragthorpe’s convicted him of destroying an up-and-coming program. But Tech stuck with him and let him build his program. I bet they are glad they did.

  • February 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm
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    I hope you are right about K.
    Your comparison to Va Tech is a little lame though. Va Tech was an Independent in 1986 and actually went 8-2-1 before beating NC State in the Peach Bowl (a decent bowl in ’86 – but not a premier bowl). Va Tech lost to Temple that year, but was later credited with a victory because Temple forfeited the game due to the use of an ineligible player.
    Also, Beamer has come under considerable fire during recent years because of the types of players he has recruited to Va Tech. He had alot of players get in trouble with the law. This led him to withdraw a scholarship offer to Rod Council after Council had some legal troubles his senior year in high school.
    I am willing to give K a couple of more years to prove himself, but I don’t see any signs of progress in the program yet. He has done nothing in his two years here to get me excited about UofL football – present or future.

  • February 7, 2009 at 3:08 pm
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    Scott,

    I was trying to say that many top notch H.S. players have some issues. Coach Crapthorpe hasn’t proved he can teach or coach those kinds of kids. Also there has been plenty of talent on this UofL team the last two years to justify a better record on the field. My issues are simple, if another tough a$$ coach would have replaced Petrino, the transition would not have been so dificult. Add to the fact that the only thing this Offensive genious has done in two years is run our offense into the ground. The only bright spot this past season was the defense, well that was until the injuries took over. Crapthorpe is an offensive guy, where’s the offense? Wheres the scoring. I bet there were 10+ Quarters last season alone in which UofL didn’t score a single point. Crapthorpe was the Wide Receivers coach as well and that group was arguable the worst I’ve seen in over 10 years. I have plenty of ammo to justify my frustrations with the Crap, but give me all your ammo on why hes the man? Oh wait you did, its the same old “he needs more time,” argument. Thats old, he should only get time if the team looks like it is over acheiving its talent level which it hasn’t done. He needs more time after this next season and a 3rd straight year of increasing losses? Please, if this guy gets much more time UofL will be the laughing stock of BCS Conference football. Oh wait that already happened. UofL finished dead last in the worst conference. The team quit on him the last game, and he is about to run out a Louisville legend in Jeff Brohm. Its not Brohm, its not Cassity, its not whoever else has been blamed for the poor performances on the field, Its STEVE F…ING CRAPTHORPE!

  • February 9, 2009 at 9:01 pm
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    I suggest, cardfan4life, that you lay off the coffee. May I also point out that bastardizing Kragthorpe’s name and capitalizing every word doesn’t win the argument. Insults and volume don’t make you smarter.

  • February 9, 2009 at 10:10 pm
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    I think Va. Tech has had more than its share of thugs.

  • February 10, 2009 at 9:04 am
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    Virginia Tech has certainly had its share of thugs–anyone who saw the younger Vick brother stomp on Elvis Dumervil knows that. The real problem at Tech was that Beamer did not reform these kids–he just let them keep being thugs as long as they won.

    I think this was Petrino’s technique as well. He yelled and screamed about on-field mistakes, not about off-field behavior. This may win football games, but it does the kids no favors (ask Michael Vick) and limits recruiting–what kid with good values will want to play with a bunch of thugs?

    My point in comparing Kragthorpe to Beamer was simply to point out that failure to achieve immediate success does not necessarily reflect incompetence. I would also point out that the fans are probably not in the best position to know whether Kragthorpe has the skills to make this work. Further, Tom Jurich has no incentive to keep Kragthorpe if he does not believe the man can do it–and we know that Jurich has a clue.

    The long term success of the Louisville football program depends on finding a coach who can win and still remain loyal to the school. Soon we’ll know if Kragthorpe can do this–if he does, and we have stuck with him, we should be able to keep him for a while. If not, he’ll be gone in two years at most. So take off the CAPS LOCK, and take Sonja’s advice: love the players, love the game. These kids need our support, and we should give it to them.

  • February 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm
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    Love the players. Love the game. We are powerless to change the events tht take place within the atletic offies of the University of Louisville. We all have our feelings, one way or another on the state of our program under this coach.

    You can, however…still go out there and yell your head off for the guys on the team you like watching play and when we do well.

    Love the players, love the game.

  • February 12, 2009 at 9:43 am
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    One quick question, of all the players who left UofL while Petrino was here, how many of them went out and got arrested? The kids only went awol when Kragthorpe was the head of the house. All these good character guys that just graduated, who brought them into the program? No one was trying to say anything about good character kids when UofL was in the Orange Bowl. Harry Douglas, George Bussey, Brian Brohm, Brock Bolen, Hunter Cantwell, etc. etc., were all great character kids as well as players. Who do you think brought them in here? My argument was simple, Frank Beamer and Steve Kragthorpe are two totally different people. Kragthorpe seems completely clueless on how to coach, control his team, or his coaches. I’m sure Beamer didn’t have these kinds of issues while he was losing in his first few years. Add to the fact that it was like 20+ years ago and your argument is lame.

  • February 12, 2009 at 10:17 am
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    I think the primary point was that Beamer got off to weak starts following a coach who was 10-1. He didn’t get canned and went on to become a very successful coach. The bashing is getting old and it gets us nowhere.

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