Rick Bozich had an interesting take in his Thursday column — that U of L’s problems today had some genesis in the 2006 recruiting class of Bobby Petrino, his final U of L class. Bozich points out that only three players from that class — L.T. Walker, Johnny Patrick and Brandon Heath — will start in Saturday’s game against Kentucky. I’d add wideouts Josh Chichester and Troy Pascley and defensive lineman Rodney Gnat as other contributors from that class. Plus, Jeff Adams started every game on the offensive line last season and is listed at No. 2 at left tackle, so that’s seven guys who see playing time. That doesn’t match the eight starters UK has from its 2006 class, but look deeper.
I don’t disagree with the basic premise that, as it has shaken out, that class has not produced enough numbers to carry its weight.
(Here’s the link to Rivals.com’s listing of the class).
But I am going to quibble with how much responsibility Petrino bears for that. To lay it at Petrino’s feet would imply that the class was flawed from the beginning. And while this wasn’t Petrino’s strongest class, it did include enough talent to dramatically change the complexion of this year’s U of L team had circumstances not depleted it.
Consider some of the players in that class no longer with the team
— Anthony Allen (transfer to Georgia Tech) who has made national highlights in his debut for the Yellow Jackets.
— Latarrius Thomas (transfer) who should be starting at safety for this team. Thomas was a good kid who left the team for reasons he would not elaborate on.
— Peanut Whitehead (injury) suffered a career-ending medical condition, but certainly was in the mold of an all-conference defensive end.
— Aundre Henderson (quit the sport) looked like a big-time player on the interior of the defensive line, then decided to quit the game altogether.
— Jeremy Baker (dismissed) and Tyler Wimsatt (dismissed) were players Kragthorpe let go for violations of team rules. Neither resurfaced at major programs, so you can debate whether you want to blame Kragthorpe or Petrino for those misses.
And then there’s the question of guys who didn’t show up, and that’s where things get a bit interesting.
Remember the name Kareem Crowell? He signed with U of L but never made it because of grades. Instead he went to Hargrave Military Academy.
Know where he is now? Why, he’s a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, where Petrino stuck with him and is trying to mold the 6-4, 325-pounder into a lineman he can use. He has yet to play in a game there. So is Petrino to blame for Crowell not showing up at Louisville, or is the current staff to blame for not sticking with him, or is he not enough of an impact guy to make a difference. Tough to tell, but it is interesting.
Other guys like Emanuel Francis (junior college) and Josh Hawkins (NAIA) who did not show at U of L probably were not impact guys. Another no-show, Demetrius Culpepper, went to junior college and played in 10 of 13 games last season for Memphis.
So what’s the bottom line? Can you lay some of the disintegration of this class at Petrino’s feet? Sure. Some of it, maybe. There were some weak links from the start, no dobut.
But if you’re going to say that the class was lacking from the start, I’d disagree. This was a good enough class to keep winning. Nobody can control things like what happened to Peanut Whitehead, but some of the bizarre departures after Petrino left have had more to do with this class’ mediocre performance than its original makeup.