While Louisville is off to a good start in the 2018 class, the Cardinal coaching staff is already working towards future goals and one of those is to keep young local talent at home.
Louisville's newest staff member, Director of High School Relations Stephen Field, made clear that one of the coaching staff's goals is to target local talent.
"Coach Petrino places a high priority on keeping the top talent from Louisville and the state of Kentucky at home. It is very important to him," Field said. "We know that Coach Petrino has had great success with local talent in the past, and we want to keep that tradition going."
While the overall numbers of local football prospects pale in comparison to hot-beds like Florida, Georgia and Texas, the top players in Louisville can typically play alongside the best of the best nationally. And local stars have always been a part of Louisville football's most-successful runs.
Louisville bowl teams of the early 1990s boasted local stars like Mark Sander, Greg and Jeff Brohm and Miguel Montano. Local star Chris Redman led Louisville's resurgence on the national scene with the help of local stars like Ibn Green, Rashad Holman and others.
And on Louisville's 2004-06 bowl run of Liberty, Gator and Orange, locals like Michael Bush, Brian Brohm, the Leffew brothers, Eric Shelton and Mario Urrutia were a major key. The Cardinals have had great success throughout the years with local lineman who worked their way into being starters like George Bussey, Alex Kupper.
In 2015, Louisville natives DeVante Parker and Jamon Brown were the top two Cardinals selected in the NFL Draft. Parker went 14th overall to the Miami Dolphins and Brown was selected in the third round by the Rams. Eastern High grad Colin Holba was the top Cardinal taken in the 2017 draft.
Local stars have also been key in the last couple of teams. Trinity grad James Quick had a very productive career at Louisville, and Tobijah Hughley continued a Louisville tradition of unheralded local linemen who work their way into consistent starting roles like Will Rabatin, George Bussey and Alex Kupper.
On the current team, elite multi-position athlete Reggie Bonnafon is a Trinity grad, both of Louisville's returning kicking starters are from the Louisville area, young receiver Keion Wakefield was one of the region's best recruits and is now a redshirt-freshman and lineman Cole Bentley enrolled early and is challenging for a starting spot. The Cardinals will have more than two dozen locals on the 2017 roster.
And the future looks bright in the local area. There are some talented local players in the 2018 class, and the 2019 class is possibly the deepest group of top-end talent in many years.
"We are working on a project called #RedGate19 for the next class," Field said. "We know this 2019 class has great talent not only in the Louisville area, but also out in the state of Kentucky. It's a strong class."
There is certainly going to be competition for local and state talent in both the next two classes, but Field says the Louisville staff is working hard at winning them over.
"We're excited about our future," Field said. "We can't discuss individual recruits before they sign, but we know there are some great prospects in our area."