Why Louisville and Bobby Petrino are surging in recruiting, too

Bobby Petrino has Louisville ranked No. 6 in the College Football Playoff and with the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy in Lamar Jackson, with a team that averaged a recruiting class ranking of 40 overall for the past four years. Petrino has been an integral part of Louisville’s rise and recruits are taking notice of what the coach is doing with this program.

“I think that it’s only going to get better from here,” Louisville commit Russ Yeast said. “I think a lot of recruits are seeing what they can do this year and I actually think this is about a year early. Whenever Petrino got back to Louisville, I didn’t think it would be at this level yet; I thought it would be another year or two from now.”

It’s firmly ahead of schedule. The Cardinals have the No. 29 recruiting class and a big part of that is Petrino’s recruiting style, which was a big part of why Yeast decided to flip from Kentucky to Louisville. Despite having his father, Craig Yeast, star at Kentucky, the younger Yeast felt as though Petrino and the Louisville program was the best fit for him.

Petrino was more hands on than most other head coaches in the recruiting process, which is something fellow commit Justin Marshall also echoes. For Yeast, Petrino spent over an hour with the four-star’s parents on a visit, talking about who he was and what he was building at Louisville.

That personal attention is something both Yeast and Marshall say is what makes Petrino an excellent recruiter.

“He’s like a father figure and that’s how he and (assistant offensive coordinator) Lonnie Galloway got me to commit,” Marshall said. “When you go off to school these guys are like your dad and they mold you into the man you want to be. The conversations that we had about how Coach Petrino has done this before and the potential he sees in me, he didn’t sell me a dream, but I believed in it based on what he’s done in the past.”

The recruits Louisville and Petrino are going after are seeing the vision and getting a very personal approach from the head coach in their recruitment. His style of building relationships has started a formula for success that is setting Louisville up for more success in the years to come.

“He cares for his players and now that they’re winning, the light is shining on us,” Marshall said. “All the commits will say this is what we expected.”

And what he has done in the past speaks for itself. Winning 12 games at Louisville in 2006, winning 11 games at Arkansas in 2011 and now bringing the Cardinals back into the spotlight in 2016.

What hasn’t been lost on the recruits in the records and performances on the field is that Petrino has done it with less than elite recruits. The current No. 29 class ranking is his highest in the latest stint at Louisville and he still has his team in the conversation to make the college football playoff.

That statistic has given Louisville recruits a lot of confidence in where the program is headed.

“As a recruiter, he doesn’t look at the stars, he looks at the players he thinks will fit his system and what they’re trying to do,” Yeast said. “If you look at their classes, they don’t always have the top 15 classes, but they always go out there and perform well. I think what they do well that people notice is developing their players once they get to campus and I think he’s also one of the best play callers in the country.”