Something that I think has gone somewhat under reported since the hiring of both Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong is the recruiting advantage Joker has taken over Strong, something that was not thought to be the likely end result of the two hirings. The common thinking was Strong would bring top talent from the state of Florida into Louisville, and would be able to begin gaining back the talent from the city of Louisville. While the Cards have received a couple nice recruitments out of the city, Joker has had the clear advantage overall.
Rivals.com currently ranks the UK class of 2011, comprised of 18 recruits, as the 28th best class in the country. That is ahead of Oregon, Michigan, Miami, and Virginia Tech. Their team rankings only go to the Top 50 teams, and Louisville can be found just barely at the bottom of the list at #47. Baylor and Indiana are found ahead of Louisville. In fact, out of Louisville’s 17 commitments, only 3 come from the state of Florida, all 3-star prospects.
Scout.com has the two teams closer but with Kentucky ranked 28th nationally, and Louisville ranked 31st.
So the question has already creeped into my mind: Does Charlie Strong have any advantage over Joker Phillips? If he is not beating him on the recruiting front, and he isn’t beating him on the field (something that won’t change next year), then I am starting to feel pretty comfortable about UK’s in-state dominance continuing with these two coaches at the helm. I simply say that because when Strong was hired, there were two major things he was going to bring into the Cards program: great defensive mind and improved level of recruiting. It’s too early to know what his affect on the defense will be, but if he is not bringing in much better talent than John L. Smith or Steve Kragthorpe brought in, then his great defensive mind won’t matter.
On the other hand, Joker Phillips is poised to give Kentucky it’s best recruiting class ever for 2011. It is still ranked 9th or 10th in the SEC, but early indications say Joker is attempting to increase the talent level another step.
All of this is VERY early conclusions for both guys. Louisville’s performance against Oregon State has to be encouraging for the UL fanbase. But on a strictly recruiting standpoint, you have to say that Joker has won Round 1 with Strong. Added to the actual win on the field on September 4th, and all of the early concern about whether Charlie Strong was the better coach seems to have been misguided.
(On a side note, make it a point to try and watch a Charlie Strong press conference some time. It is truly the MOST BORING thing you will ever see. Thank god we have a coach with a little personality. As Lachlan pointed out to me in the sports office, that lack of personality is all fine and good now, but if UL begins losing in Year 2 and 3, the fanbase will turn very quickly on Strong. Keep an eye out for this)