In 2012, after finishing 7-6 with a bowl loss to NC State, UL head coach Charlie Strong turned that “rousing” season into a recruiting class that ranked 42nd in the country. That class included 3 4-star players, 13 3-star players, and 6 2-star players. For comparison’s sake, Joker Phillips recruited the 31st ranked class in the country that year.
But then it all changed last year. UK went 2-10 and Louisville went to the Sugar Bowl and beat national power Florida. BOOM! Louisville had arrived on the scene big time. Charlie Strong has that program rolling at an incredible rate now, right? Well, I’m not one to miss an opportunity to take a shot at the little brother, so I can say with very little hesitation that Charlie Strong may have done the worst job in the country at turning big success into recruiting success. And I think we can all admit that the only way to keep a program sustainable for many years is on the recruiting trail.
So, how exactly has Charlie Strong used that Sugar Bowl win? Let’s first take a look at the Class of 2013, or better known as the incoming freshman for this season.
2013 Recruiting Numbers
UK (39th ranked class): 3 4-stars, 14 3-stars, 6 2-stars
UL (50th ranked class): 1 5-star, 1 4-star, 12 3-stars, 3 2-stars
Somehow, the combined recruiting efforts of Joker Phillips and Mark Stoops, which usually spells disaster for a recruiting class, was able to produce a better class than Charlie Strong coming off a Sugar Bowl win. And who was the 5-star player? James Quick out of Louisville Trinity, who many say was likely headed to Louisville anyway. And even if the Sugar Bowl did sway his decision, he’s a wide receiver. Which is not the impact position that a QB or RB is in college.
But hey, some might argue that much of the recruiting for the Class of 2013 was down before that Sugar Bowl win and thus it is really the Class of 2014 where that win will show up. OK, I think that might be a fair point. So, let’s take a walk into the current Class of 2014 recruiting rankings to find that dynamite UL class.
2014 Recruiting Numbers
UK (18th ranked class): 2 4-stars, 7 3-stars, 3 2-stars
UL (22nd ranked class): 1 4-star, 13 3-stars, 1 2-star
First things first. How in the hell following a 2-10 season can Mark Stoops be out-recruiting Charlie Strong right now? I’ll give Stoops all the credit in the world for doing what he is doing, but we also should be shining a light on Charlie Strong as well. He turned the biggest win in that school’s history into the same recruiting standard that Steve Kragthorpe set out. 14 of his 15 current commits are 3-stars and below. In 2013, 15 of his 17 recruits were 3-stars and below. Trust me, that class will not be ranked 22nd when it’s all said and done if he loads up on 3-stars like he is.
So, what is the point? The point is Mark Stoops has a window to gain back this rivalry in the near future. He is already recruiting at a higher level than strong. Put 2 or 3 consecutive classes together better than UL and you are back in business. Charlie Strong should have been able to gather a 5-year stranglehold on this rivalry following that win and likely good season this year. Instead, he turned it into Kragthorpe. So I hope everybody gets a nice laugh at that missed opportunity and sees the potential for UK to gain back this rivalry shortly.