LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The newly expanded Howard Schnellenberger Complex at Cardinal Stadium still has that new-car smell as you walk in past the expanded weight room. A sign with new rules hangs in the window.
No hats. No gum. Be on time. Don’t be a distraction. Don’t change the music. Don’t lean on the equipment, etc.
Heading into the defensive meeting room where Scott Satterfield is about to introduce his first University of Louisville football signing class, there’s a sign with the heading, “Core Values.” Trust and respect. Project positive energy. Do what’s right. The other 10. Always attack. Have fun.
The Louisville football players were given Wednesday off, but Satterfield said all but five showed up in the complex anyway.
“You talk about culture, that’s impressive,” Satterfield said. “That wasn’t happening before. Today’s their day off. They didn’t have to be here. But they’re in the weight room trying to get extra work, or in the tubs, or in the training room, whatever they can do to help their bodies. That’s a good sign.”
Satterfield arrived with a To-Do list the length of the Watterson Expressway. Hire a staff. Evaluate players. Identify roster needs, and recruits to fill them among a pool that was heavily depleted by the time the December signing date came and went.
They did their best. The class came in ranked No. 88 by Rivals.com.
Satterfield acknowledged those challenges, and he acknowledged that, “I don’t think you’ve ever heard of a head coach being disappointed in his signing class. Obviously, you get the ones you’re going to get. . . . I think we did meet a few of our needs. We feel like we got some guys who can come in and help us win at certain positions.”
They got a boost when four-star defensive end Ja’Darien Boykin signed out of Gray, Ga., in the morning, picking the Cards over Miami and Colorado State. And they were glad to get cornerback Jamel Starks, who picked Louisville late in the day over West Virginia, Nebraska, N.C. State and Syracuse.
“Boykin is a little short, probably, for a defensive lineman, but he’ll fit our scheme great. Very fast off the ball and has great strength. I think he’ll fit great with what we’re doing,” Satterfield said. “. . . Starks is a player we’ve been recruiting for many, many years. His brother actually played for us at App State. He visited four other Power 5 schools and getting him at the end was a great get for us.”
Beyond that, Satterfield had some numbers problems to address, particularly on the offensive line and at tight end and linebacker.
“We knew that was a need with eight scholarship linemen when we got here. We ended up getting five offensive linemen to come here. I think that will help. We’re still not where we need to be number-wise with offensive linemen. You’d like to have a minimum of 15 on scholarship,” Satterfield said. “. . . We had a need at linebacker, so we signed four linemen in this class that will help us as well. Another particular need we have is at tight end, no question about that, and we’ll continue to recruit tight ends, hopefully in this class. That could be a grad transfer as we moved forward this spring.”
Satterfield added five offensive linemen, including Florida grad transfer T.J. McCoy.
“Some of these (offensive line) guys really fit our needs,” Satterfield said. “(Zach) Williamson, we talked about him in December as an offensive tackle. (Renato) Brown is a big kid, a big, strong player that can help us at the inside positions, probably at guard. (Joshua) Black played defensive and offensive line down in Georgia, very fast, very quick twitch. May be a little undersized at 260, but can be a 300-pounder pretty easily, and he has the speed that we like up front. Gregory (Jackson) really not a highly recruited player and a really, really good player. He’s very aggressive, very strong player, he’ll be able to come in here and be one of our stronger O-linemen right now, when he shows up here. He’s a guy that really over the last year developed. Two years ago he was 5-11 and 220 pounds. So he’s taller, got a lot bigger and stronger. He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s going to help us culturally as well, with his work ethic he brings here and the chip on his shoulder. And of course (T.J.) McCoy is a grad transfer who has played a lot, started 15, 16 games at down at Florida. So he brings us extra depth that we need there as well.”
Louisville added Dez Milton, a 6-3, 220-pound tight end from Glendale, Ariz., and Ean Pfeifer, who started on the offensive line at Vanderbilt, lost a bunch of weight and will look to play tight end for the Cardinals. Satterfield said recruiting at that spot likely isn’t over.
Among the linebackers, Satterfield said he likes their versatility across the board. Dorian Jones signed at the position in December, and the staff added three more Wednesday.
“(Zach) Edwards is a very versatile linebacker, really can do a lot of things within our 3-4 defense, can play multiple positions, and we’re excited about getting him here and figure out where that may be,” he said. “He’s one that we got in late, within the last two weeks, just a great fit, had a great time on his visit and we were glad to get him. (Monty) Montgomery, love the way he plays on film, signed at Tulane and went to junior college, but still has three years of eligibility. Again not very tall, a little bit of a shorter linebacker, but runs extremely well and will pull his trigger, which means he’ll come and run through a ball carrier. He plays with a chip on his shoulder as well. He’ll be a really good player for us and we’re so excited to get him here, just for the way he plays.”
Satterfield signed two running backs, Jalen Mitchell from Rockledge, Fla., and Manual star Aidan Robbins.
“Aidan looks like you want him to look. He looks really good, 6-2 ½, close to 230 since he’s been here and put on a little bit of weight. So we’re really excited about him as well. (Jalen) Mitchell, when you look at him, he’s really a mature body right now. When he came on his visit I think he was close to 214 pounds, at 5-9 ½, so he’s put together, good speed, physically ready to go. Very smart player as well, GPA wise, over 3.5. So very smart player, really like him as well.”
And though Satterfield says he’d like to have five scholarship quarterbacks, he signed just one in this class – Evan Conley of Marietta, Ga.
“Evan has been a great surprise for us,” Satterfield said. “He’s been one of our hardest workers since he got here in January. Just got here. That’s what you want from your quarterback, a guy who is going to work his tail off. He’s always in here getting extra work, going to throw, really, really impressed by him.”
And so they’re off. He’s more excited about the possibilities for the next class. But this one will fill a few holes.
“For us moving forward, in our 2020 class, man we’re so excited for that,” Satterfield said. “We had a junior day this past weekend, great reception for that. Getting those juniors over here, particularly the local kids, there’s some good players. We got great response from that. We’re so excited for 2020, getting kids up here and selling them on our staff and our program.”
Not long ago, Lamar Jackson stopped by the complex to say hello. As other NFL alumni have done.
“It’s been awesome,” Satterfield said. “For those guys to stop by here, I want to embrace those guys. They helped build this program, this building. We want them to be involved. They have a lot of pride in this program. Lamar walks in our staff room for the first time and says, ‘Hey coaches!’ like he knew us. I’d never met him. So he was awesome and it was great to be around him. So we just need to utilize him and these guys to help the program.”
All of that will just take time. And right now, Satterfield doesn’t have much of it. On Monday, spring practice begins, and the new Louisville coach with his new Louisville staff will take a fresh look at this collection of players, and begin to fashion a new start out of what they see.
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