The Steelers, Titans and Jaguars all put together great drafts, but few won the weekend like Charlie Strong.
While Texas celebrated the selection of five players during this year's NFL draft, a school-record 10 Louisville players were also drafted. And nearly all of them hailed from Strong’s first recruiting class.
Louisville’s 2011 class was ranked No. 22 in the nation by ESPN. Five four-stars prospects. Fourteen solid three-stars. Three eventual first-round picks: Teddy Bridgewater, Calvin Pryor and DeVante Parker.
There have been only 10 other recruiting classes since 2006 that featured three or more future first-round picks. Texas hasn't had a class pull that off since its 2001 group. You’d expect it from Alabama, Florida, LSU and USC. Not Louisville.
But first-rounders hardly capture the success of Strong’s first class. The Cards inked 21 recruits in 2011. Only four ended up leaving the program. After this weekend, 12 of the 17 who stayed are now in the NFL.
Jamon Brown, Lorenzo Mauldin and John Miller were third-round selections on Friday. B.J. Dubose, Charles Gaines and Deiontrez Mount went in the sixth on Saturday. Gerod Holliman, the FBS interceptions leader, got the call in the seventh round. Two more signed free-agent deals after the draft.
Even better, 13 of those 17 signees who stuck around have already earned their degrees and three are still in school.
In recruiting, batting better than .500 on a recruiting class’ success rate is considered a job well done. Strong hitting .800 with his first group at Louisville is one big reason why he’s at Texas today. Eleven signees had to play as true freshmen. They’re the kids who helped him turn the Cards’ program around.
The circumstances were different at UL, of course. Strong and his assistants planted their flag in South Florida, landing a dozen players from that state. The challenge at Texas is all about winning the home state.
Still, you’d have to consider this NFL draft an encouraging indicator of Strong’s track record for talent evaluation and development. We’ll see if he can do it again with his first Longhorn class, a top-10 ranked group of 28 signees.
“In order for us to move forward,” Strong said on signing day in 2011, “we have to recruit classes like this.”
To keep climbing at Texas, inking another class like the 2011 edition sure would help.