Bobby Petrino got his guys Wednesday, and like nearly every coach on college football’s biggest recruiting day, he said he was pleased with the results.
The first-year Western Kentucky coach introduced his 25 signees on national signing day, along with the nine newcomers who enrolled at the start of the current semester, and described the process of how they became Hilltoppers.
“Our coaches did a great job, once they got here, of identifying the players we were going to recruit, going out and evaluating, making sure they fit with our style of play and then doing a good job of getting them on campus,” he said. “If we can get them on campus, we feel like with our facilities and the support that we have here, it allows us a good of a chance to get them as anybody.”
Of the 25 players who faxed in letters of intent Wednesday, 11 play offense and 14 suit up on defense. Petrino inked five wide receivers to go along with current enrollee Lonnie Turner.
The former Louisville and Arkansas coach also explained that finding players who can catch the ball in his pass-oriented attack was a top priority.
“Offensively, I thought the wide receivers are a great mix between some real fast guys that can run after the catch and help us in the return game and some big, physical guys that create mismatch problems,” he said. “I thought we did a nice job of putting it together.”
Petrino also explained how he and his staff were able to bring in the maximum number of recruits given the fact 76 current players are on scholarship, and former coach Willie Taggart only signed 13 last season.
That gave the current staff room to enroll nine in January while signing 25 on Wednesday.
Even with less than two months to assemble a staff and hit the recruiting trail, Petrino said his coaches’ prior relationships – like the ones offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm had in Alabama – helped pave the way.
“There were some difficulties, but I think we got to know the guys, we talked to them a lot on the phone, we visited them,” Brohm said. “When you get them up here on campus and you just say, ‘Hey, you come up here and take a look for yourself and see what it’s all about and see the campus life. Get around the facility. See all amount of investment the university has made in football and to winning here and you judge for yourself the commitment this university has to football.’ That kind of won them over.”
The Hilltoppers bring in a single recruit from north of the state of Kentucky – quarterback Todd Porter from O’Fallon, Ill., about 20 miles east of St. Louis.
Petrino also brings in four players from Kentucky – defensive back Juwan Gardner of DuPont Manual (a Taggart commit), wide receiver Aaron Jackson of Frankfort, wide receiver Cam Lewis of Ballard and wide receiver Taywan Taylor of Pleasure Ridge Park, a prospect who did not commit and sign until Wednesday.
“One of our philosophies here in recruiting is, we’re going to do a great job here in the state of Kentucky,” Petrino said. “I was happy with the four young men we signed out of the state and three of them being out of the city of Louisville.
“Then we were going to south to Alabama, Georgia and Florida and I believe we signed 17 young men from the states of Alabama and Florida.”
Petrino and company can now turn their efforts toward putting in work on the field. The current team worked out early Wednesday morning at Houchens-Smith Stadium and will begin spring practice in late March, leading up to the annual spring game April 20.
“I think that we finished strong,” Petrino said of the recruiting effort. “There was a couple, two, three, four players that were committed to other schools that we just kept after, kept working on, got them on campus and once we got them on campus, we were able to turn them. Our assistants did a great job.”
According to Rivals.com, Western Kentucky’s recruiting class ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference behind Louisiana-Lafayette and 83rd overall nationally – down from 75th in 2012.