The Cardinals soared into the college football conversation over the last two seasons primarily because of Lamar Jackson.
Casual college football fans want to witness one of the most electrifying players in the last decade. Bobby Petrino is soaking it in, and capitalizing on the recruiting trail while he can.
In all honesty, the Cardinals have a lot more going for them than just the Heisman Trophy winner. Louisville's defense finished the 2016 campaign ranked No. 3 in the ACC, allowing just 322.2 yards per game. There have always been solid skill players surrounding Jackson, and that group is about to get even better.
Petrino hit the recruiting trail hard and made the Cardinals better on both sides of the ball. When National Signing Day came to a close, Petrino's group owned the No. 32 class in the country. The group includes 22 total commits with a core group of 4-star talents.
It's not flashy, but Louisville added depth where it needs it the most and the Cardinals are getting overlooked in the national recruiting conversation.
Let's take a look at the highlights of Louisville's 2017 class.
"The 22-player class finished No. 32 nationally and No. 6 in the ACC," 24/7 Sports recruiting expert Steve Wiltfong said. "But the receivers and and o-line haul are among the conference's best."
Can you imagine a Louisville offense with superior talent on the outside? Petrino is clearly excited about the possibility. Justin Marshall, Corey Reed and Josh Johnson — all from the state of Georgia — each bring a different skill set to the receiving corps. Johnson is the smallest of the trio at 5-foot-11, but his big play ability makes him the most promising prospect:
As Wiltfong noted, the Louisville offensive line also got a major boost. 4-star tackle Mekhi Becton is clearly the most promising prospect up front. Guards Caleb Chandler and Cole Bentley were also highly coveted, but opted to play for Petrino.
At 6-foot-7 and 345 pounds, Becton has freakish quickness and agility for his size. This is a kid who gained a ton of momentum a month before signing day, getting in-home visits from Jim Harbaugh, Justin Fuente and others. He also took a recruiting trip to Oregon a few days before his decision was made.
I made the trip to Richmond, Va. during Harbaugh's visit to watch Becton's high school basketball game. Obviously I was watching hoops, but it was clear Becton was more athletic than anyone on the court. The combination of size and athleticism could provide an instant upgrade for the Louisville offensive line. Here's a quick video I shot. It's not much, but you get the point.
Yes, 4-star OL prospect Mekhi Becton has been on a hot streak recently. I have a really good feeling he will stay close to home though pic.twitter.com/fs2dWiEIAO
— Sean Labar (@SeanLabar) January 30, 2017
Other notable upgrades
Louisville also added 4-star safety CJ Avery, a highly-touted prospect hailing from Mississippi. The secondary got even deeper with the addition of 4-star CB Russ Yeast, who garnered a late push from Notre Dame but decided to stick with the Cardinals.
Don't sleep on running back Colin Wilson, either. The Florida native is listed as the No. 18 tailback of this year's class, and should get a chance to see the field during his freshman season.