Thursday, February 6, 2003

Louisville signs Ky. Mr. Football

UK, new coach miss out on top recruits

The Associated Press

Louisville landed Michael Bush, Kentucky's Mr. Football and a hometown quarterback who headed a recruiting class Wednesday with a distinctively Southern flavor for first-year coach Bobby Petrino.

Bush, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder from Male High School, was recruited by the nation's football heavyweights. Petrino said the Cardinals' ability to keep him home was a testament to how far their football program has come.

"It's a great get for us," Petrino said. "I can't tell you how good a player he is. It says a lot for what our program has done in the last five years. It says a lot for the reputation we have as an offensive staff."

Meanwhile, first-year Kentucky coach Rich Brooks signed 21 players, including 12 from within the state. The Wildcats' signees were split almost evenly among offensive and defensive players.

Brooks bragged about his own new quarterback, Andre Woodson of North Hardin High School, and said the Wildcats added more offensive talent.

"I think that we addressed some areas of need with this recruiting class - tight end being one of them," Brooks said. "We added speed at receiver, defensive back and running back and to me we got an outstanding young quarterback."

As the state's most highly touted player, Bush cited family considerations as a main factor in choosing Louisville over Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio State.

"I wanted to go where I had the best opportunity and where my family could support me the whole way out," said Bush, who threw for 468 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 116 yards in the 4-A state championship game in December - a 59-56 loss to Trinity.

Bush said he's interested in competing for the "wide open" quarterback position at Louisville, since senior Dave Ragone graduated.

Bush, who was profiled in Sports Illustrated magazine last year, kept mum about his decision until Wednesday, when he donned a red Louisville baseball cap and announced his decision to a bevy of reporters.

"It got hard," Bush said. "Every time I took a visit, each school had impressed me. I had to calm down from that and take it one visit at a time and talk it over with my parents."

Petrino, who left Auburn in December to become Louisville's coach, signed 26 players despite getting a late start in recruiting. Most of his recruits hail from the Deep South. Petrino landed nine players from football-rich Florida, seven from Georgia, three from Alabama and one from Louisiana. Three other players come from Los Angeles.

Louisville signed 10 defensive players, including six defensive backs.

Petrino said the new players would get a chance to play in the fall.

"I'm not opposed to playing true freshmen at all," he said. "We've identified a few guys we feel will get the opportunity to get the repetitions they'll need to play.

"That's what you do with some of the freshmen, promise them enough reps to show them what they can do. We're going to give them those reps and find out in August whether they'll be able to contribute."

At Kentucky, Brooks acknowledged that the Wildcats missed out on some players because of scholarship limitations, part of the school's punishment for NCAA violations under former coach Hal Mumme.

"There were players in this state that were not recruited by Kentucky that are going to other schools that we would have loved to have had," he said. "And we tried to get some of them, but we didn't. We added some, we didn't some of the other ones."

At Murray State, the defending co-champions in the Ohio Valley Conference signed at least 13 players Wednesday - 10 from the high school ranks and three from junior colleges.

Coach Joe Pannunzio said the biggest holes to fill were on the offensive and defensive lines and in the secondary.

"We lost both cornerbacks from last year's team and we signed five players to help us," he said. "On the defensive line, we'll sign three young kids and one junior college player who will help immediately."

The Racers signed one offensive lineman, 6-2, 280-pounder Laquentin Irvin, and expect to add several more lineman in the coming days, Pannunzio said.

Eastern Kentucky coach Danny Hope announced the signing of 15 high school recruits and two transfers from Division I-A schools.

"We have signed several guys that could play key roles next season," said Hope, who took over in December for longtime coach Roy Kidd, who retired. "We feel that some of our signees will have a chance to come in and contribute right away."

Louisville 77, UC 71
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