LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Restrictions of various kinds, including quarantine, social distancing and other factors related to Covid-19, have put a crimp into the Louisville football program's preparation for the 2020 football season. But fallout from the pandemic certainly hasn't hurt the Cardinals' recruiting.
In fact, coach Scott Satterfield thinks it may have even helped. . .in a back-door sort of way.
When 3-star safety TJ Quinn and 3-star offensive lineman Michael Gonzalez committed to UofL this week, they became the 15th and 16th prospects the Cards have already landed for the class of 2021, coming just a day after commitments from defensive backs Kani Walker and Derrick Edwards and adding to their unexpected momentum this spring.
And the good news doesn't stop there. With the announcement by Gonzalez Thursday afternoon, UofL's class broke into the top-20 nationally on both 247sports.com and rivals.com, debuting at No. 18 on the former and No. 19 on the latter.
UofL plans to fill a complete class, so that leaves only nine spots open, progress that is far and away better than had occurred at this time last year as Satterfield and his staff headed into their first season.
With the 16 verbal commitments, UofL ranks fourth in the ACC on 247sports, behind Clemson, which is No. 3 nationally, North Carolina (4th) and Miami (10th).
"Man, we've been able to build great relationships throughout the quarantine, and obviously it's paying dividends in recruiting," Satterfield said during a media video conference this week. "We're sitting here on June 17 and this time last year we might have had one commit maybe. So we're way ahead of the game as far as recruiting goes. At first it was one here, one there. Then they start connecting and the next thing you know it's kind of like a rollercoaster, and the last couple days have been big for us."
With face-to-face interactions out of the question at this point, Satterfield and his coaches have taken full advantage of technology, using virtual meetings via Zoom and other outlets to stay in contact with recruits. It has worked so well, that he thinks they'll continue to utilize virtual meetings even after they no longer become absolutely necessary.
"The strength of our program is relationship based, so I think that's how we're able to get these good families to come and want to be a part of what we're doing here," Satterfield said. "And this is the next best thing. Now obviously we want to bring them on campus, interact and be around them.
"Once we're able to do that, we'll still have these calls and then bring them on, I think that is going to make it that much better for us. I think the biggest thing is the technology piece we'll continue to use even after we get past this virus."
Satterfield acknowledged that the number of commitments so early has taken him by surprise. Part of the reason, he believes, is that with the uncertainty surrounding future campus visits a number of players have decided that it is in their best interests to lock down a spot now.
"As we've been going through this, the uncertainty part of it, I think, started to jump in," Satterfield said. "The recruits and their families were like, 'Man, initially we kind of wanted to wait and take our visit in June' and those type things. Then everybody kind of realized, 'I don't think I'm going to be able to visit. I'm not going to be able to see (campus and facilities).'
"We were one of the earliest schools to do virtual visits; now a lot of schools have started doing it. I think more and more recruits have realized, 'Hey, we're not going to be able to see any schools. Virtually, I have seen this place. I love the coaches, I love what they're doing. Let's go be a part of this right here.'"
The downside is, all the early commitments leave UofL's recruiting rivals plenty of time to engage in what he calls "poaching," trying to convince a player to change his commitment before the signing dates, the first of which is still nearly six months away. The early signing dates are Dec. 16-18, then Feb. 3 is the last.
The Cards got seriously burned last year when their top recruit, 4-star quarterback Chubba Perry, flipped to Florida State on the first signing day in December after having been committed to UofL since June.
"It puts a target on their back until signing day this year more than ever," Satterfield said. "It will be interesting. For us, what we have noticed is when we offered some guys this year, two or three days later, they start popping big-time offers.
"That's kind of blown our minds. That's happened to at least 25 guys. They may have one offer, two or zero, we offer and the next thing you know they've started to pick up. What ends up happening, the dominoes start falling."
THREE ACC TEAMS NOT WORKING OUT YET
In discussing whether college football season will begin on time, or at all, Satterfield noted that some ACC teams have returned to campus and started voluntary workouts, while others haven't.
Here is how that has shaped up, according to accsports.com:
In addition to UofL, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and NC State had returned by June 2. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest began reporting on June 8, North Carolina on June 12 and Georgia Tech started workouts on Monday. Virginia players will return on July 5, while Boston College and Duke haven't announced dates.
NCAA OKAYS FOOTBALL GUIDELINES
In a model approved by the NCAA Division I Council Wednesday, schools now have a clear picture of what is allowed for football summer activities and preseason practice.
Previously, teams could conduct up to eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review per week from July 13-23.
Then, under the new guidelines, from July 24 through Aug. 6, schools may conduct up to 20 hours of countable athletically related activities per week (but not more than four hours per day) as follows:
--Up to eight hours per week for weight training and conditioning.
--Up to six hours per week for walk-throughs, which may include the use of a football.
--Up to six hours per week for meetings, which may include film review, team meetings, position meetings, one-on-one meetings, etc.
The model doesn't make any adjustment to the 29-day preseason practice period.
For men's and women's basketball, the Council an identical plan for both, approving activities to start Saturday that can last up to eight weeks or until the first day of classes or Sept. 15, whichever is earliest. The plan extends the current rule, which allows voluntary activities and up to eight hours of virtual nonphysical activities through July 19.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at email@example.com.