The Louisville football program enters the 2009 season with a bunch of questions on the field, but the biggest question mark involves embattled head coach Steve Kragthorpe.
The 2009 season for Louisville is more about making a determination regarding Kragthorpe than strictly wins and losses. For that reason, 2009 could be Steve Kragthorpe's last stand, or it could be his finest moment.
As we roll into summer, we get closer and closer to the start of football season. The Louisville football program faces a challenging and pivotal season in 2009. With a tough schedule and unproven talent, Steve Kragthorpe must not only try to put a competitive team on the field, he must do so with his job status very much in jeopardy.
I am going to go through some scenarios in which I believe will determine whether or not Krags stays or is let go.
Let's take a look at the 2009 schedule:
9/05/09 vs. Indiana State
9/19/09 at Kentucky
9/26/09 at Utah
10/02/09 vs. Pittsburgh
10/10/09 vs. Southern Mississippi
10/17/09 at Connecticut
10/24/09 at Cincinnati
10/31/09 vs. Arkansas State
11/07/09 at West Virginia
11/14/09 vs. Syracuse
11/21/09 at South Florida
11/27/09 vs. Rutgers
Just looking at the schedule right now, I count two wins, six losses, and four TBD. The two wins are Indiana St. and Arkansas St., both schools I was not aware had football programs. The six losses are Utah, Pitt, Cincinnati, West Virginia, South Florida, and Rutgers. That leaves the four TBD games, and those are Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, Connecticut, and Syracuse.
To be clear, I am not saying those four games are toss ups and the teams are evenly matched. What I am saying is, at this point, those four teams do not appear to be strong enough to overwhelm Louisville like the games I have marked as losses. Here are the scenarios:
Three or Fewer Wins—If Krags goes 3-9, that will put him at a 14-22 in three years at Louisville and with that record he cannot be brought back for a fourth year. Looking at Louisville's team and schedule, three wins could be a stretch. That is quite sad for a program who did not go on probation and is only three years removed from winning the FedEx Orange Bowl. Therefore, three wins, or less, HE'S GONE.
Four Wins, Several Blowout Losses—Here's where it gets interesting. Looking at the schedule, four wins means Krags has to win at least two games against teams he should not beat. However, if he does that, but also gets completely blown out of the water in other games, I do not see how that could be viewed as adequate enough progress to retain him. Four wins with several blow outs, HE'S GONE.
Four Wins, Several Close Losses—This is where I think the borderline stands. If Krags ends up 4-8, as I mentioned earlier, he will have won two games he was not supposed to win. Those wins, coupled with several close losses against teams they were supposed to lose to, I think a reasonable person can take that as progress and make a case for him returning. However, a case for retaining Krags at four wins can be made only if Louisville has a good recruiting class for 2010.
Currently, coach Kragthorpe has received five commitments for the class of 2010. This is a big deal because the Louisville program has never had this many football commitments this early. In previous years, the staffs at Louisville have taken the philosophy of closing late which resulted in securing commitments later in the process.
This year, perhaps because he knows he needs to score a good recruiting class to bolster his job status, Krags has gone out and closed on kids early. As a Louisville fan, it is exciting because it appears kids are buying into the message coach Kragthorpe and his staff are selling. While nailing down a good 2010 recruiting class is important, it becomes much bigger if Kragthorpe can land Tim Patterson and Stephan Robinson, two highly touted players from Louisville Central.
Patterson, a linebacker and No. 1 football recruit in Kentucky, is a Louisville fan. Kragthorpe needs to get him. Landing him can only help in landing his teammate, receiver Stephan Robinson, who is also heavily interested in Louisville. Securing commitments from these two will be huge for Krags when the time comes to determine whether or not he's the guy for the job at Louisville. Therefore, four wins with several close losses and a good recruiting class, HE STAYS.
Five Wins or More—This one is easy. Louisville won five games last season with a more experienced and talented group. If Krags pulls out five wins or more in 2009, that alone signifies progress and therefore, HE STAYS.
While Louisville does have a potential college football superstar in running back Victor Anderson, a quarterback battle that will not conclude until late in fall practice, and question marks on both the offensive and defensive lines, the main issue for this team is who the head coach will be going forward. 2009 will be a pivotal year for the Louisville football program.