Stephens: Brohm, Petrino give WKU Louisville foothold

Brad Stephens

When it comes to recruiting the state of Kentucky, the city of Louisville matters more than the rest.

As one would expect, the state’s biggest city produces more good high school teams and more Division I football players than anywhere else in the state.

In last year’s signing class, former coach Willie Taggart began making an impact in the city, recruiting highly-rated running back prospect Ace Wales of Central High School and talented defensive tackle Tyrone Pearson of Seneca HS.

Hiring Bobby Petrino to replace Taggart ensured those inroads to the 502 area code would continue.

Petrino’s first signing class had a strong Louisville flavor. Wide receivers Cam Lewis (Ballard HS) and Taywan Taylor (Pleasure Ridge Park HS) and defensive back Juwan Gardner (DuPont Manual HS) hail from Louisville. Another wide receiver, Aaron Jackson of Frankfort HS, signed from right down the road.

It was also reported Tuesday night that three players from Class 6A state champion Trinity HS would walk-on at WKU.

Topper fans can expect their team to land prospects from Louisville as long as Petrino is their coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm is on their coaching staff.

In fact there may not be many coaches in America better connected to the city than Petrino, a former U of L assistant and head coach, and Brohm, a former Trinity quarterback and U of L quarterback and assistant.

Petrino hasn’t coached in the city since taking the Cardinals to the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season, but his name still carries plenty of weight there, Brohm said.

“They’re glad he’s back in the area,” Brohm said of Petrino. “I know a ton of people in the Louisville area that are excited to watch Western Kentucky football and Coach Petrino.”

Brohm’s ties to Louisville run so deep that he has a younger brother, Brian, that also played quarterback at Trinity and at U of L. The Brohm family has connections all over the city, especially at powerhouse Trinity.

Enthusiasm for Petrino added to Brohm’s history in the area make a Louisville a feeding ground for the Toppers.

Those are two big feathers in WKU’s cap in their fight against two other up-and-coming in-state programs for recruits.

U of L, after winning a BCS bowl and signing coach Charlie Strong to an extension, isn’t going away anytime soon.

Neither is Kentucky, which just signed one of its best classes in program history under new coach Mark Stoops. One of the top players in that class is Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher, another Louisville native.

Throw in some Midwestern schools like Purdue, Ohio State and Cincinnati that recruit the Louisville area, and it’s important a place like WKU have some built-in advantages to use there.

Like this year and the several before that, most of the Toppers’ future signees will come from the South — specifically Florida.

But having several in-state guys in a signing class is important for fostering some local pride amongst a new group of players.

“(In-state) guys put a lot of effort into doing the very best they can and to represent the state,” Brohm said. “Obviously you build a team with other guys around that, but to have a nucleus of guys that are from Louisville, from the state of Kentucky… I think is huge.

“We definitely want to get as many of those guys as we can on board.”

The longer Petrino and Brohm stay at WKU, the more local kids will come on board.