How Louisville football's 2020 COVID-disrupted recruiting class is faring

Three months before the world shut down, then-Louisville head football coach Scott Satterfield signed 23 high school players on Dec. 18, 2019.

It could've been 25, but the Cardinals lost four-star quarterback Chubba Purdy and three-star defensive end Josh Griffis to Florida State.

Without the two, the recruiting class ranked 45th nationally and sixth in the ACC, according to 247Sports. Because of the pandemic, the young Cardinals didn’t have a normal introduction to college. There were more restrictions and rigorous health precautions. Louisville’s 2020 season was shortened to 11 games with only one nonconference contest. Players also were given an extra “COVID” year of eligibility because of the disruption.

Louisville finished 4-7 overall and 3-7 in the ACC. Statistically, Braden Smith was the most successful incoming freshman. He played in every game and was the third-leading receiver with 370 yards on 27 catches.

Four years later, Smith is with Satterfield at Cincinnati. Over the four years, 17 other players graduated or transferred, the bulk of whom left after the 2020 campaign. Seven of the 2020 signees were part of the Cardinals’ 10-win 2023 season. But two transferred during the offseason — defensive lineman Kam Wilson and safety Josh Minkins, both of whom are now also Bearcats — leaving five heading into the 2024 campaign.

Jared Dawson and Dez Tell have been key parts of Louisville's defensive line rotation for the last two years. Last season, they totaled 14 and 20 tackles, respectively. Austin Collins stepped in to start at right tackle when Renato Brown sustained a season-ending knee injury last year and allowed only one sack over 578 snaps. Tight end Duane Martin logged only two catches for 27 yards last season, but his pass blocking grade ranked 28th on the team last fall, according to Pro Football Focus.

In 2023, Brock Travelstead went 17 for 24 on field goals, including his game-winning and career-long 53-yard field goal against N.C. State. He also averaged 39.7 yards per punt, placing six inside the 20-yard line, and 62.9 yards per kickoff with 39 touchbacks.

Whether they’re no longer playing or still in school, here’s a look at some of the notable members of Louisville’s 2020 recruiting class and how they’ve fared since their departures:

Louisville football 2020 recruiting class

Kobe Baynes (OL), Marvin Dallas (LB), Desmond Daniels (TE), Dez Tell (DL), Josh Minkins Jr. (S), Christian Fitzpatrick (WR), Lovie Jenkins (S), Luke Kandra (OL), Trevor Reid (OL), Jared Dawson (DL), Duane Martin (TE), Greedy Vance (CB), Tim Lawson (OL), Marqui Lowery (CB), Nick Malito (WR), Zay Peterson (LB), Dexter Rentz (ATH), who was tragically killed prior to arriving on campus, Jordan Watkins (WR), Tee Webb (QB), Braden Smith (WR), Brock Travelstead (K), Marvin Dallas (LB) and Kam Wilson (DL).

In the pros

Trevor Reid, OL

Former Louisville offensive lineman Trevor Reid is now in the CFL.
Former Louisville offensive lineman Trevor Reid is now in the CFL.

After completing his career at Louisville, Reid entered the 2023 NFL Draft. He got a minicamp invitation from the Philadelphia Eagles but signed with the Atlanta Falcons in the fall. In December, he signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. The CFL season started this month.

Biggest losses for Louisville football

Greedy Vance, CB

Former Louisville cornerback Greedy Vance also has played for Florida State. After the 2023 season, he transferred to USC.
Former Louisville cornerback Greedy Vance also has played for Florida State. After the 2023 season, he transferred to USC.

Vance spent two seasons at Louisville before going to Florida State for two years. As a Cardinal in 2021, he tied with Chandler Jones for the second-most pass breakups on the team (7). He made 36 tackles and recovered one fumble. In his first season at FSU in 2022, the Louisiana native led the team and was third in the ACC with three interceptions. He also had 16 tackles and two pass breakups. After the 2023 season, he transferred to USC.

Vance’s presence could have provided depth and another quality cornerback for Louisville in 2023, when the Cardinals were shallow at the position.

Luke Kandra, OL

Head coach Scott Satterfield and offensive lineman Luke Kandra reunited at Cincinnati after being at Louisville.
Head coach Scott Satterfield and offensive lineman Luke Kandra reunited at Cincinnati after being at Louisville.

Kandra followed Satterfield to Cincinnati, allowing the guard to return to his hometown. As a Bearcat, he garnered AP All-Big 12 first-team honors and an all-conference second-team nod from Big 12 Conference coaches. As a 12-game starter at right guard in 2023, Kandra was ranked as the country’s third-best Power Five guard, per PFF, with his run blocking grade of 82.1 ranking 27th nationally.

Jordan Watkins, WR

Ex-Louisville receiver Jordan Watkins, a Butler High School graduate, transferred to Ole Miss and earned a spot on the Reese's Senior Bowl Watch List.
Ex-Louisville receiver Jordan Watkins, a Butler High School graduate, transferred to Ole Miss and earned a spot on the Reese's Senior Bowl Watch List.

Watkins went from Louisville’s second-leading receiver in 2021 to a 10-game starter for Ole Miss in 2022. After the departures of Malik Heath and Jonathan Mingo, Watkins was the top returning receiver for the Rebels heading into 2023. The Butler High School graduate ended the year with 741 yards and three touchdowns on 53 receptions. He earned a spot on the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist.

Other rostered players in 2023

Kobe Baynes (OL), Kansas

Christian Fitzpatrick (WR), Michigan State

Marqui Lowery (CB), Michigan State

Lovie Jenkins (S), Florida A&M

Reach Louisville football, women's basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at acubit@gannett.com and follow her on X at @Alexis_Cubit.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville football: How Cards' COVID class fared after 2020

Advertisement