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The Cardinals used the bulk of their 23-man 2016 recruiting class to replenish their defense


LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Louisville followed its eight-win season and Music City Bowl victory by replenishing the defense that made it possible.

The Cardinals used the bulk of their 23-man 2016 recruiting class toward that end, signing eight players along the defensive front seven after graduating stalwarts such as and . They also added three safeties.

"This class that we signed today is what we started working on when we arrived here," Louisville coach said Wednesday, now beginning his third year back at the school.

Louisville's class includes three hometown players and represents 10 states, including eight players from Georgia. Last year's group did not include a player from Kentucky.

Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: No.

Best in class: Jawon Pass, QB, Columbus, Georgia. The Cardinals bolstered one of their strengths with the 6-foot-4 U.S. Army-All America quarterback, who ranked as the nation's 191st overall prospect by Scout. Pass may not supplant sophomore , who became Louisville's starter last season, but he joins his brother Khane, a safety who signed last year.

Best of the rest: Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Farmington Hills, Michigan. Fitzpatrick committed to Louisville more than a year ago, then reconsidered this winter before sticking with his original choice after an official visit last weekend. "He sure made us work hard," Petrino said of the recruitment. The Cardinals beat out Nebraska and Indiana for the 6-2 receiver ranked in the top 220 nationally by Rivals and Scout. Fitzpatrick is one of four receivers signed.

Late addition: London Iakopo, S, Long Beach (California) City College. Iakopo is one of two four-star safeties in the class along with incoming freshman P.J. Blue, and could see early action at the back of the Cardinals' defense. "He's very, very mature and he's going to give us a lot of leadership," Petrino said of Iakopo.

One that got away: Rodjay Burns, Louisville, Kentucky. Ohio State lured Burns, a two-way standout, away from his hometown in the final week. A finalist for Kentucky's Mr. Football, Burns had 14 touchdowns as a receiver and four interceptions on defense as a high school senior.

How they'll fit in: The Cardinals have seamlessly worked in youngsters and transfers on defense without missing a beat, so it wouldn't be shocking if their newcomers became contributors right away. Pass might be Louisville's quarterback of the future, the same thing that was said about Jackson and before both emerged as starting signal-callers.

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