DANIEL WALLACE | Times
Deiondre Porter isn't likely to play quarterback at USF.
It all happened in a matter of minutes -- Tampa Jefferson quarterback Deiondre Porter was talking to USF coach Willie Taggart at the end of an informal workout on campus, then he had a scholarship offer, and then he was committed to play for the Bulls in 2014.
Porter walked Taggart over to meet his mother, who had been watching the workout, and Bulls coaches had another recruiting win to celebrate. We'll have much more shortly, but Porter's commitment continues USF's building momentum on the local recruiting front, having gotten a pledge this week from Wharton's Chase Litton. Porter isn't likely to play quarterback at USF -- he's a phenomenal athlete at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, also known as a standout in track in sprints and jumps.Full Story
Greg Auman will be chatting Thursday, starting at 12:30 p.m.
Want to talk USF Bulls sports? Join Times beat reporter Greg Auman for a live chat Thursday, June 20, starting at 12:30 p.m. Full Story
USF has a new leader for its athletic fundraising efforts, as the Bulls on Tuesday announced the hiring of Ohio University's Jim Harris as senior associate athletic director, as well as the university's associate vice president for development.
Harris, 33, spent the last four years at Ohio, where he helped secure a $10 million lead gift toward an athletics facility for the Bobcats; while at Indiana, he helped the efforts to build a $45 million North End Zone facility as well as a $25 million basketball facility.
"I am excited to join the University of South Florida family and to work with all of the wonderful donors, alumni, fans, student-athletes and administration at USF," Harris said in a statement. "It is an honor to be part of such a tremendous and growing athletic program, led by Doug Woolard, one of the best in the business, and I look forward to playing a role in the future of USF athletics." …Full Story
Here's a QB commitment that should stick: Wharton's Chase Litton, the area's top QB recruit for the Class of 2014, has committed to stay in Tampa and play for USF, the Times' Joel Anderson reports.
It's a big coup for USF's local recruiting efforts -- the question now is if it can help Willie Taggart land more local recruits as he builds his first full recruiting class. He's rated as a three-star recruit by 247, Rivals and Scout; Scout has him as the nation's No. 33 QB, and 247 has him as the No. 100 overall prospect in the state of Florida. The Times' John C. Cotey rated him as the Tampa area's No. 6 overall recruit in his January rankings looking ahead to the Class of 2014 (fellow USF commitment Jarvis Stewart of Largo is No. 4 on that list).Full Story
It's telling that on the same weekend as USF's extremely brief commitment from Miami Jackson QB Quinton Flowers -- we're going with "very interested" until we hear something firmer -- another recruit, Clarksville (Tenn.) offensive lineman Bruno Reagan, explained that his commitment to sign with USF was strong enough that he was "100 percent Bull."
Reagan (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) hasn't been to USF's campus yet, but plans to do so this summer, having wanted to play for Willie Taggart since the coach was 45 minutes away at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers were Reagan's first scholarship offer last year, and Taggart extended the same offer for USF -- he chose the Bulls over UConn, Middle Tennessee State and other smaller I-A programs.
Reagan is a colorful athlete -- state heavyweight champion in wrestling, where his teammates call him "Brulon" as a nod to Olympic star Rulon Gardner. He's also had national honors in judo, which obviously shows he can carry his weight well. He's ranked in recruiting circles as a defensive tackle, but said he's coming to USF as an interior offensive lineman, most likely at guard.
Other things to round up from the weekend: …Full Story
Quinton Flowers, a top quarterback recruit from Miami who boasts Alabama among his offers, committed to USF on Friday afternoon, according to recruiting sites USF.rivals.com and Bulls247.com.
Flowers did not return messages from the Times on Friday, and his coach at Jackson High, former NFL receiver Antonio Brown, said he was not aware of his commitment, but knew Flowers was "very interested" in USF, especially after attending a satellite camp USF held in Miami on Thursday.
"He's a humble kid, a great kid. He has something brewing inside of him," Brown said.
Flowers, 6 feet and 210 pounds, is rated as a four-star recruit by 247, which ranks him as the nation's No. 9 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 36 overall prospect in the state of Florida. Scout.com rates him as the nation's No. 10 receiver.
Brown said USF assistant Telly Lockette, who is from Miami and was the head coach at nearby Miami Central, was a major part of Flowers' interest in playing at USF. …Full Story
USF rising seniors Sara Nevins and Kourtney Salvarola, key leaders on the Bulls' Big East championship team, have been named to the U.S. national team this summer, where they'll play for Bulls coach Ken Eriksen.
Nevins, the Big East Pitcher of the Year as a junior, and Salvarola, a first-team All-Big East selection, will be part of the 18-player team that will participate in the World Cup of Softball next month in Oklahoma City, as well as international tournaments in British Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Their selection gives the Bulls four players who will play for U.S. teams this summer -- rising sophomores Lee Ann Spivey and Erica Nunn made the roster of the U.S. national junior team. Of the 18 players on the U.S. national team, Nevins and Salvarola are two of only seven players who have not completed their eligibility.Full Story
Long overdue for an update on former USF baseball players in the minors, and lots to catch up. We'll start with a pair of dominant closers who have sub-1 ERAs and incredible strikeout-to-walk ratios ...
Dan Otero, AAA, Sacramento River Cats (Athletics): Otero, 28, opened last year in the majors, and he's primed for a return, with a 0.99 ERA and 15 saves in the Pacific Coast League. In 27.1 innings, he has 22 strikeouts against exactly one walk, holding opposing batters to a .147 average. You'd think he's an injury (or even some bullpen ineffectiveness) away from a callup ...
Kevin Quackenbush, AA, San Antonio Missions (Padres): Quackenbush, still just 24, has some of the best numbers of any reliever in minor-league baseball: 1-0 with a 0.31 ERA nad 12 saves. He's allowed one earned run in 29 innings pitched, with 42 strikeouts against 10 walks. Opposing batters are hitting .133 against him. He was just named to the Texas League All-Star Game. …Full Story
Flash back to four years ago, where USF had some of the worst Academic Progress scores of any BCS-league program -- football was down at 909, worst out of 66 BCS programs, and men's basketball was at 878, third-lowest out of 73 schools.
It has been a steady climb for the Bulls since then, and new data released Tuesday shows continued improvement -- USF now ranks tied for 16th out of all the BCS football programs, with a 970 score that ranks as second-best in the Big East. Men's basketball has made a larger leap in points to 953, the biggest improvement in the Big East in that span and the fourth-best among the top six conferences. USF football has the best four-year jump (and three-year jump) of any school in the top six leagues.
"We've been extremely happy with the progress we've made in the APR over the last few years, and that success has continued in the most recent report," athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement. "Our coaches and student services department have continued to stress the important of being strong academically, and our student-athletes have done a tremendous job committing themselves to academic excellence, which has produced these stellar results." …Full Story
TYLER TJOMSLAND | Times
All 10 member schools, including USF, will participate in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The American Athletic Conference's first men's basketball tournament will take place in March at FedEx Forum in Memphis, the league announced Tuesday.
Tampa had initially expressed interest in bididng for the tournament, but couldn't guarantee available dates at the Tampa Bay Times Forum because NHL teams must submit schedule conflicts to the league in the November of the preceding season. The league only announced one year in Memphis and is open to a rotation of different venues, so Tampa should be an option for 2014-15 or later seasons.
All 10 member schools will participate in the tournament, with four teams playing on Wednesday, March 12, then a normal quarterfinal bracket over the next three days. USF last played in Memphis in 2005 in the Conference USA tournament, beating Houston and Cincinnati to reach the semifinals before losing to the host Tigers.
The first American's women's tournament will take place at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, following a long run of having the Big East tournament in Hartford.Full Story
USF women's basketball coach has picked up an eighth and final commitment toward his 2013-14 recruiting class, and it's a big one: Ariadna Pujol, a versatile 6-foot guard from Spain who should be an immediate contributor for the Bulls.
"She's basically the female version of Manu Ginobili. An incredible lefty, a big guard, tall and lanky," said Daniel Prince, who runs Passion Hoops International, a scouting service specializing in European players. "Her strengths are anywhere and everywhere -- she can be a point guard, be a strength on the defensive end and play the wing. She's a very active, all-purpose player." …Full Story
USF athletic director Doug Woolard said last week that the Bulls had received a $500,000 donation toward a new tennis facility, and on Sunday the donor was announced as Thomas A. James, the executive chairman of Raymond James Financial.
"I have been a supporter of various programs at USF for a number of years," James said in a statement. "As a tennis player for 60 years, I've always believed that the Bulls' tennis teams should be competitive with all of Florida's college programs. To achieve that objective, USF needs state-of-the-art facilities to attract top talent as well as develop them to become the best they can be."
The facility, which will be called the James Tennis Center, is estimated to cost a little under $2 million, and USF will continue working on donations to cover the construction costs. USF hasn't set a timetable for the center, but it's just the latest in an impressive run of facility upgrades in recent years -- new stadiums for baseball, soccer, softball and soccer, as well as new practice facilities for football, basketball and golf, and a $35 million renovation of the Sun Dome. …Full Story
USF junior Courtney Anderson reset her school record and took second nationally in the high jump Saturday at the NCAA outdoor track championships, clearing a mark of 6 feet, 1.25 inches. It matches the second-highest showing in USF track history.
Anderson, from Cape Coral, had held the school record at 6 feet even; her mark Saturday was beaten only by Brigetta Barrett of Arizona, who took the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.
USF also got a ninth-place finish in the triple jump from freshman Matthew O'Neal, a two-sport standout who also already owns the Bulls' school record. O'Neal, also a defender on USF's men's soccer team, had a jump of 52 feet, 2 inches as one of three freshmen in the nine-man finals.
BASEBALL: USF made it through the MLB Draft with only a handful of future Bulls drafted -- junior left-hander Nick Gonzalez went in the 24th round to the Giants and likely won't be back for his senior year, joining outfielder James Ramsay (7th, Astros) as the only Bulls underclassmen drafted. One USF signee, Hillsborough Community College's Ryan Etsell, was taken in the 16th round by the Angels and could sign as well. …Full Story
USF softball coach Ken Eriksen, whose teams reached the College World Series in 2012 and won a Big East title in 2013, has signed a new contract for the second time in a year, this one keeping him with the Bulls through the 2020 season.
Eriksen's base salary is increased to $130,000 a year, which is up 37 percent from the $95,000 base he earned as part of a contract signed in August. That deal ran through 2017, and the new deal covers seven seasons, through 2020.
"(Eriksen) has developed our softball program into one of the nation's elite, through consistent, sustained success on the field, while emphasizing the importance of strong academics and service to the community," athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement. "He's a strong leader who has done things the right way, and we're extremely happy he will continue to lead our program." …Full Story
USF junior outfielder James Ramsay, who led the Bulls with a .337 batting average this season, was selected by the Houston Astros in the seventh round of the MLB draft and said he's likely to sign with the team this weekend.
"This has always been a huge dream of mine. Hopefully I'll get to play in the major leagues," said Ramsay
Ramsay, a Brandon graduate who earned first-team All-Big East honors, led USF in several offensive categories, including hits (82), slugging percentage (.449) and stolen bases (12), finishing second on the team with 43 RBIs. He was drafted out of high school in the 38th round by the Yankees but chose to play at USF, starting 163 games in three years.
Ramsay said he got a congratulatory call from USF coach Lelo Prado, who went into the draft anticipating his top juniors, Ramsay and pitcher Nick Gonzalez, would be drafted and signing with pro teams.
The first two days of the draft have been kind to the Bulls, with no signees picked in the first 10 rounds. Several are likely to be taken in Saturday's final 30 rounds, with decisions to make as to whether they'll enroll or sign a pro deal. …Full Story