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Bulls should boast more bodies Sunday

USF redshirt sophomore Bo Zeigler (35), who injured his knee in last weekend's loss to SMU, is expected to play Sunday at Temple.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF redshirt sophomore Bo Zeigler (35), who injured his knee in last weekend's loss to SMU, is expected to play Sunday at Temple.

For the first time in nearly four weeks, USF's men could have eight available scholarship players for Sunday's game at Temple.

The school confirmed Saturday F Bo Zeigler and PF Luis Santos, who missed all or part of last Sunday's 92-58 home loss to SMU, are healthy and expected to play against the Owls. Additionally, junior PF Chris Perry, suspended the past five games for an unspecified violation, made the trip to Philadelphia and could play.

USF (5-20, 2-10 American Athletic Conference) has had no more than seven scholarship players in its last five contests.

Against SMU, Coach Orlando Antigua found himself down to five scholarship guys when Zeigler injured his left knee on a collision. Just before the game, the team announced Santos wouldn't suit up due to an undisclosed ailment. As a result, three walk-ons were used including G Jake Bodway, who played a career-high 26 minutes.

A loss Sunday against Temple (15-8, 9-3) would give USF its worst record ever through 26 games.

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Danny Hope leaves Bulls; former Bucs QB Shaun King a candidate to join

Shaun King replaced injured starter Trent Dilfer midway through the 1999 season and led Tampa Bay to the NFC title game.

Times files (2001)

Shaun King replaced injured starter Trent Dilfer midway through the 1999 season and led Tampa Bay to the NFC title game.

USF co-offensive coordinator/line coach Danny Hope, credited with helping develop the Bulls' resurgent "Gulf Coast Offense" last season, is resigning for family reasons.

The news was first reported by 247Sports. Meantime, former Buccaneers QB Shaun King is believed to be a candidate to join Willie Taggart's staff, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

Various online reports indicated former Cincinnati offensive line coach Darren Hiller would replace Hope, but a USF spokesman indicated no further coaching announcements are expected today.  In a USF news release, Taggart said he hoped to complete his staff "very quickly."

Hope becomes the third USF offensive coordinator to depart in as many seasons, but the first by his own choosing. Last month, Taggart lost highly successful defensive coordinator Tom Allen after one season to Indiana.

“I would like to thank Danny for his significant contributions to the success of our program over the past season,” Taggart said in the release. …

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Bulls release spring practice dates

USF coach Willie Taggart (right) and junior tailback Marlon Mack begin spring practices March 23.

SCOTTY SCHENCK | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart (right) and junior tailback Marlon Mack begin spring practices March 23.

For the third consecutive year, USF's spring practice will culminate with an on-campus intrasquad game.

The Bulls released their spring information Thursday, confirming all practices -- the first of which is set for March 23 -- will be open to the public. The spring game is set for Saturday, April 16 at 4 p.m. at Corbett Stadium (home to USF soccer). The contest can be heard live on 820-AM.

At least 14 of the 15 spring workouts will be held on campus.

"I'm really excited about this spring because of (increased depth)," Coach Willie Taggart said last week. …

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Former Bulls star Andre Hall arrested

Despite playing only two seasons for USF (as a junior college transfer), he remains Andre Hall remains the school's career rushing king (2,731 yards).

Times files (2004)

Despite playing only two seasons for USF (as a junior college transfer), he remains Andre Hall remains the school's career rushing king (2,731 yards).

USF career rushing leader Andre Hall was arrested by St. Petersburg police early Thursday morning on a pair of misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct/brawling.

Hall, 33, posted a total bond of $763 on the charges -- which included a failure to appear in court for a suspended license -- and was released. Hall currently runs his own bay area-based moving company.

According to a sworn complaint, Hall was involved in a brawl inside the Somethin' Different nightclub at 2420 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg shortly after midnight. As a result of the fight, several patrons were struck and several chairs knocked over, according to the complaint. 

Several patrons left the club over fear of getting in the middle of the fight.

A 1,700-yard rusher in his lone season at Dixie Hollins in 2000, Hall established a USF single-season record in 2005 with 1,374 rushing yards, which stood until Marlon Mack eclipsed it this past season. …

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Eriksen begins 20th season as Bulls softball coach

USF softball coach Ken Eriksen (far right) addressed reporters Wednesday with (left to right) catcher Lee Ann Spivey, pitcher Erica Nunn and first-year pitching coach Jess Moore.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF softball coach Ken Eriksen (far right) addressed reporters Wednesday with (left to right) catcher Lee Ann Spivey, pitcher Erica Nunn and first-year pitching coach Jess Moore.

After much anticipation, a fiercely competitive, outspoken New York native will kick up a little dust Friday on USF's campus.

In other news, Donald Trump will speak at the Sun Dome.

Bulls softball icon Ken Eriksen, the most successful coach in USF athletics history (818 wins and counting) embarks on his 20th season when the Bulls face South Carolina on Friday to kick-start the USF-Wilson DeMarini Tournament. On Wednesday, during the school's softball/baseball media day, Eriksen discussed this year's club and how he has changed in the last two decades.

How has Ken Eriksen evolved in 20 years?
"We were actually talking about this the other day, what do I know now that I didn't know back then? And I think more than anything else, I know about relationships more. I think it's important to know your players. I think it's important to know, without diminishing the other 20 players on your team, who Lee Ann Spivey is, what makes her tick; and to know how far you can push an Erica Nunn. But I believe that those 20 years have helped me not only coach this team but coach the (U.S. women's) national team. ... And then one of the big things is, I think it's important for players to know that you have vulnerability so they can have a trust in what you're doing and realize that everything you do is for their development, not just as players but as people." …

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Could USF's women host the NCAAs again?

USF senior Alisia Jenkins, recovering from a sprained ankle, had 20 rebounds Tuesday against Tulane.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

USF senior Alisia Jenkins, recovering from a sprained ankle, had 20 rebounds Tuesday against Tulane.

As atmosphere goes, USF women's basketball reached its apex last March when thousands streamed into the Sun Dome for a pair of NCAA Tournament contests.

Question is, will a sequel materialize in 2016?

A month before Selection Monday, the 22nd-ranked Bulls (17-6, 10-3 American Athletic Conference) appear in decent position to earn early-round hosting rights for a second consecutive year.

Yet "decent" remains a far cry from "optimal," and the Bulls can bridge the span between the two this Monday.

USF, 1-4 against RPI top-50 programs, plays at No. 12 Louisville in a nationally televised rematch of last season's NCAA second-rounder -- a 60-52 Cardinals triumph.

Defeat the Cardinals, then avenge its two non-UConn conference losses (Memphis, Temple) at home later this month, and the Bulls presumably would boast a resume sufficient to stay home for the NCAA's opening weekend.

"You don't know what those guys in that committee are deciding," Coach Jose Fernandez said following Tuesday's 77-65 victory against Tulane.

"I don't think one game's gonna decide whether we host or not. ... I think the committee will take into consideration us not having (Laura) Ferreira and (Alisia) Jenkins and losing at Memphis in overtime, right? You would think."

Jenkins, who sprained her left ankle in a Jan. 5 home romp against UCF, aggravated the injury two weeks later at Memphis and was limited to two minutes in the Bulls' 88-87 overtime loss. In Saturday's two-point loss at Temple, Ferreira (torn plantar fascia) was out and Jenkins played 26 minutes.

Ferreira (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg) remains out for now, but Jenkins (10.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg) grabbed 20 rebounds in 36 minutes Tuesday against Tulane.

"We need to get those guys back hopefully for the stretch run and into conference tournament so (the committee) can see we're a different team with those two guys on the floor," Fernandez said.

To be sure, the committee will be watching Monday.

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Signing day over, but Bulls likely aren't

Expect coach Willie Taggart to add a few more names to his 2016 roster in the coming months.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Expect coach Willie Taggart to add a few more names to his 2016 roster in the coming months.

After an extended stretch on the road, on the phones and generally on edge, USF's coaches have exhaled.

In the wake of another recruiting season generally deemed solid if not spectacular, Willie Taggart and his staff have gotten reacquainted with their families, while the fax machine on the Selmon Center's second floor again has been relegated to cumbersome dust collector.

But just because the coaches might have downshifted a gear doesn't mean they're shutting down. To the contrary, look for the Bulls to add a few more pieces -- some of them prominent names -- to the roster in the coming weeks and months.

Such is the m.o. of the Taggart regime. In the same way women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez has developed a top-20 program via strong international recruiting, Taggart has partially rebuilt the Bulls via the transfer/late signee route.

Last year alone, four prominent transfers -- LB Cecil Cherry (Texas), S Austin Hudson (Wisconsin), WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (N.C. State) and QB Asiantii Woulard (UCLA) -- joined USF's program well after signing day. In the summer of 2014, WR A.J. Legree (Kentucky) and DE Kevin Bronson (late freshman enrollee) came aboard.

Look for that pattern to continue this year. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from speaking about prospects before they're signed, but recent buzz around the program indicates this summer's transfer haul -- even after a judicious vetting process -- could be as prosperous as 2015.

Among those possibly on the Bulls' board is former Under Armour All-American DE Marques Ford, an East Bay High alumnus granted his release from Rutgers in December. Additionally, Florida fourth-year junior edge rusher Jeremi Powell -- a Pinellas Park alumnus -- is believed to be seeking a new home as a graduate transfer.

Even if neither lands in Tampa, the Bulls runway still figures to be busy in the coming months.

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Bulls rookie Garrett Zech earns preseason honor

Bulls OF Garrett Zech, who makes his collegiate debut two weeks from tonight at home, has been chosen the American Athletic Conference Preseason Freshman of the Year by d1Baseball.com.

A 15th-round draft choice of the Dodgers who opted for college, Zech is joined by three teammates -- all of whom also were drafted -- on the website's AAC top-10 impact freshmen list. OF Chris Chatfield, a former Spoto High star, is third; while INF Coco Montes is fifth while INF/C Joe Genord is 10th.

A career .400 hitter at Naples High, Zech hit .543 with four home runs, 30 RBI, 10 triples, six doubles and 27 stolen bases as a senior. The team captain in 2015, he earned all-state and team MVP honors.

"We feel like he has really good potential," Bulls second-year coach Mark Kingston said in a school news release, "and can blossom into an impact player."

USF, picked to finish fifth in the AAC by d1Baseball.com, opens its season Feb. 19 at home against Liberty. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.

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Did Scott Frost take signing day swipe at USF?

Maybe it's just us, reading too deeply into something. Chances are, we're transforming a benign observation into verbal kindling for a rivalry that's already flammable.

Or perhaps our observation is on the mark, and new UCF coach Scott Frost was taking a swipe -- subconsciously or not -- at his rivals down the interstate.

While Bulls coaches shamelessly reveled in their signing day success Wednesday, when a video snippet of them dancing in their war room surfaced on social media, Frost indicated in his signing day press conference such animation isn't his style.

Check out the 16:50 mark of this video from Frost's presser, where he addresses his more subdued signing day philosophy.

"Sorry guys, you're not gonna have a video camera in our office watching us celebrate if a kid commits or doesn't commit," he says, "because we're gonna go to battle with whatever kids want to be here, and want kids that want to be a part of this program."

In a follow-up question, Frost, who signed 20 recruits on Wednesday, was asked why he doesn't care for the whole spectacle of signing day.

"I think just too much is made of it," he says.

"If you probably went back and looked for five years, a lot of the people that coaches are on TV celebrating about probably never played one down of college football. There's a lot more that goes into it than that. We're certainly excited to add talented people to our organization, and we're gonna get as excited as anybody and have as much fun with it as anybody. But signing day isn't gonna win you games."

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Taggart's take: Bulls coach talks up his newcomers

USF coach Willie Taggart said he thinks new offensive lineman Logan MacDonald is "gonna be special for us."

Photo provided by Logan MacDonald

USF coach Willie Taggart said he thinks new offensive lineman Logan MacDonald is "gonna be special for us."

While Willie Taggart didn't elaborate on all 18 of his newest Bulls at Wednesday's signing day news conference, he came pretty close.

Here's what he had to say specifically on most of his newcomers:

S Josh Dunn (6-0, 195)
"A heck of a talent. He's one of those kids that he's smart and he's so nice, you wouldn't think he's that physical on the football field. But when you turn it on he's out there shortening guys' necks."

OT Christion Gainer (6-6, 310)
"He's a tackle, that's for sure. He's a big one and we expect big things from him."

DE LaDarrius Jackson (6-4, 243)
"Great kid. I mean, he's always around, always smiling. You can tell he's one of those kids who really appreciates being here, and he's willing to work. ... I talk with Coach O (strength coach Irele Oderinde) and talk to some of his teammates, and they all rave about him. I think that speaks volumes when a guy can just come in your program and the whole football team likes him already."

DE Frank Johnson (6-5, 235)
"Both of 'em (Jackson and Johnson) are really good football players. Frank Johnson, he's gonna have to sleep and spend the night in the weight room with Coach O, but both of 'em are very talented."

OL Logan MacDonald (6-4, 270)
"He's a tackle who's not as big as those other guys, but you talk about talented and physical, I think that kid's gonna be special for us, to be honest with you. He plays the game like you're supposed to. He's physical and he gets after it and he just loves doing it."

QB Chris Oladokun (6-2, 184)
"I think we always want to have at least four guys on scholarship at the quarterback position. ... You look at college football nowadays, you can't have enough of 'em. We wanted to sign a good quarterback that can come in here and compete and be able to continue the momentum that we've started, but also challenge the guys that we have here as well, to continue to get better."

LB Andre Polk (6-4, 215)
"I think the whole Bulls nation is gonna hear about him early. He's a kid that I think is under the radar. We kept him a secret for a while, but now I think everybody's gonna hear about him." (comment came during an interview with 620-AM)

WR Darnell Salomon (6-3, 210)
"He's big, he's strong and he's fast. When you have all those combinations, it can be scary out there at the receiver position. That's what we expect from him, some scary play out there on the football field."

S Craig Watts (6-0, 190)
"He's one of those kids from Day 1, you just sensed that he really wanted to be here. He was on campus a lot. When you saw him on campus, he was always smiling, he was always excited about being there, and we stayed with him the whole time. He committed elsewhere and we got him back and that was good to see. Now we have him for sure."

C Michael Wiggs (6-3, 290)
"There's never a dull moment around when Mike's around. He's a great kid, great academically, one heck of a football player. You look at him and you meet him and you're like, 'Man, he's so nice. He's too nice.' You wouldn't think that this kid plays the way he does. But when you turn on the film it's like, 'This don't match up a little bit. You meet him and he's nice, and then on the field he's trying to hurt you.' ... He's a leader. He's gonna be a great leader for us, I think."

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Afternoon update: Bulls up to 18 signees

Lake Wales safety Josh Dunn, arguably the best-dressed Bulls signee Wednesday, signs his paperwork with his mom, Carla Leath.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Lake Wales safety Josh Dunn, arguably the best-dressed Bulls signee Wednesday, signs his paperwork with his mom, Carla Leath.

USF formally had announced 18 signees as of 2:30 p.m. excluding reigning Guy Toph Award winner Markese Hargrove, who committed to the Bulls on Wednesday morning as a walk-on.

The class currently is ranked between third (247Sports) and fourth (Rivals, Scout.com) in the American Athletic Conference by national recruiting services, though Coach Willie Taggart told 620-AM early Wednesday morning the class will be "from a quality standpoint, probably the best since we've been here."

Among the Wednesday surprises: signatures from Wharton three-star WR DeVontres Dukes and Hillsborough three-star CB Michael Hampton, neither of whom had been listed as Bulls verbal commitments.

Taggart is expected to address the media in downtown Tampa at 2:30 p.m.

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Bulls' early signees include welcome surprise from Wharton

Wharton wide receiver DeVontres Dukes was the initial signing day surprise.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Wharton wide receiver DeVontres Dukes was the initial signing day surprise.

Barely two hours into national signing day, USF's greatest concern might involve a jammed fax machine.

As of 9:15 a.m., the school already had confirmed 14 signees on its official site. The number included three early enrollees (OT Glen Bethel, DE LaDarrius Jackson, ATH Trevon Sands) as well as Wharton WR DeVontres Dukes, the initial signing day surprise.

It didn't include reigning Guy Toph Award winner Markese Hargrove from Plant City, expected to announce his commitment to the Bulls at his high school Wednesday morning. Hargrove, who will join USF as a walk-on, becomes the first Toph Award winner to join the Bulls.

Taggart told 620-AM on Wednesday morning that, in terms of quality, his 2016 signing class will "probably be the best since I've been here."

During that interview, he received the fax from 6-foot-4 Fort Myers LB Andre Polk.

"I tell you what, I think the whole Bulls Nation is gonna hear about him like, early," said Taggart, who awoke Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. "We kept him a secret for a while but now I think everbody's gonna hear about him." …

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Bulls fans can sleep well on signing day eve

USF coach Willie Taggart is expected receive letters of intent from no fewer than 14 recruits Wednesday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart is expected receive letters of intent from no fewer than 14 recruits Wednesday.

If you've already set your Rocky the Bull alarm clock for 7 a.m. Wednesday, find yourself scouring Twitter for any 11th-hour flips, and discover your appetite has been compromised by nervous energy, relax.

Then get therapy. But mainly, relax.

Hours before fax machines nationwide are kick-started in surreal synchronicity, the Bulls already appear in fine shape. Those panicking over USF's modest number of non-binding commitments (14) likely haven't been paying attention. 

As newcomers go, Coach Willie Taggart and Co. are in stellar shape for 2016.

Suppose the Bulls get no 11th-hour commitments from anyone remaining on their board and receive only 14 signing day signatures. First, that's not likely to occur. Second, the group still ranks as high as second in the American Athletic Conference (247Sports) and no lower than fifth (Rivals, Scout) in national recruiting rankings.

Third, that doesn't paint the entire picture.

Toss in three early enrollees -- OT Glen Bethel, DE LaDarrius Jackson and ATH Trevon Sands -- and the number of newcomers increases to 17. Then add in the heralded transfer players forced to sit out last season -- QB Asiantii Woulard, LB Cecil Cherry, S Austin Hudson, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling -- and it grows to more than 20.

That's seven players -- all of whom figure to contend for starting jobs -- already enrolled, with 14 more who appear set on signing with the Bulls in the morning.

Anything beyond that is green-and-gold gravy.

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Bulls announce Jancek hiring

USF's hiring of former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek, widely reported last week, was confirmed by the school Monday afternoon.

As expected, Jancek will coach safeties, a position overseen last season by former Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen.

"John brings a tremendous amount of experience and football knowledge to our program and our players are going to love working with him," Coach Willie Taggart said in a USF news release.

"We’re excited to add his background and input to the defensive foundation we have begun building and I look forward to his working with the very talented group of safeties we have returning."

Jancek, a Michigan native who played at Division II Grand Valley State, has been a coordinator at seven different colleges of varying size. In three seasons at Tennessee, the Vols gradually improved from 83rd to 36th nationally in total defense, and went from 78th to 16th in scoring defense. The 19 points UT surrendered to Alabama last fall were the fewest allowed by a Crimson Tide foe.

But the Vols squandered double-digit fourth-quarter leads to Florida and Oklahoma, and lost leads against 'Bama and Arkansas. They also took a moderate dip in pass defense, falling from 22nd nationally in passing yards allowed in 2014 (196.2) to 47th (210.4) this past season.

Nonetheless Jancek, reportedly the highest-paid UT assistant coach ($520,000 annual base salary), represents a coup of sorts for Taggart, who brings more SEC experience to his staff (QBs coach David Reaves was an assistant at South Carolina) and gives first-year coordinator Raymond Woodie a veteran sounding board.

"I am very excited for the opportunity to join the USF staff and be a part of the program Coach Taggart is building in Tampa," Jancek said in the USF release. "The future looks very bright for this program and I am looking forward to working with some very talented players in our secondary."

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Magnificent 7? Bulls likely to remain shorthanded

USF junior Chris Perry  is expected to remain suspended for a third consecutive game Sunday against Temple.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF junior Chris Perry is expected to remain suspended for a third consecutive game Sunday against Temple.

Barring an 11th-hour surprise, USF's men apparently will try to reinforce the ol' less-is-more adage for the third game in a row Sunday.

The Bulls (5-17, 2-7 American Athletic Conference), who have won their last two games with a seven-player rotation (only six of whom are on scholarship), again are expected to be without power forwards Chris Perry and Luis Santos for Sunday's 2 p.m. home game against Temple.

Perry (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) remains suspended for an unspecified team-rules violation. The status of Santos (1.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) is a bit murkier.

He fell ill shortly before last weekend's 71-62 victory at Houston and didn't play, but Coach Orlando Antigua indicated two days later he'd return for last Wednesday's game at Tulane. He was listed as "unavailable" for that contest -- a 73-60 Bulls triumph -- and is questionable for Sunday.

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