Around the AAC: Media day leftovers

NEWPORT, R.I. -- As quarterbacks go, it's the darndest depth chart Tommy Tuberville has seen. Cincinnati's veteran coach opens camp next month with arguably the nation's best quarterback never to take a collegiate snap, and a fledgling folk hero on his heels.

Well-traveled sophomore Gunner Kiel, once deemed the nation's top QB prospect coming out of high school, enjoyed a dazzling spring and is clearly the player to beat. But senior Munchie Legaux appears poised to push him less than 11 months after suffering what Tuberville called the worst injury he has ever seen.

"A Joe Theismann injury," Tuberville said.

Legaux, then the Bearcats' starter, tore a pair of ligaments in his left knee after being tackled low on a fourth-quarter pass at Illinois last September. He didn't play again in 2013 and Tuberville presumed his career was done. The presumption stood even after Legaux was granted an extra
year of eligibility by the NCAA.

"But in his heart he wants to play," Tuberville said at Tuesday's American Athletic Conference media day.

"So every day our trainer comes in like, 'Hey he's doing this, he's getting better at this.' I thought he'd be about 60 percent, might have a chance to take a few snaps during the year or later on in the year, but he's truly about 80 percent with two weeks to go before we start camp and then a month before we play our first game (Sept. 12). So he's got a legitimate chance to be a factor."

Still, unseating Kiel -- who de-committed from two major schools and spent a season at Notre Dame before transferring -- will be difficult. Kiel has followed his prolific spring effort by working with the No. 1 offensive skill players all summer.

"He's had a lot of notoriety for someone who's never played," Tuberville said.

By contrast, Legaux has -- and seems bent on playing again.

"Players respect him and I'd love to be able to run him out there in the early part of the year as a guy who's gonna be able to help us win games," Tuberville said.

UCONN DERBY: New UConn coach Bob Diaco was clear and concise when asked how much last year's performances by his trio of returning quarterbacks will weigh on his choice of a 2014 starter.

"Zero," he said.

The Huskies, 3-9 last season, return senior Chandler Whitmer (896 yards, five TDs, six INTs in '13) and sophomores Tim Boyle (621 yards, no TDs, eight INTs) and Casey Cochran (1,293 yards, 11 TDs, four INTs). Cochran (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) won three of his four starts at season's end, but will be engaged in an essential dead heat when the Huskies' camp commences Saturday.

"Chandler (6-0, 192) is working on his liabilities. Very few of his liabilities have to do with his tangible skill," Diaco said. "He's incredibly talented, he's fast. He's got an incredibly strong arm. He throws great on the move.

"Casey is your quintessential leader," Diaco added. "He's the moxie, he's the swagger, guts guy that's gonna will the group down the field. But he's got to work on his foot speed. He had to work on his body composition. He probably lost almost 30 pounds.

"And Timmy (6-3, 216), a young guy finding his way from a leadership standpoint, finding his way from a communication standpoint, finding his way as it relates to piecing together all the moving parts of an offense attacking the defense. But he possesses the total package as it relates to his tangible skill."

USFL, PART II? SMU coach June Jones evoked widespread scoffs recently when he suggested on a WDAE-620 AM radio interview the less-prominent FBS

conferences should consider competing in the spring to remain viable and distinctive.

But on Tuesday, Jones, who coached for two springs in the USFL, told the Tampa Bay Times he was simply trying to make a point.

"I said it from my own personal reasons that everybody needs to think out of the box a little bit," he said.

With autonomy imminent for the nation's five biggest conferences, whom some fear ultimately could branch into their own division, the other FBS conferences must carve, claw and innovate to remain relevant. American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco defiantly insisted his league warrants 'power' status also. Jones said he agrees, and believes another conference shake-up is near.

Meantime, distinguishing your product doesn't hurt, he indicated.

"I think that maybe by midseason or maybe at the end of the season there's going to be another shuffle. I think Mike's plan is correct in that if we do what we're supposed to do on the football field and on the basketball court and those other sports, we're the only one that has a chance to
be included (in the 'power' group).

"Everybody better start thinking out of the box."

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USF bulks up for new football season

As 320-pound teammate Todd Chandler prepared to squat 700 pounds during a team workout, Thor Jozwiak, pictured, had the presence of mind to chronicle the moment on his iPhone.

Times files (2012)

As 320-pound teammate Todd Chandler prepared to squat 700 pounds during a team workout, Thor Jozwiak, pictured, had the presence of mind to chronicle the moment on his iPhone.

It has invested coin in a new slogan ("Live Green and Gold") and sleek new helmets. Its coach has spent the summer barnstorming from Atlanta to Miami to help generate hope and booster support. Even its website's getting a facelift.

But arguably nothing has helped foster offseason zeal for USF football quite like the impromptu video offensive lineman Thor Jozwiak shot last week. As 320-pound teammate Todd Chandler prepared to squat 700 pounds during a team workout, Jozwiak had the presence of mind to chronicle the moment on his iPhone.

Chandler pulled it off, with excruciation to spare. "Just a normal day in the weight room," he said.

More than 70,000 hits later, the video has served as a 55-second testimonial to USF's collective offseason pursuit of brawn. It's anyone guess as to whether the Bulls, sixth in the American Athletic Conference's preseason media poll, will have the record of a bowl qualifier in 2014.

But at least they'll have the look of one.

Read Joey Knight's full story here.

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Newport news: USF media day notes

USF veterans Todd Chandler (left), Andre Davis (center) and Reshard Cliett represented the Bulls at Tuesday's American Athletic Conference media day in Newport, R.I.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF veterans Todd Chandler (left), Andre Davis (center) and Reshard Cliett represented the Bulls at Tuesday's American Athletic Conference media day in Newport, R.I.

Some more Bulls-centric items from Tuesday's American Athletic Conference media day in Newport, R.I.

* Coach Willie Taggart said with the exception of sophomore WR Tommy Eveld (torn ACL), every Bull who missed all or a portion of spring drills is good to go for Monday's first preseason practice. And even Eveld, who requested a move from quarterback, is healing at an accelerated pace.

"He's way ahead of schedule, and when I say way ahead of schedule, it's kind of scary," Taggart said. "He's running with our guys, doing everything. ... He said, 'I'll be back quicker than you think, Coach,' but we've got to hold him back."

* Of the 28 members of Taggart's 2014 signing class (six early enrollees, 22 February signees), all except two are on the preseason roster. The lone casualties: DE Eric Mayes, who has been ruled a partial qualifier and won't be eligible until 2015; and Estero TE Nick Nataro, who departed shortly after arriving.

For those keeping score, that's a .929 signee efficiency rate.

"That's part of our philosophy; we're not gonna recruit and just let 'em get eligible on their own," Taggart said. "We're gonna tell them what to do and how to do it and keep in contact with them on what they're doing; keep in contact with their coaches and counselors and making sure they're on it. Once we start recruiting 'em and once we get 'em committed to us, they're one of ours now."

* Taggart said he plans to have three two-a-day workouts during preseason camp

* Of the many Bulls who have transformed their bodies in the offseason, DT Todd Chandler said redshirt freshman DT Deadrin Senat especially has stood out.

"He came in a strong guy; he used to work out with me, and he used to push me (when he was) a true freshman," Chandler said. "Friday on bench (press) max day I stopped at 445 (pounds) and he got 475 on there and did it with ease, and he stopped himself. He could've done at least 530. That guy, he's becoming a monster."

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Cincy picked to win American, Bulls 6th

NEWPORT, R.I. -- Cincinnati, which returns 16 starters and appears stocked at the offensive skill spots, has been picked to win the American Athletic Conference title by the league media.

The preseason poll was released this morning prior to the start of the American's media day here in Newport. Cincinnati received 17 of 30 first-place votes, with UCF (seven) and Houston (six) the only other teams to appear first on a ballot.

USF, which returns 16 starters from a 2-10 team, was picked to finish sixth.

Cincinnati, 9-4 last season, returns myriad proven targets for whomever emerges at quarterback. Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel, who had a sparkling spring, will be pushed by veteran Munchie Legaux. The offensive line will be anchored by three-time all-conference LT Eric Lefeld.

The entire preseason poll (Teams listed with total points and first-place votes in parentheses):

1. Cincinnati (17) 311
2. UCF (7) 296
3. Houston (6) 268
4. East Carolina 262
5. SMU 158
6. USF 157
7. Memphis 133
8. Temple 105
9. UConn 98
T-9. Tulane 98
11. Tulsa 94

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Bulls to open first week of practices

USF's handful of public spring practices apparently were so well received, the Bulls are delivering an August encore.

The school announced Thursday that Coach Willie Taggart will open the first week of preseason drills to the public. Players report for camp Aug. 3 and begin practice the next day. All workouts will be held on campus.

The opening-week schedule:

Monday, Aug. 4, 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 10 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 10 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 7, 8:30 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 8, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 9, 2 p.m.


The annual Bulls Fan Fest, to be held at Corbett Stadium -- home to USF soccer -- is Aug. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. The season opener, against Western Carolina, is Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

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Bulls embracing newest 'Coach O'

For all the crunches and cardio work, all the max-outs and military presses, the most excruciating part of Irele Oderinde's sessions may be the drill not included in his normal curriculum.

If you're late to one of Coach O's workouts, the whole team hits the field for up-downs -- dozens of them.

"It's a reminder," USF's new strength and conditioning coach said. "As men, we all need to do right. As young adults they need to do right. It's kind of one of those things where it was instilled in me with my mother; when I didn't do right she gave me a reminder."

By all accounts, the tough love has been embraced. It's the pronunciation the Bulls still are struggling to master.

Raised by a single mom but Nigerian on his dad's side, Irele Vinegar Oderinde says his first name (EAR-lay) means "peace" and his last (oh-DARE-in-day) means "ruling house." Vinegar? It's his mom's maiden name.

"He brings energy; he's a great guy," Bulls senior WR Andre Davis said. "He's definitely like another dad, another coach."

A former fleet, undersized (245 pounds) nose guard at Western Kentucky, Oderinde arrived earlier this summer from West Virginia, where he served as the Mountaineer football team's strength and conditioning coordinator. His predecessor at USF, Hans Straub, resigned in mid-May, three days after issuing a disparaging tweet about former Bulls DE Aaron Lynch.

Less than a month later, Coach O -- not to be mistaken with new men's hoops coach Orlando 'Coach O' Antigua -- was brought on board.

“My relationship with Irele goes back a long way," said Bulls coach (and fellow WKU alumnus) Willie Taggart, a Hilltoppers assistant during Oderinde's playing career. "He is terrific at what he does and has had the opportunity to be part of many outstanding programs and gain a wide range of knowledge in his field.”

A member of WKU's 2002 Division I-AA national title team, Oderinde harbored aspirations of being a college position coach, but found few openings upon graduating in '03. The Hilltoppers, however, did have a graduate-assistant vacancy in their weightroom, and Oderinde had been a two-time state powerlifting champ at Scott County High in Georgetown, Ky.

"So I got in the weightroom and after a week I was like, 'This is it. This is what I want to do,'" said Oderinde, married with no kids. "And ever since, I've fallen in love with it. I don't go to work; every day is a great day and fun day."

His GA gig was followed by stops at Notre Dame, South Carolina, West Virginia and one other stint at WKU. His objective: To craft workouts for each kid in an effort to make them a better player. If they happen to become powerlifters in the process, that's gravy.

Sometimes, the gravy oozes. On Wednesday, Oderinde spotted for DT Todd Chandler when the fifth-year senior squatted 700 pounds.

"He's just a very good guy," Davis said. "He's a guy that, you can get in there with him and...he just brings it all out of you. He makes you want to grind for him and for the team."

His long-term impact remains to be determined. The Bulls made tangible strides under Straub, with the average weight of their five starting offensive linemen rising from 297 to 310 pounds over the winter. In his two months on the job, Oderinde says the team's overall work ethic has been stellar. If the Bulls can maintain a high level of hunger, strength will come, he indicated.

"This is not a knock on anybody that was here before, but we needed to get stronger," Oderinde said.

"Strength-wise, we're not at the top, but we're not at the bottom now either. We have a chance to be okay for sure, especially (considering) where we started from. We could be okay, especially with guys wanting to get better, and that's the main thing. I've been to places where they didn't
really want to work, and here it's been contagious."

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Bulls Fan Fest to be held on campus

The 2014 Bulls Fan Fest will be staged at Corbett Stadium, home to USF soccer.

CAROLINA HIDALGO | Times

The 2014 Bulls Fan Fest will be staged at Corbett Stadium, home to USF soccer.

Another fan-friendly USF football function is being moved to the intimate confines of Corbett Stadium.

The school announced Thursday the 2014 Bulls Fan Fest will be held Aug. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. at Corbett, home to USF soccer. The event, annually held at Raymond James Stadium in the past, will be staged less than four months after the Bulls held their spring intrasquad game at the same site.

Admission is free.

This year, Bulls football players and coaches will be joined by counterparts from every other USF fall sports team, as well as Rocky the Bull, cheerleaders and the Sun Dolls. In addition to autograph and photo opportunities, fans can participate in various contests with a chance to win prizes. Old USF apparel, athletic gear and collectors' items also will be on sale.

The football team reports for preseason camp Aug. 3. USF opens its season Aug. 30 at home against Western Carolina.

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'Strong' side tackle: USF's Chandler squats 700

Though he has earned a reputation for his culinary chops during his tenure at USF, Todd Chandler pulled off something Wednesday at breakfast time that few might find tough to digest or even swallow.

Fortunately for him, it was corroborated by witnesses and documented on an iPhone.

The 320-pound fifth-year senior defensive tackle squatted 700 pounds. Whether that's a USF football record couldn't immediately be determined. The clip can be seen here.

"That's a lot of weight on a man's back," said new Bulls strength coach Irele Oderinde, who spotted Chandler. "First, he did 600 and said, 'Coach, that was easy; put some more weight on it.'"

Oderinde, who had watched Chandler squat 585 three times the previous week, obliged. Chandler then squatted 635 with relative ease.

"He said, 'Coach, put 700 on the bar; I'm gonna do it,'" Oderinde recalled. "I said, 'Okay.'"

While Chandler's feat may not necessarily be a microcosm of the Bulls' across-the-board strength at this point, Oderinde said the overall weightroom commitment has been exceptional since his arrival earlier this summer. 

"They work, and that's one thing I can't complain about at all since I've been here," said Oderinde, a former Western Kentucky nose guard who was serving as West Virginia's football strength coach before being hired to replace Hans Straub in mid-May.

"These guys have busted their tails to get better. I believe we're tired of losing so we're trying to do something about that. ... I'm not saying we're the strongest team out there, but we've improved a little bit. That's a step in the right direction."

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Bulls' national title odds? Same as Auburn's last year (sort of)

Less than two weeks before the start of preseason camp, the odds of USF winning the 2014 national title are reaching Powerball-type probability.

At least according to one online betting service.

The Bulls are a 500-1 shot to capture college football's inaugural playoff, according to bovada.lv, which offers a variety of online wagering services including a sports book. While those odds may not seem unrealistic for a team in a non-power conference coming off a 2-10 season, they're five times longer than they were six months ago, before Willie Taggart signed the American Athletic Conference's top recruiting class.

On Jan. 7, USF's odds -- according to the same site -- were 100-1. So what happened?

"When we open odds in January, there is a lot of speculation on our part on how we expect our bettors to bet certain teams and we did feel that since they may be an improved team we would open them at 100-1 initially and take a few bets,"  Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley said through a publicist.

"After months of taking no money on them, they kept drifting off to 250-1 to 300-1 and now at 500-1, we still cannot write a bet on them. That said, we are always weary (sic) of going over 500-1 on teams, especially with the new playoff format, and considering (national title runner-up) Auburn was 500-1 preseason last year, we can really expose ourselves."

Alas, a sports book bound with silver lining.

USF's national title odds are the same as Auburn's last season.

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Ex-Bulls soccer coach Logan Fleck dies

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck passed away Monday morning.

Times file photo

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck passed away Monday morning.

Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck, who led both teams simultaneously at one point in the mid-1990s, died Sunday of complications from diabetes.

Mr. Fleck, the men's coach at Stetson at the time of his death, was 54. He was preceded in death by his dad -- a former Lehigh University soccer coach -- and a younger brother, Derek, who died in 2003.

"Probably the three of them are playing a little one-on-one up in heaven right now," said Mary Beth Fleck, Mr. Fleck's younger sister.

Mr. Fleck began his career at USF as a men's assistant in the late 1980s, and took over the program in 1994. In three seasons, he compiled a 34-17 record, leading the '96 team to a share of the Conference USA crown and an NCAA Tournament berth.

He started the women's program in '95, leading the inaugural Bulls team to an 11-3 mark. In 12 seasons as women's coach, he amassed a 97-94-18 record with a Conference USA regular season title in '98.

He remains the women's program's winningest coach. Each spring, every Bulls player who earned a 3.0 GPA or better the prior semester got to line up and deliver a pie to Mr. Fleck's face. …

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My preseason AAC ballot

LB Reshard Cliett (#16) and the Bulls should double their win total from 2013. But will they triple it?

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

LB Reshard Cliett (#16) and the Bulls should double their win total from 2013. But will they triple it?

The following is my projected order of finish in the American Athletic Conference, submitted upon request to the league office earlier today. The official preseason poll will be released at the conference's media day July 29 in Newport, RI (Yes, football is here.).

To elicit debate, I've added a one-sentence rationale for each team's position in the standings.

1. Cincinnati.
'Cats are loaded offensively, and Tommy Tuberville's defenses are traditionally rugged

2. UCF
I waffled here because of the Knights' uncertainty at QB, but nine starters return on defense

3. East Carolina
For my money, Shane Carden's the league's best QB, and Justin Hardy's the top wideout

4. Houston
Lost amid the Cougars' pass-happy style is a defense that forced a nation-best 43 turnovers in '13

5. Tulane
The Green Wave, who made a bowl game last year, possess an outstanding secondary and promising freshman QB

6. USF
Stronger, speedier Bulls will at least double their '13 win total. I just don't know if they'll triple it.

7. SMU
Mustangs have some replenishing to do, but the newcomers are promising and June Jones knows his stuff

8. Temple
My sleeper team in the league. In their last five games of '13, Owls tied or led entering fourth quarter

9. Connecticut
All signs suggest new coach Bob Diaco will get it done in Storrs. But offseason loss of workhorse TB Lyle McCombs hurts

10. Memphis
Tigers made defensive strides in '13, but the offense scored more than 21 points only three times

11. Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane, 3-9 last year, must replace virtually their entire offensive backfield

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Bulls-Kentucky hoops showdown set for '15

After consecutive bye weeks, your friendly neighborhood USF beat writer is no longer beat. To the contrary, the figurative battery power has been restored to full capacity.

Time to brief you on the latest, and recap what transpired locally in July's first half"

* Apparently, the speculation about USF basketball coach Orlando Antigua facing old boss John Calipari has segued into reality. USF spokesman Steven Schoon confirmed Saturday he Bulls will face Kentucky as part of a doubleheader at Miami's American Airlines Arena on Nov. 27, 2015.

USF never has faced Kentucky in men's basketball. Antigua spent the past five seasons on Calipari's UK staff, and served with him one season (2008-09) at Memphis. ESPN first reported the event, which also will include a Memphis-Ohio State matchup, earlier Saturday.

* Former USF ace Sara Nevins came within two outs of a complete game in Team USA's 5-2 triumph against Canada in the final of the General Tire World Cup of Softball IX last weekend in Irvine, Calif. Nevins, who totaled four appearances in Team USA's seven games (all victories), notched a club-best 0.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.

The team currently is competing in the Canadian Open, where it has won six of its first seven through Saturday afternoon. Nevins has worked four tournament innings, striking out six and allowing a run on three hits.

* Bulls OL Thor Jozwiak, sidelined all of last season with a heart condition, is among 182 nationwide nominees for the AFCA Allstate Good Works Team. The team, composed of 11 Division I players and 11 total from the lower divisions, recognizes those who distinguish themselves with
charitable involvement and community service. 

A member of USF's football unity council and student-athlete advisory committee, Jozwiak has spoken at area schools, visited with ill kids at local children's hospitals and spoken with veterans injured in combat. The 22-player Good Works team will be announced in September. 

* The American Athletic Conference Football Summer Kickoff and Media Day will be held July 29 in Newport, RI. Each league coach, and players from each school, will attend. WR Andre Davis and LB Reshard Cliett are believed to be the Bulls' representatives, but that hasn't been confirmed by
USF. Players report for preseason camp Aug. 3 and begin practice the following day.

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Three Bulls on preseason watch lists

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Photo provided by USF

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Barely a week into July, USF already has three blips on the nation's preseason radar, with more likely to materialize.

Two Bulls seniors -- WR Chris Dunkley and C Austin Reiter -- and junior TE Sean Price have been named to preseason awards watch lists. Dunkley, one of the American Athletic Conference's top return specialists, is among 47 players on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in college football.

Meantime, Reiter is on the Rimington Trophy watch list --  presented each year to the nation's top center -- for the second consecutive season. Price is on the list for the Mackey Award given annually to the country's top tight end.

Dunkley, who has changed his number from 88 to 1 this season, averaged 22.6 yards per kick return and 24.2 per punt return in 2013. His junior-year highlights included 171 all-purpose yards at Houston, a 50-yard TD on a punt return against SMU, and a 13-yard TD on a reverse play at UCF.

Reiter, who has added more than 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame (to 295) this offseason, has started every game the last two years. In 2013, he tied for the team lead with 735 snaps played. …

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Former UF, Ocala standout Bradley to lead USF golf

Former University of Florida golf captain Steven Bradley, who helped lead the Gators to the 1999 SEC title, as been named men's coach at USF, the Bulls announced Friday.

An Ocala Forest graduate who helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 5A state title in 1994, Bradley replaces Chris Malloy, who stepped down after four seasons to become coach at Ole Miss, his alma mater.

"I was born in Bradenton and went to high school in Ocala, so I'm a Florida boy," said Bradley, who has spent the past three seasons as coach at Mercer. …

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Bulls add DE to '14 roster

Exactly one month before USF's players report for preseason camp, the Bulls have received an 11th-hour addition to one of their neediest defensive spots.

Former Virginia Tech signee Kevin Bronson, a three-star defensive end from Delray Beach who never enrolled in Blacksburg, will start Summer B classes at USF on Monday. He'll be eligible for this season, the school announced.

"Kevin is a great young man and a player whose size and athleticism fit very well in our defensive system," Coach Willie Taggart said in a USF news release. "We recruited him very heavily leading up to signing day and are happy that some things evolved and he now has the opportunity to be a Bull."

The evolution commenced less than a week ago, when Hokies coaches informed Bronson on Friday that he did not academically qualify. According to the Palm Beach Post, Bronson knew his college-entrance test scores didn't meet Virginia Tech standards, but he was made to believe it wouldn't be an issue.

"Virginia Tech did make it known that there was a possibility head coach Frank Beamer would have to go in front of a committee to speak on behalf of Kevin," Don Hanna, Bronson's coach at Delray Beach Village Academy, told the Post. …

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