Class of '14: These 6 will make the biggest splash
The euphoria over USF's signing class has barely subsided, and likely won't for a while. In the wake of a 2-10 season, Bulls coaches are being hailed for pulling in a class widely deemed the American Athletic Conference's best.
But at some point in the near future, the Bulls' beleaguered fan base will stop lauding the potential of the group and demand that it be realized. A year from now, many of the 28 signees
won't be judged so much by stars as they will by starts.
And which of these will start right away? It's impossible to say, considering the variables (injuries, academics, acclimation to college life) that might come into play. But based on the Bulls' immediate needs and the players' resumes, we can make an educated guess.
The following are the five members (technically six) of the Class of 2014 whom we believe will have the most immediate impact:
1. DE Demetrius Hill, Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College
Graduation and early departure (see Lynch, Aaron), have left the top four spots on USF's defensive ends depth chart vacant. Hill, an honorable-mention Juco All-American at Fort Scott in 2013, could plug one of those holes immediately. Ranked 64th in the Rivals Juco Top 100, Hill (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) could've signed with a more prominent school. Arizona, Arizona State, Texas Tech and Minnesota can't all be wrong.
2. WR Tyre McCants, Niceville
For a team desperate for fleet playmakers on the flank, McCants (5-11, 199) seems custom-designed. There's a reason FSU and Georgia were offering him a scholarship at the literal 11th hour of the recruiting season. McCants, who led Niceville to last season's Class 7A state final, had three kick returns of 95-plus yards and six scoring plays of 80 or more yards as a senior. If USF wins the coin toss against Western Carolina and receives, McCants could be on the field for the season's first play.
3. DE Eric Mayes, Milford (Conn.) Academy
Like Hill, Mayes is an early enrollee who immediately could fill a pressing need. He played at a Connecticut prep school last fall after tallying 14 sacks and earning second-team Class 4A all-state honors at Sarasota Booker in 2012. Endowed with a rangy frame (6-4, 240), one can imagine the physical strides he could make in strength coach Hans Straub's system.
4. RB D'Ernest Johnson, Immokalee/RB Marlon Mack, Sarasota Booker
We're grouping these guys because, well, we can't project which will break through first. At his signing day press conference, even Coach Willie Taggart referred to them as a duo. While some returning ball carriers (i.e. Michael Pierre, Darius Tice) will get opportunities to assert themselves this spring, one must presume the Bulls are counting on these guys for '14. "You watch, and they hardly ever get tackled by the first guy," Taggart said. "And you've got to have a back that can break tackles, especially with the kind of football we want to play. They're not the small guys."
5. OLB Jimmy Bayes, Immokalee
Wait, you say, where are the offensive linemen on this list? Isn't protection Priority No. 1 for this team? Yes, but how many freshman o-linemen can enter a Division I program and assert themselves immediately? Additionally, we expect a few returners (i.e. Dominique Threatt, Quinterrius Eatmon, redshirt freshman Cameron Ruff) to make big strides in 2014. The Bulls have some depth at outside 'backer, but Bayes -- the first commitment in the Class of '14 -- simply
is too talented to keep on the sideline. Besides, the coaches love him.