Another! Cape Coral RB commits to USF
Now I know Jim Leavitt has neither the time nor the curiosity to read a blog like this -- after all, this is the man who proudly states that he's never turned on the Internet -- but if he did, or if somehow he got a printout from somebody daring enough to venture online with a game looming less than three days away, I think he'd appreciate how well he's been able to keep his recruiting commitments under the radar this fall. Very hush-hush, for the most part. And that's just the ones we know about.
In a paragraph or so, I'll unveil what is the third USF oral commitment unearthed in the last four days, but none of the three kids actually committed this week. One of the commitments was a full month old, but we just caught onto it. Leavitt likes controlling information, so I'm sure he likes this. And we, as journalists, like a good challenge, so it's fun for everyone.
The latest to join USF's 2007 recruiting class is Rickey Anderson Jr., a 6-foot, 195-pound running back from Cape Coral, giving the Bulls a player from that program three years in a row (following Taurus Johnson and Nate Allen). The first thing recruitniks want to know about a recruit is what other offers he had -- it's a fair testament to how he's valued nationally -- and I'll give USF credit for doing their own homework and trusting their own judgments this fall. Other schools will wait until a kid has a half-dozen BCS offers before getting in on the fun, but much of USF's recent haul have been lesser-known kids that USF -- and sometimes USF alone -- sees real promise in.
Anderson's a good example of that. Rushed for 729 yards and eight touchdowns last year, also caught a good amount of passes from Allen, but this summer, while in a 7-on-7 league, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Doctors told him his leg muscles were strong enough he could try to play this season and have surgery afterwards, and he worked toward this, hoping it might help his chances of landing a college scholarship. But in the preseason he aggravated the injury, and he later made it back for two games, scoring a touchdown in a big cross-state win against Miami Gulliver Prep, but the injury was too much, and he relented last week and had surgery to repair the torn ligament. He said that last week, USF recruiting coordinator Carl Franks called him and offered him a scholarship, a huge relief to him and a gesture he gratefully returned by accepting USF's offer. The Bulls have been on him since his sophomore year when they scouted Johnson, and it's been the school he wanted to play for. He's talked to N.C. State, Auburn, Clemson and Indiana, but all have been noncommittal, most likely because of the injury. It's a case of USF having a prior relationship with a recruit and taking a calculated risk -- he believes he'll be back to full strength in time for summer workouts next month. The Orlando Sentinel's Bill Buchalter, identifying him as a linebacker, ranked him 58th in the state in his list of Florida's top 100 seniors, but Anderson said he believes USF wants him as a running back. He's actually ahead of Plant QB Robert Marve on that list, for what it's worth. Other USF commitments on that same list? Gulf QB Alton Voss is No. 70 and Lake Gibson DE Claude Davis is No. 73.
Anderson is a sprinter who has run a 10.9 in the 100 meters, played basketball at Cape Coral, and said his best asset is his ability to see the field, to know where defenders are and where they aren't. Because of his injury, he probably won't have as many stars from the recruiting sites as other backs in the state, but he's one of USF's more interesting finds, and one that's easy to root for.
I'd mentioned another possible commitment, but that one hasn't happened yet. But as the Bulls continue to struggle with their kicking game -- two scholarship kickers have now missed both field goals and extra points this season, and the team is on its third punter -- USF coaches seem willing to use another scholarship to get a strong kicker to Tampa.
They're the only school so far to offer Michael Taylor, a senior at Pensacola Washington who has made kicks from 56, 54 and 52 yards this season. He's actually a modest 4-for-9 on kicks, but his coach said that's more a function of unreliable snaps and holds than any indictment of his leg. Walk-on Justin Teachey has fared well on kickoffs for USF as well, but Taylor has a strong leg, with 48 touchbacks in 59 kickoffs this year. High schools kick off from the 40, mind you, but it's still a strong stat for a high school kicker. It's hard for me to fathom USF investing three scholarships in place-kickers, so I wonder if they know something about sophomore Mike Benzer, who lost his job to freshman Delbert Alvarado a few weeks back. Taylor has drawn interest from Auburn, Mississippi, Illinois and N.C. State, but USF is his only offer, and the only other schools who are lining him up for campus visits are Troy and Louisiana Tech. He made a strong impression last summer when he won the kicking competition at the Ray Guy camp -- doesn't get much bigger for kickers -- with a 60-yard field goal. How very Matt Bryant of him. Anyway, it's another case of USF getting out in front and putting an offer out where other schools haven't.
The start of the early signing period also meant media day for men's basketball, and USF's official site has a photo gallery that includes my glaring bald head as I interviewed sophomore Aris Williams. I'm shamelessly bogarting the photo for my own vast Internet empire.
Robert McCullum's only signee Wednesday was Lake Wales guard Dominique Jones, but he's certainly excited about the size and strength of Jones, who he said compares favorably in size to current sophomore guard Jesus Verdejo -- at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, McCullum said he "looks like a safety." (Don't say that too loud, Coach) ... Jones already bench-presses 260 pounds, so McCullum likes the physicality he can bring to USF's backcourt. He's playing point guard for his high school team, so he also likes the skill set he'll bring to Tampa next year. McCullum recalled watching Jones at a tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last summer, and said an assistant coach from an ACC school was drooling over Jones' potential. I'd expect USF to use its remaining four scholarships on frontcourt players, and there's still a good chance they'll pick up Kenie Freeman from Hillsborough Community College, if not his teammate Ejike Hart this week as well. My favorite thing about the media-day photo gallery, by the way, is the failed product placement, as my friend Larry from usfnation.com can't quite face the camera squarely enough to show the URL for his site on the back of his shirt as he dutifully interviews players in multiple pics.
More signing day notes: We got lucky and reported a women's basketball commitment in Wednesday's paper, and Lonnie Terrell of Inkster, Michigan -- I can't wait for the headline that says how the Bulls inked the Inkster star -- made a smart move on Wednesday morning. Her coach, Peggy Carr, told me her senior guard had intended to sign with USF on Thursday, then make an official visit this weekend, and she made the wise decision to wait until after the visit to sign the paperwork and make it formal. Carr's very confident that Terrell will sign with coach Jose Fernandez, enough so that she's already scheduled the press conference for local media on Monday. (Again, due to budgetary limitations, I won't be in attendance) Terrell is a top contender for Miss Basketball in Michigan, so to pluck her away from a strong Michigan State program (USF plays in East Lansing on Dec. 3, about 80 miles east) is a coup for Fernandez and his staff.
Back to football: my favorite retelling of the fake punts from Saturday's game came from Trae Williams, who was on the field as a stinger for both plays. Here's our conversation:
Me: On the first one, were you on the fake side or the other side?
Trae: The first time, I was on the fake side. They had called the punt, so I took off, and then I heard everybody cheering. I turn around and see Teachey running out of bounds with a first down. I guess he and Coach Leavitt had talked about doing it, but he fake me out, too.
Me: And on the second one, you were on the right side, along with practically the entire Pitt 11?
Trae: I knew it was a fake. I'm running downfield and the guys are all chasing me. I'm like, "Oh, yeah, by the way, look to the other side."
Yes, Andre Hall worked out for another team, his seventh: the Miami Dolphins on Monday. No signing was made initially, but his agent, Jonathan Kline, said he wouldn't be surprised if Hall is signed as a "street free agent" by the Dolphins after the season, assuming he doesn't land on a practice squad between now and then. For those of you scoring at home, it's Bucs, Bears, Bills, Seahawks, Broncos, Texans, Dolphins. Not positive on the order, I will admit.
And on a final note, proud congrats to USF receiver S.J. Green, whose girlfriend gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Solomon Green III, on Halloween. Green was able to bring mom and son home on Friday just before the team reported to its hotel before Saturday's big win against Pittsburgh. He and Pat Julmiste have shared a lot of good new-father talks this fall, and they'll be two of the proudest seniors introduced Saturday afternoon at Raymond James.