Breakfast with Leavitt: News and notes ...
Got up early this morning and drove to Plant City, where USF coach Jim Leavitt was the guest speaker before a crowd of 200-plus at the Plant City Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfast at the Red Rose Inn and Suites.
Leavitt's good in these settings because he's off the cuff -- no notes, just rambling with stories and jokes for about 40 minutes. He took questions from the crowd after, and there's some newsy nuggets to glean from the breakfast -- best $10 I'll spend this week.
-- If you had any immediate hopes for an on-campus football stadium at USF, Leavitt was candidly frank about the possibility. "I don't think in my lifetime," he answered. "We don't have the money. Who's got $200 million to give us to build a stadium?" Leavitt said playing at Raymond James Stadium remains his "No. 1 recruiting tool." He said not having an on-campus stadium hasn't hurt Southern Cal or Miami, and he also brought attention to the need for other facility upgrades at USF, specifically mentioning baseball, softball and soccer. "We have so many other needs," he said.
-- Leavitt's usually pretty topical with these deals, and since he's in Plant City, he talked a fair bit about redshirt freshman Mark Popek. "Is it Poe-pek or Pah-pek? I guess it depends on if you're from the South or the North," Leavitt cracked. He introduced Popek as his starting right tackle -- more on that in a sec -- and said he got up for 6:30 a.m. conditioning runs with the players this week. The players have to run six 300-yard sprints, each in less than 58 seconds, and Leavitt said Popek was able to do that.
-- Starting defense? In a quick position-by-position rundown, Leavitt named former starting defensive tackle Aaron Harris as a starting defensive end opposite George Selvie, with Terrell McClain and Cory Grissom at tackle. He said he'll have three seniors starting at linebacker, which points to Chris Robinson at strongside, but he mentioned Sabbath Joseph (a junior) first on the weakside. He also mentioned Donte Spires (a senior), Jaquian Williams and Sam Barrington, so don't get too excited there. Only three defensive backs he mentioned, curiously, were Nate Allen, Jerrell Young and Kayvon Webster.
-- Offensive line? Some interesting stuff here: He named Jake Sims as the starting center, made a reference to a 6-3, 330-pound right guard (I think that's Zach Hermann), named Sampson Genus at left guard and said left tackle would likely be Jamar Bass or Jeremiah Warren, who we hear did very well this spring academically. He'd mentioned tackle Carlos Savala earlier in the speech, so don't rule him out. "The offensive line is going to be the key," Leavitt said.
-- At running back, he mentioned that Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor were injured during the Bulls' losing streak last season, said everyone asks him why he hasn't run Ford more in the past two years, but that it's been injuries -- ribs two years ago and ankle last season.
-- Asked about a playoff in major college football, Leavitt said he thinks the current system will be in place for some time ("The only way that would change were if the President of the United States got involved," he said) and he thinks the I-AA ranks would prefer bowls if they could set up a similar system. "I think it's going to stay bowls for a while," he said.
Lots more to come today, so keep checking back ...