Cooper helps USF land juco corner Wilder
TAMPA -- When Bucs assistant Ron Cooper moved across town to become USF's defensive backs coach last week, the hope was that his experience -- especially in three years working with elite corners at LSU -- would help the Bulls in recruiting much-needed help for 2013 at cornerback.
It didn't take long for Cooper to make good on that, as junior college cornerback Howard Wilder, a 6-foot, 185-pound standout at Pierce College in Los Angeles, committed to the Bulls on Tuesday, choosing USF over Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and Houston.
Wilder enjoyed an official visit to USF in December the very weekend new coach Willie Taggart was hired, but he wasn't ready to commit until learning that Cooper, his future position coach, worked with a pair of Thorpe Award winners and high first-round picks in Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne, as well as All-American Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu.
"That explains everything," Wilder said, asked why he chose the Bulls. "They were my best fit.
USF struggled with pass defense in 2012, and its cornerbacks didn't account for either of the team's two interceptions, a total that matched the low among 124 Division I-A programs. What's more, starters Kayvon Webster and George Baker were seniors, leaving the Bulls without any successors with significant college experience.
That makes Wilder a key addition -- he'll compete with another junior college standout, Torrel Saffold, who enrolled last week, as well as promising but unproven returning players like rising senior Josh Brown and sophomore Kenneth Durden. One sign that USF's coaches think highly of Wilder -- he'll get to wear the No. 6 jersey that Webster wore in his Bulls career.
With three weeks left until national signing day, USF's biggest needs to address in recruiting remain quarterback and running back -- the Bulls must soon decide if they'll hold out for Winter Park's Asiantii Woulard, who has twice committed to USF and subsequently backed out and is now being courted by Kentucky, Clemson and UCLA. If the Bulls decide they can't get Woulard a third time on signing day, the likely target is John O'Korn, who is currently committed to Houston and picked up an offer from Syracuse this week. USF already has a commitment from Fort Lauderdale's Mike White, who led University School to a state championship last month.
THIS AND THAT: Linebacker Sam Barrington and cornerback Kayvon Webster were back on USF's campus Sunday at the Shriner's Children's Hospital, making a visit as part of the leadup to Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. The two have been busy improving their stock as potential draft picks, working out in Miami at Bommarito Performance Systems, where former Bulls like Jason Pierre-Paul, Jerome Murphy and Carlton Mitchell trained before becoming draft picks.