DT Chandler, CB Mitchell lead USF signees
Good morning Bulls fans. National signing day is underway, and we'll be updating all the USF signings as they're confirmed. Lots of updates, interviews and pics to come today, so keep checking back.
4:30 p.m.: Just to update, former USF signee Josh Bellamy, who had committed to play for Jim Leavitt in 2010, signed with Louisville as expected. New coach Charlie Strong signed seven players from Florida, but that wasn't the most of USF's Big East opponents. That honor goes to Rutgers, which landed nine Florida players. Syracuse signed five, Cincinnati and Connecticut four each and West Virginia three. The only Big East school without a Florida signee was Pittsburgh. We'll have plenty from Skip Holtz's new conference at 5:30 ...
4 p.m.: Not really a USF note anymore, but former FSU tackle Daron Rose, once committed to play for USF in 2010 (and 2009, for that matter), said he has signed with Division II North Alabama, where Terry Bowden coaches. Rose said he'll have two years of eligibility there, because Division II uses a 10-semester model for eligibility, rather than Division I's five-year model. That reminds me that Bowden told the Times' Izzy Gould that he hopes to land a few players from USF who inevitably transfer after the coaching change.
2:15 p.m.: Eatmon is now in, and it sounds like USF has finished its recruiting class with a total of 19 scholarship newcomers -- four who enrolled in January and the 15 who signed today. More notes to come.
1:45 p.m.: Terrence Mitchell is official for USF, so only missing name is offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon of Mobile, who should be coming soon. Interesting that Central Florida is going to keep Miami Central's Jose Jose on defense as a run-stopper, rather than as an offensive lineman, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
11:50 a.m.: OK. Headed to Hillsborough High for Terrence "T-Rex" Mitchell's signing day ceremony. Take a breath, eat some lunch. I'll be back around 1:15 or so ...
11:45 a.m.: Signee No. 11 is receiver Deonte Welch of Williston, who backed out of a commitment to Arkansas to sign with the Bulls today. That's three signees who were flipped to USF in the final week -- Welch from Arkansas, Terrence Mitchell from Florida State and Hans Louis from Marshall.
11:35 a.m.: Another surprise -- after his high school coach, Joe Kinnan, said he was headed to Western Kentucky, Bradenton Manatee quarterback Brion Carnes has signed with Nebraska. Carnes made headlines Friday when USF pulled its scholarship offer as Carnes made a weekend visit to WKU.
11:27 a.m.: Lake City Columbia's talented tandem of running back Tiger Powell and receiver Jamaal Montague are the ninth and 10th players to sign with USF. Neither has qualified academically yet, but former USF running back Quinton Callum, an assistant at Columbia, believes both can get the necessary test scores and grade-point average to be at USF this fall. Montague is a little closer, of the two.
11:25 a.m.: I'm headed out in the next half-hour to talk to Terrence Mitchell, but first, I want to share a link to today's feature story on Bulls basketball phenom Dominique Jones. We've got two charts in the paper today -- one shows that Jones' Big East scoring average of 26.8 points per game is within one point of the Big East record se by Notre Dame's Troy Bell in 2002. The other shows that Jones led the entire nation in scoring in the month of January, averaging 29.5 points per game. And yes, that's me in the background of the main Jones pic.
11:10 a.m.: We're trying to get as many signing-day pictures as we can today, and the first has come in from the kind folks at DeSoto County High School in Arcadia, where running back Marcus Shaw signed with the Bulls this morning.
11 a.m.: So much for Jose Jose and his USF cap. Miami Central coach Telley Lockett says Jose has signed with Central Florida after all. Asked about him wearing a South Florida cap just an hour earlier: "I have no idea," Lockett said. Should get Jose on the phone in a few minutes.
I took a few minutes and transcribed five minutes of Skip Holtz's initial comments on the first six signees. You can read his comments here, including him saying that Tony Kibler is "shaped like a refrigerator."
10:58 a.m.: Scout.com's national rankings are much more updated, with the correct 20 players listed for USF -- they have the Bulls ranked No. 47 nationally, one spot behind Cincinnati for fifth place in Big East. Louisville is 43rd, and that's including guard Torrian Wilson of Miami, who bolted for UCF today, so Cardinals may drop a few spots.
10:56 a.m.: DeLand safety Mark Joyce is officially the eighth player to sign with USF today.
10:55 a.m.: The national rankings still need a lot of tweaking, but Rivals.com has USF way down in 74th place nationally, which would be second-lowest in the Big East. Of course, they still have Justin Green in there, and they're missing Chandler, Louis, Welch and Montague, which will bump the class up a bunch.
10:52 a.m.: That was fast. As we said a few minutes back, Mike Hayes is now official as the seventh player to sign with USF today.
10:50 a.m.: If you had any lingering hopes, the Omaha World-Herald reports that Fort Scott star Lavonte David has signed with Nebraska as expected.
10:45 a.m.: Safety Reshard Cliett will sign with USF at around 11:30 this morning, according to Thomas County Central coach Bill Shaver. By my count, USF will sign a class of 20 players today, barring complications, including the four kids who enrolled last month.
10:35 a.m.: Running back Mike Hayes from Blinn College in Texas says he's faxing in his letter of intent to USF at this very minute.
9:50 a.m.: Momentum has shifted in the Jose Jose sweepstakes -- Miami Central coach Telley Lockett just told me that Jose is "walking around with a South Florida hat on." Hard to imagine him doing that and signing elsewhere, but things are looking good for USF in that department ...
9:40 a.m.: The Miami Herald is tweeting live from Todd Chandler's press conference and they confirm that he has indeed chosen USF over Louisville and others.
Looks like Lake City Columbia will have its signing day ceremony between 10:30 and 11, so we should get official word on running back Tiger Powell and receiver Jamaal Montague then. Vigor High in Mobile, Ala., has theirs at noon, and coach Kerry Stevenson there confirms that big tackle Quinterrius Eatmon will be signing with USF as well.
9:30 a.m.: Might be a while for some of these signings to become official. Williston receiver Deonte Welch, for instance, has his ceremony scheduled for 10:45 a.m., but he's coming to USF. I'll be headed over to Hillsborough cornerback Terrence Mitchell's news confer ence at 12:30 ...
9:15 a.m.: Looks like one commitment might get away from the Bulls -- Central Florida signee Blake Bortles has told the Orlando Sentinel he expects Miami offensive lineman Jose Jose to sign with the Knights. Jose made a visit there this past weekend, but was said to be favoring the Bulls.
Just got Miami Central coach Telley Lockett on the phone, and he hasn't seen Jose today -- expects him in for signing day ceremony in about 20 minutes ...
9:10 a.m.: USFnation.com is reporting that Miami Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler will indeed sign with the Bulls. The former Miami commitment had switched his commitment to USF, but then this week was also strongly considering Louisville. It's a big get at a key position for the Bulls -- another piece of good news coming in early. Working on confirmation, but we'd heard this was going to be the case.
9:05 a.m.: First big news of the day, as Skip Holtz announces that Hollywood Chaminade linebacker Hans Louis, a Marshall commitment, has flipped at the last minute and signed with the Bulls.
The Bulls didn't get the potential big switch of the day, as the Gainesville Sun reports that Atlanta linebacker Michael Taylor has honored his commitment to the Gators and signed with Florida. His high school coach had said Tuesday that USF was in the picture for the four-star linebacker.
A few others making it official -- New Jersey tackle Jake Kaufman and Arcadia running back Marcus Shaw. That's six signings by my count.
9 a.m.: Mentioned this was likely Tuesday night, but Frostproof coach Brad Metheny confirms this morning that cornerback Nickell Robey has signed with Southern Cal after visiting USF last week.
8:45 a.m.: The fax machine in USF's football office is getting a workout Wednesday morning, as Belle Glade offensive lineman Tony Kibler and LaGrange (Ga.) quarterback Jamius "Jay" Gunsby have made it official with the Bulls.
One fun aspect about this year's signing day is that new coach Skip Holtz is sending out a post on Twitter.com with each new signing -- he's already called Kibler "big, mean, aggressive." Gunsby looks to be USF's only quarterback signing today, barring major surprises, and could wind up as B.J. Daniels' top backup this fall if rising sophomore Evan Landi moves full-time to receiver.
8:20 a.m.: The honor of the first fax in goes to Ocala Forest punter Chris Veron, who might have as much chance to land a starting job as any incoming freshman, with senior Delbert Alvarado graduating. Veron can also kick field goals, but his first job will be challenging sophomore Justin Brockhaus-Kann for the starting punting job.
"It feels good. I've been waiting since July," said Veron, who was worried last month that he might lose his scholarship in the transition after Jim Leavitt's firing.
Veron (pronounced ver-RONE) was in class when his high school coach called him with the news about Leavitt. "My heart paused. I was really nervous," said Veron, who was at ease after his official visit, when his family could sit down with Skip Holtz and know that he was still wanted in Tampa.
Veron said he's kicking three or four times a week in the off-season, focusing on punting some days, kicking on others.
Obscure fact: Veron's father, Hector, played soccer in his native Argentina -- both of his parents were born there, as was his older sister. Chris was born in Fort Lauderdale, and the family moved to Ocala six years ago. "I'm following in my father's footsteps, just with a different football," Veron said.