Four-gone conclusions and more ...
I was off with the family at the beach when Friday's news broke that four scholarship football players wouldn't be back next season for various reasons. I'll get to that in a second, but first can report the real possibility of a fifth player joining that group -- receiver Amp Hill, whose Sharpiegate silliness put him firmly in Jim Leavitt's doghouse at the end of spring football. Asked about Hill's future with the team Monday, Leavitt said it was "up in the air" and declined to comment further. When I reached Hill at his Jacksonville home Tuesday, I got a curt "I don't feel like talking," then a hangup. I'm not saying anything's decided, but don't be surprised if he's played his last game with the Bulls. Now onto the other four departures, in descending order of impact:
Danny Verpaele: Even though he didn't start most of last season, even with sophmore Nate Allen getting rave reviews, this is a notable loss. Verpaele's goal-line hit of Steve Slaton was a huge play in USF's upset of West Virginia, and he started that game because of his speed. USF has depth at safety, with Carlton Williams the starter at strong safety and Louis Gachette behind him. My understanding is that Verpaele will remain on scholarship and can practice with the team this fall and return as a senior in '08.
Ricky Ponton: Was heralded as Andre Hall's heir a year ago and fumbled it away, becoming a non-factor. His six-game suspension hurt the Bulls last season, and coaches were more comfortable giving carries to a reliable walk-on in Ben Williams. This spring, he wasn't listed on the depth chart, with redshirt freshman Aston Samuels listed ahead. If you count Mike Ford ahead of him, that put him fourth at best, so it'd be entirely reasonable that he would have transferred away to find playing time even if he weren't ineligible at USF this fall. It's the third year in a row a running back has transferred out, following Billy Henderson and Chad Simpson.
LeBrandon Glover: USFnation.com's had good reporting on this, citing his grandmother's health problems and a desire to move closer to his home in Pensacola. Glover was participating in voluntary summer workouts Monday, but my understanding on that was that he didn't want to stop working with the team for fear that USF would pull his scholarship and not pay for summer classes he had started. USF has helped its linebacker situation in a big way by getting Tyrone McKenzie and Donte Spires, but with signee Calvin Sutton still in academic limbo, this is a position that will be a priority in USF's recruiting efforts.
Mike Benzer: Lost the kicking job in each of his two seasons, and found himself behind Delbert Alvarado entering the fall. USF says he'll stay in school but won't be part of the team, so it won't hurt the program's APR as much as if he'd transferred elsewhere. I'll remember how happy he was after hitting a field goal in the win against Central Florida, but he didn't have much else to smile about at USF.
I'll have more on the heavy turnover on the football roster in another post, but I'll invite you guys to guess how many players from last year's media guide have left the team (not counting the eight 2006 signees that never made it, or the tragic death of Keeley Dorsey) before their eligibility was up. It's an impressive number ...
-- Quick basketball note: Stan Heath seems to be focusing on two recruits for the last scholarship he'll use this spring, saving the other for next year's class. He had power forward Sean Carter of Fayetteville, N.C., in for an official visit on Monday or Tuesday, but I don't know that a scholarship offer has been made. Heath is in the hunt for former LSU forward Magnum Rolle, who told me Tuesday that USF is a "strong possibility" he's considering. He's talked with Heath as well as former teammate Kentrell Gransberry, who had a great season with the Bulls after making the same transfer from LSU. He's planning a visit to Wyoming and also likes Louisiana Tech, but said he'd like to visit USF before making a decision later this month.