Hope personified: Meet the new USF walk-ons
Walk-ons have played a key role in USF's football program throughout its history, so it's always interesting to get the names for a new crop of walk-ons joining the Bulls each spring, even if only a handful will make it to August and the actual fall roster.
Most of the walk-on success stories are "preferred walk-ons," or kids who didn't come in on scholarship, but at least were assured of a roster spot as they started their USF careers. Those guys have it easy compared to spring additions like the 20 players who joined the Bulls last week, having survived from an initial group of 80 that were whittled down through physical tests, academic background checks and a month of winter conditioning, which is often the biggest hurdle to clear before a walk-on gets so much as his first actual practice.
All we have for the new crop is a list of names, but after some extensive Googling, we can share some of the backstories and find that many showed up on the recruiting radar at one point or another before taking the harder path to college football glory. Some notes ...
-- Several have been with the team in spring drills before, like receiver Clinton Jones, defensive back Zach Fisher and long-snapper A.J. Ryan, who I think went by "Archibald Ryan" last spring. Jones, if you remember, has quite a Youtube highlight reel, with eight touchdowns as a high school senior at Pompano Beach Ely. With USF's depth at receiver, he wasn't able to make the fall roster last year, but he's back for another shot. Kicker Ian Kitchell, who got a lot of press last spring but didn't make the fall roser, is also back.
-- There are two new running backs -- Jean Georges of North Miami has the build of a Mo Plancher type at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, while Kyle Peck of Lakeland George Jenkins is smaller (Rivals had him at 5-7, 157 in 2010) but shows big-play ability in this Youtube highlight reel.
-- Lots of new defensive linemen, with two tackles and three ends. The tackles are Largo's Stefan Konjonavski and Gibbs' Javon Pringley, who the Times mentioned in 2010. End Brandon Roberson looks to be in amazing shape, and he's profilic on Twitter with more than 17,000 posts.
-- Most recognizable name is linebacker Derek Kobel, who I believe is the younger brother of former USF standout Craig Kobel, who had the school record for tackles for loss in a season (19) until George Selvie's All-American season in 2007. And I'm intrigued by linebacker Sadrick Vil, who is from Boca Raton and played fullback in junior college at El Camino College in California. You have to check out the video, if only for the old-school off-the-cue-card interview ("What is it like being a Warrior?") and agility footage.
-- Another one with a solid Youtube video is defensive back Tabarie Sullivan of Orlando Boone, who signed with tiny Henderson State in Arkansas in 2010, but doesn't look like he made it there.
-- Haven't gotten full confirmation yet, but the wild coincidence award goes to defensive back Tommy Hankerson, who best I can tell, was a walk-on in 2010 at Kansas State under current USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh. (I don't think he actually got to play there.) He's from Delray Beach Atlantic, so he should also be a former teammate of USF safety Jon Lejiste, as well as women's basketball players Sasha Bernard and Kaneisha Saunders.
-- USF's had good luck with kickers from Palmetto before, so keep an eye on Brandon Tarpley, who was said in this 2010 ESPN story to have "one of the five strongest legs in the nation." I love ridiculous superlatives like that, though it would be a shame to have two of the five strongest legs in the nation. Another new kicker is Lakewood's Max Thuriere -- I love that a kicker can have a 10-minute Youtube video, though you can tell pretty quick he too has a strong leg. He's the younger brother of USF soccer standout Sebastien Thuriere.
-- Couple names I haven't been able to link up to high schools or hometowns, but we'll have more on the rest of the group once we get more information on them. Again, only a handful of these might make the fall roster, but the odds are, someone here will make plays for USF football down the road. ...