Leavitt showing confidence with offers
We told you earlier this week how St. Petersburg Northeast linebacker Armando Sanchez got -- and accepted -- his first BCS-conference scholarship offer from USF. Sanchez had only one year as a starter at Northeast, and with no other BCS offers, it was an impressive showing by Leavitt to reach out early and essentially commit to an athlete so an athlete could commit to him.
That's even more the case with USF's most recent commitment, Wharton tight end Andreas Shields. I talked with Shields on Friday night, and he has solid size at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, and enough athleticism to play basketball for Wharton's state-ranked squad. But as experience goes, he's barely played varsity football. He moved to Tampa from Hawaii (his father is retired Army) just before his sophomore year, played JV at Wharton, playing sparingly on varsity in the final four games of the season. Right before the first game of his junior year, he dislocated a kneecap, an injury that didn't require surgery but kept him sidelined the entire season.
USF's coaches saw him at last year's spring football game (where he caught a touchdown) and watched him again at practice this week before making the offer. Shields has no other offers from any colleges, so he's an example of USF trusting its instincts and not waiting until a recruit has a stack of offers to jump on board. Shields said he's been a USF fan since he moved to Tampa and it's been the school he wanted to play for, so when he got the offer Wednesday, he had made his decision. He's only 17, so he's still growing, and obviously will have a chance to put on more weight in the 16 months between now and when he starts his first two-a-days.
BASKETBALL UPDATE: Another candidate for Stan Heath's staff is opting to stay with his current employer, as Chris Cheeks, an assistant under Bobby Lutz at Charlotte and a solid recruiter, sent Lutz a text-message Friday night saying he'd taken his name out of consideration for the USF job, according to the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter.
I did have the chance to talk Friday with Reggie Hanson, the former Kentucky player and assistant who has accepted Heath's offer to join his staff. Hanson is a 6-foot-7 former center who was Kentucky's team MVP in 1990 and 1991, a coach who has spent the past six seasons as an assistant under Tubby Smith.
Hanson said he worked primarily with frontcourt players at Kentucky and expected to do the same at USF, where he'll be able to develop center Kentrell Gransberry. Hanson had great range for his size, noting that even though he was a center his last two years at Kentucky, he took as many threes as anyone on the team. Hanson said he has experience recruiting in the state of Florida, going after big names such as Rashad Anderson (UConn), Darius Washington (Memphis) and Taurean Green (Florida). He didn't get any of those guys, of course, but has connections with some of the state's top programs that will help him as a recruiter under Heath.
One name I'll drop in the recruiting game -- and this is largely a long shot for the Bulls -- is Michael Sanchez, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound center prospect from Springdale, Arkansas. A month ago, he had decided to go to prep school, but has changed his mind and is one of the nation's top available recruits. He has a strong final four -- just visited Wake Forest, with Kentucky working on him and Arkansas and Colorado under consideration. But his coach at Springdale's Har-ber High, Eric Burnett, said Heath has spoken with Sanchez's parents since taking the USF job. He said Heath has a relationship with Sanchez from his time at Arkansas and said he thought USF would be a school Sanchez would consider, but not enough to put in that top four right now.
One final note on USF's softball team: top-seeded DePaul falling to Notre Dame in the Big East semifinals puts a serious hit on the Bulls' chances of making the NCAA field. Coach Ken Eriksen had told his players they were on the outside looking in going into the Big East tournament, and that now looks like more than just motivation. The Big East was thought to be a one-bid league in some projections, and DePaul will take an at-large berth now, but even if Louisville wins in Saturday's final, the Bulls would need a break to get in as a third Big East team.