Media day: Get on the bus!
I didn't fully appreciate how quickly Bulls coach Jim Leavitt wanted Tuesday's annual Media Hour -- sorry, Media Day -- event to end until the Offense bus started leaving Raymond James Stadium with me still on it.
Hours earlier, the usual formal team photo in the stands at Ray-Jay had been called off, with too many freshmen tied up with summer classes. Rather than take an incomplete team photo, the Bulls will wait and do it at full strength at a later date. Media day, as the name would suggest, is the year's best access to interview players, a free-for-all that's the journalistic equivalent of speed-dating (I've been married too long to have actually speed-dated) -- reporters going from one athlete to the next. It wrapped up about a half-hour earlier than expected -- I had walked out of a crowded locker room with receiver Amp Hill, and we came back to find the locker room empty (poof!) and buses loading outside.
I caught Leavitt getting onto one bus, talked to him for about two minutes before he had to run, then stepped onto the Offense bus, hoping to get running backs coach Carl Franks for a sec. Franks was busy on the phone -- I'd catch up to him back at the athletic facility, no real problem -- and as I turned to get off the bus, it started to leave. Oh, well.
For all that complaining, I was able to talk to a lot of players. Yes, that's me, hard at work interviewing the newest Bull -- and perhaps the only real news of the day. He's Fred Marshall, once a good enough quarterback at Largo to earn first-team All-Suncoast honors from the Times in 2003. Thanks to USF's official site, gousfbulls.com, for the photo I've shamelessly lifted.
Marshall is a safety now, though he played quarterback last season at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. He told me he literally got the official call from Leavitt on Sunday at 1 p.m., hours before players were to report. Until that point, he was hopeful of USF but thinking he might wind up at Northern Iowa.
Marshall might be the biggest get of the current walk-on class. When the Times did its Best of the Bay, ranking the top 25 athletes in our readership for the Class of 2004, Marshall was No. 9. Consider the current Bulls on the list -- Ricky Ponton was No. 7, Jake Griffin No. 6, Jarriett Buie No. 2 (and technically, Johnny Peyton was No. 4). Matt Huners checked in at No. 24. Bill Buchalter of the Orlando Sentinel had Marshall among the state's top 100 prospects.
He was recruited by USF, Cincinnati and even West Virginia, but grades kept him from signing. He played outside linebacker at Southwest Mississippi Community College for a year, then to Fort Scott. He got home for the summer and wanted to stay close to home, calling USF and asking if they had a spot for him. It wasn't until Sunday -- presumably that's when former Leto star J.B. Bailey decided he still wanted to be a quarterback somewhere else -- that he was officially on board with the Bulls.
One note from Tuesday's morning practice, as the only writer of any medium there to watch: Leavitt says he'll wait until the end of two-a-days to decide whether to redshirt senior tackle Thed Watson. I'm not suggesting there's such a thing as a doghouse, but if there was, Watson might be there. Early in Tuesday's workouts, Watson -- a preseason All-Big East selection -- was working as part of an offensive line that also included a true freshman and three first-year walk-ons. Nothing against the rest of the line, but it's four guys who had been through exactly one USF practice ... and Thed. So far, I'm seeing Jared Carnes, Danny Tolley and Marc Dile all working as first-team tackles, with Tolley lining up on both sides. Watson has three weeks to move back up the depth chart ...
Lots of other little nuggets, only some of which I remember at this hour. Defensive back Jamaal Jenkins, a walk-on who made an impact on special teams last year, is now on scholarship for the fall. I count six walk-ons that have earned scholarships in the past year, a crazy amount for an established program, and it speaks to both the quality of the walk-ons at USF and the number of scholarship kids that aren't sticking around to keep their rides, whatever the reason may be. Jenkins and his brother, freshman running back Aston Samuels, are both well-spoken kids, and along with the Cox twins, Antwane and Antonio, could be the first pair of brothers to play for USF in the same season. (I've asked all the proper authorities, and none know of a previous set of siblings).
Here's one you probably didn't know: freshman Moise Plancher -- first of all, he pronounces it "Moses" and says if you're going to call him "Moe" spell it just as "Mo," so like Vaughn, not the Stooge -- anyway, you might have known Plancher had a cousin commit to Central Florida for next season. What you probably didn't know is that he has an older brother, Willy, who will play this fall for Bemidji State, a Division II school in Minnesota. Stranger still, he got to Bemidji after playing at Fort Scott. Small world ... Plancher is one of at least five USF players who can speak Haitian Creole, along with both Julmistes, Marc Dile and Richard Clebert. Both of Plancher's parents were born in Haiti, but he was born in Naples after they came to the United States.
One last Mo note, and then I'm off to bed: I'm impressed that in one game as a high school senior at Barron Collier in Naples, Plancher rushed for 362 yards, setting a county record. What's nearly impossible to comprehend is that he did so while scoring only one touchdown in a 35-0 win against Gulf Coast. He rushed for 3,115 yards in his last two seasons ...
OK, feel free to send in rude captions about the photo, but you can do better than bald jokes, really ...