No MSG: Bulls out of tourney hunt
It's official: USF won't be among the 12 Big East teams headed to New York for this year's conference tournament. Connecticut's win Wednesday against Rutgers means the Bulls can finish no higher than 13th, even if they win their final three games. Not a huge surprise for a team picked to finish last in the preseason by league coaches, but Madison Square Garden has been a major motivation for the Bulls in the last two months.
Lots of little bits of news today, as I was able to catch up with Jim Leavitt and get a few updates with spring football now one month away. Here you go ...
-- Leavitt has completed his coaching staff, naming former walk-on lineman Mike Lube as offensive graduate assistant. Lube, a Palm Harbor University grad, played in 2003-04 and has been a student assistant the last two years, working extensively with the offensive line. He'll work primarily with first-year offensive line coach Mike Simmonds and first-year tight ends coach Larry Scott.
-- Former USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales, who has returned to Leavitt's staff as receivers coach, will have the additional title of passing game coordinator, where he'll have input for first-year offensive coordinator Greg Gregory. Canales is now in Tampa and was in meetings Wednesday with USF's offensive coaches. The defensive coaches are on vacation this week ...
-- Leavitt continues to push for a central athletic dining hall, calling it his "No. 1 priority" of this off-season. The multi-story facility would cost about $4-million, and the current site of choice would be on the east side of the Sun Dome, across the street from USF's baseball stadium. Leavitt said he'd be disappointed if USF hadn't broken ground on a facility by fall. The Bulls are still working to raise the rest of the $6-million or so needed for a new softball stadium and a practice field complex for the football team.
-- Strength and conditioning coach Ronnie McKeefery has lost his top two assistants, with Travis Larimore leaving the profession and Andrew Faber taking a job at The Citadel. The Bulls have had a fair amount of turnover on the strength and conditioning side, but McKeefery will promote graduate assistant Aaron Quarberg to a full-time position and will fill the other vacancy in a month or so.
-- Leavitt said three players -- running back Mo Plancher (knee), offensive lineman Danny Tolley (groin) and linebacker Sabbath Joseph (leg) will be limited in spring drills, and while he expects quarterback Matt Grothe to be fully recovered from the hairline fracture of his lower leg, he said he'll likely keep Grothe out of contact for spring drills to guard against another injury.
-- Nobody has any names for me, but about six walk-ons were chosen from the first two spring tryouts and are now in winter conditioning with the team, though none are even assured of a spot on the spring roster. The Bulls will have one more round of tryouts on Thursday. I've confirmed at least one high school senior enrolling at USF in the fall with the intention of walking on to the football team: Palm Bay Bayside linebacker Justin Thompson, who had a team-best 137 tackles as a senior. Thompson's a bit undersized at 5-10, 190 or so, but has solid grades with a 3.94 unweighted GPA and is excited about competing for a roster spot in the fall.
-- It's worth noting that USF sophomore infielder Addison Maruszak has already been hit by pitches seven times in seven games this season, and that doesn't include the two times he was plunked but called back because the umpire said he made no effort to avoid the pitch. Maruszak led the Bulls with nine HBPs in 56 games last year, and with seven in seven, he's clearly on pace to challenge Bryan Hierlmeier's school record of 22, set in 2005.
-- If you check out this week's Sporting News (with Barry Zito on the cover), you'll see USF running back Mike Ford listed as the top recruit in the Big East, with USF tagged as the league's "overachievers" in recruiting.
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