Notes: Super Bowl ties, old familiar USF names
Hard to imagine a cooler postseason finish than Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, who picked off perhaps Brett Favre's final NFL pass to seal a trip to the Super Bowl, then clinched a win there with a pick-six off Peyton Manning in the closing minutes of Sunday's game.
Porter's position coach his first two years at Indiana? Former USF coach Troy Douglas, who had three draft picks in 2008 with Porter and USF's Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Douglas left USF after the 2007 season and has spent the last two years as defensive backs coach at North Carolina. He has two solid draft picks for 2011 there in cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Deunta Williams, who will be seniors this fall.
-- The more obvious Super Bowl tie for USF was Colts kickoff returner Chad Simpson, who played for the Bulls in 2005, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in the Bulls' big win against Louisville in their first-ever Big East game. Simpson was on the field when the Saints converted an onsides kick to open the second half, but was on the other side of the field, unable to get to the ball. "They caught us with our pants down," Simpson told the Wall Street Journal. Simpson averaged 22 yards on five returns, but also took a kickoff out of the end zone and only made it to the 11-yard line on a drive where the Colts missed a 51-yard field goal.
-- We've written a lot about Miami's Edison High, where Simpson and four other Bulls attended in the early '00s (think that's the first time I've written it that way). Edison is in Little Haiti, and there's a good story from Foxsports.com's Alex Marvez on the Colts' Pierre Garcon and his impact on that community.
-- Doug Graber, the veteran coach who has worked many USF football games as an analyst, has retired from coaching after working as defensive coordinator at Ball State. Seemed like a potential match for former USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, who spent three seasons in the MAC, first at Akron (2002-03) then at Central Michigan (2006), but Ball State also has a good candidate in house in defensive ends coach Jay Hood.
-- USF assistant Larry Scott -- we should find out in next few days whether he'll coach offensive line or tight ends for the Bulls this fall -- has been named one of the Big East's top 10 recruiters by Rivals.com. USF didn't have any coaches make Rivals.com's national top 25 recruiters list, which included two FSU assistants and one from Florida and Central Florida.
-- We wrote Monday about USF getting six players invited to the NFL Combine -- interesting to note that in the past three offseasons, the Bulls have had more players invited to Indianapolis (10) than any other Big East program. Rutgers and Connecticut are next with nine each, then Cincinnati, Louisville and Pittsburgh with eight each. Syracuse is the only outlier of the group with five invites. Within that context, the talent level in the conference has been impressively balanced, with seven teams within two NFL-caliber prospects of each other in a three-year span.
If you go back to the 2006 combine, including all five seasons USF has been in the Big East, the league leader is Louisville with 17 invites, then four schools (Pitt, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse) with 12 each. West Virginia has 11, Connecticut 10 and impressively, Cincinnati has had just eight, with five of those coming last spring.
-- Back to the Where Are They Now Dept.: Remember Alwan Lee? The Miami Washington quarterback signed with USF in 2006 but didn't qualify academically. I'd lost track of him since he was injured at Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi in 2007 -- bounced from there to Yuba College in Marysville, Calif., and was the starting quarterback this past fall at St. Paul's, a Division II school in Virginia. Not great numbers -- four touchdowns, 13 interceptions on the season -- but interesting to see he's still playing.
-- Another one I completely missed was St. Petersburg linebacker Robert Spann, who committed to USF in 2006 but didn't qualify. He shined in junior college at Nor theast Oklahoma A&M, ranking ninth in the nation with 112 tackles, then played this past season at Southern Illinois, which went 11-2 and finished No. 6 in Division I-AA. Spann had 24 tackles in his first season with the Salukis and should be a starter as a senior this fall.