Receiver Murdock says he's headed to USF
Nothing against Zach Hobby the other day, but here's a potentially big transfer in the works: former Middleton receiver O.J. Murdock, ranked among the nation's top 100 recruits by Rivals.com two years ago, said Monday he's transferring to USF after barely playing in two seasons at South Carolina.
Murdock, 5-11 and 187 pounds, has sprinter-class speed, enough that Rivals had him as the nation's No. 10 receiver prospect after his senior year at Middleton, where he caught 57 passes for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns. His numbers at South Carolina? Not so good: one redshirt season, then one catch for 8 yards last season.
USF has not gotten a release from South Carolina, so coaches technically can't have even talked to Murdock, but Steve Spurrier told a Greenville, S.C., paper last week that Murdock was probably headed to USF, something that was confirmed Monday by his coach at Middleton, Harry Hubbard, and his brother, Middleton senior Sherod Murdock, who signed with Pittsburgh last week. I finally got O.J. on the phone at about 8:30 on Monday night, and he said he's made up his mind to come to USF this summer.
"I want to be closer to home," he said. "My family needs me, and this is a better fit for me."
Murdock said Jim Leavitt told him two years ago there would always be a scholarship for him at USF if he ever changed his mind. So this is a little like depositing a two-year-old check at the bank, but Hubbard said Murdock's talented enough that he has no doubt USF would take him, given the chance. USF can't really talk about him, so there will be some uncertainty until he's actually on campus. He could be like Amp Hill and arrive as expected, or he could ultimately be like Pat Carter and show up somewhere else.
Just like there's no such thing as a free lunch, there really aren't transfers that don't come with some kind of baggage. Some you can carry-on, others need to be checked, maybe even with one of those surcharges. (This is called hyperextending the airline metaphor). Anyway, Murdock got arrested in Tampa in October (during a Gamecocks bye week) on a felony charge of grand theft -- all it takes to make it a felony is $300 or more in stolen property, and Murdock was accused by police of shoplifting about $420 in clothes from a store in University Square Mall. It appears to be his only arrest, and he said the charges will be resolved this summer before he gets to USF.
Murdock would have to sit out the 2007 season, then would have two years of eligibility with the Bulls. I think the Amp Hill comparison would be an appropriate one, except that Hill's struggles at LSU were largely injury-related, while some of Murdock's problems were more self-inflicted. His speed is a great skill, and he'll have a year to work with USF's receivers and hone the rest of his skills for next season.
Now if you're counting at home, this puts USF at 29 kids -- the 26 announced signees, plus Carlton Hill and Tyrone McKenzie, plus now Murdock. McKenzie is a walk-on right now, but my understanding is he goes on scholarship this fall if he gets his hardship waiver. We know that Mike McGowan is a greyshirt who won't arrive until January, so that puts USF three over the limit of 25 initial scholarships, meaning it's safe to say at least three won't qualify academically. I know Pearl River in Mississippi is holding a spot for one USF signee, but since the kid is still optimistic about getting the test scores he needs to go directly to the Bulls, I'm not going to stigmatize him by outing him here. Just making sure people understand that not everybody's going to be there in the fall ...
Oh, and congrats to USF's Jessica Dickson and Matt Grothe, who will be honored by the Tampa Sports Club at its annual awards banquet on Friday. Grothe lost the club's Male Athlete of the Year to Plant and Miami's Robert Marve, but he'll get an award of his own -- Dickson can't attend because of Saturday's (huge) game at West Virginia, but she's the Female Athlete of the Year. Florida AD Jeremy Foley, juggler of national championships, gets honored as "Florida Personality of the Year."