On the Rhode again ...
NEWPORT, R.I. -- I'm not saying Rhode Island is a small state, but the license plate of a State Trooper who passed me Sunday night was -- no kidding -- 52.
I'm in Rhode Island for the Big East's annual preseason football media gathering, a chance to talk with all eight head coaches and two or three key players from each team. The interviews are Tuesday morning, but Monday brings a golf scramble and clambake dinner, more opportunities to talk with other writers and coaches.
A year ago, USF was a Big East rookie, picked to finish seventh in the eight-team league. I'm curious to see where the Bulls get picked when the league preseason media poll is released on Tuesday -- my guess is fourth or fifth. It's hard to argue with the general consensus that West Virginia and Louisville are in one tier, with the rest of the league a good bit below them. What's good for USF is the Bulls don't have to face either of them until the last two weeks of the season.
By the way, next time you complain about paying $2.82 for unleaded around Tampa: best price I've seen here is $3.05.
-- I was over at USF's Sling and Shoot 7-on-7 competition for high school teams on Saturday morning -- an impressive collection of future Division I signees among the masses on the intramural fields behind USF's athletic facility.
For what it's worth, Jim Leavitt spent almost the entire time I was there -- only about two hours -- talking with folks from Ocala Trinity Catholic, which has Texas commitment John Brantley at quarterback and at least three more D-I recruits in its senior class. We've told you about receiver Dion LeCorn, who had quietly committed to USF briefly last fall before re-opening his recruiting process -- he still has the Bulls on his short list. Safety Antonio Allen and running back Rudell Small were also at Sling and Shoot ...
-- Got a chance to talk with new USF track coach Warren Bye, named this week as successor to Greg Thiel in charge of the Bulls' men's and women's track and cross-country teams. He's working on completing his staff, having to replace himself of course, as well as throws coach Dayana Octavien, the former Bulls standout who has stepped down to train in England for the 2008 Olympics. He said he's not going to stack his scholarships in one area but keep them spread around, taking a nod from former USF coach Bob Braman, who won a national title at Florida State with a balanced squad that got points from all over its squad.
-- Interesting column from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about USF not recruiting Sarasota Booker's Eniel Polynice, a 6-foot-5 point guard who wound up signing with Mississippi. With the recent knee injury to redshirt freshman Chris Howard, it'd seem like a mistake that the Bulls didn't go after Polynice. I know coach Robert McCullum initially wanted to sign a junior college point guard to back up Howard, and was hesitant to stack two point guards in the same class by adding a freshman. It's tough for two point guards to co-exist for four years, but he was willing to risk that with Arkansas standout Solomon Bozeman, who now will compete with senior walk-on Chris Capko for the starting nod in at least the first half of the season. As for Polynice, it now comes full circle -- he gets the scholarship at Mississippi made available when Bozeman backed out and decided to USF, so Bulls fans can watch the two and see how their careers compare.
-- Funny as a reporter when your stuff gets completely lifted into other "premium" services. Art Stein, writing a "Big East Roundup" for Rutgers site ScarletNation.com, borrows verbatim from recent Times stories, covering himself by writing that it's been "widely reported" that eight USF recruits didn't qualify academically and another two quit. Tell me, who else has reported that? Then he lifts a Ryan Schmidt quote directly from the Times. He attributes one fact to the Times for good measure, then credits a Matt Simms note from the "Tampa Herald Tribune". Nice work ... (Update: The ScarletNation.com folks pulled the roundup after being notified of Stein's work.)