Roster fun: More comings and goings
I'm always excited to get USF's fall roster, because it's like getting four months' worth of transactions in one day, always a surprise addition or subtraction or three. Here's the gist of what's new and gone for Bulls football:
-- USF landed a solid transfer in former Kansas State center Ryan Schmidt. Missed all of last year with a broken ankle, redshirted in 2004, but had been penciled in as the Wildcats' starting center, opting to transfer because he didn't mesh as well with a new head coach and position coach. His Boca Raton High coach told me his athleticism is unparalleled for a 300-pounder -- former basketball player, gifted enough to play any line position. He visited USF's campus Monday and told me the Bulls like him at center or guard. Thing is, he can't help the Bulls this fall ...
-- Which is unfortunate, because Tallahassee's Kevin McCaskill is one of five more signees who won't make it to USF this fall. McCaskill had a chance to compete with Nick Capogna and Jake Griffin for the starter's job, but he -- along with Jeremiah Warren, Joe Jackson and Jerrell Young -- failed to qualify academically. That's eight members of the February class that didn't make it, plus Frank Harry, who didn't make it a week into spring practice.
-- Speaking of not lasting long, Dixie Hollins offensive lineman James Boger quit after just two days of conditioning. Dixie is Jim Leavitt's alma mater, a pipeline for USF with the likes of Marquel Blackwell and Andre Hall. Boger just decided he didn't want to play college football, so he's off to firefighting school, according to Dixie coach Mike Morey. "It's a shame," said Morey, baffled at the decision from a player who never missed a day of practice at Dixie.
-- All these recruits missing the cut only hurt the Bulls so much. Nearly all would have redshirted, and many will spend this fall improving ACT scores so they can enroll in January, an early start on next year's recruiting class. Joe Jackson is heading to Butler Community College in Kansas, but McCaskill, Warren and Young plan on being at USF this spring. Being in the same class could help USF's chances at landing McCaskill's brother, Keith, a strong recruit. I count USF at 23 scholarships, and I wouldn't be surprised if walk-on running back Walt Smith gets one, with another kept in pocket for a midyear addition.
-- Walk-ons! Some great stories in a few new faces on the roster. Most intriguing? That has to be J.B. Bailey, a former Leto standout who last played in 2003 as a freshman at Tennessee Tech, starting five games at quarterback. He redshirted in 2004, was out of football in 2005, taking classes at Hillsborough Community College. So this spring, he enrolls at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi, where they think he might be their starting quarterback. Even Monday, when I called Itawamba, the head coach thought Bailey would be there; the kid hadn't told his coach. He hasn't gotten into USF and needs to finish two summer classes to get his associate's degree, but he'll be a defensive back for the first time since high school, easily the most well-traveled of this year's new walk-ons.
-- More walk-ons! All spring, Leavitt was making reference to a preferred walk-on who would be a contender for long-snapping duties this fall, careful not to leak the name at the risk that another program might offer him a scholarship. That snapper is Luke Birge, who played tight end at Sebring High and is already taking classes and working out with returning starter Ryan Bordeau this summer. It's Bordeau's job to lose, but Birge could be his successor. What got him to USF? His offensive coordinator his junior year was former USF lineman Larry Scott, who's now a graduate assistant and sold him on walking on. He drew interest from Southern Miss and was smart enough to have Columbia sending him letters. Walk-on Eric Setser and tight end Ben Busbee are other potential snappers for the Bulls.
-- Other odd notes: As you first read here, Bradenton Southeast's A.J. Love is on the roster (though he hasn't gotten into USF yet) but he's listed as a defensive back. One two-sport athlete to watch is Miami Palmetto's David Cozzo, who played quarterback and centerfield in high school but will be a speedy receiver for the Bulls. One year after the Bulls took a flyer on former hockey prospect Shane McElwain from Palm Beach Central, they've got a walk-on tight end from the same school: 6-foot-6, 220-pound Quincy Okolie, who played only one year of varsity football and caught only about 10 passes at that. "He's a project guy," the PBC coach tells me, noting that walk-ons are supposed to be just like that.
-- Two more returning scholarship players have left, though neither was expected to play any significant role: offensive tackle Jerome Springfield and defensive tackle Paul Uhatafe. Oh, and cornerback A.J. Brant, who missed last season with a knee injury and said in April he was transferring, has landed back in his hometown at Bethune-Cookman. With Brant, Ronnie McCullough and Josh Balloon, you could have three Bulls starting on the Wildcats' defense this fall, with Ramon McCullough there as well.
-- Five of USF's 10 lost recruits were defensive linemen, so there's some positional adjustments -- McElwain, once a tight end, is now a defensive end, where he'd worked a bit this spring, and so is walk-on linebacker Treco Bellamy, pushed aside by transfer Marvin Peoples and late addition Brandon Peguese. Carlton Hill is officially a wide receiver, Grant Gregory is now back at quarterback.
-- So it's good to be back from vacation. I'll have more roster fun Tuesday -- I'll challenge my loyal posters to guess (without looking at rosters published online) the names of the four Bulls whose listed weights went up by 20 or more pounds from last year's roster. Better still, five USF players managed to shrink, dropping an inch off their heights from last fall. Get those guesses and lingering questions for me in the comments ...