So here's what Mike Ford had to say ...
The big question in USF recruiting in the next week will be whether Mike Ford, a five-star running back at Sarasota two years ago, will be able to enroll at USF for spring classes, giving the Bulls their most decorated recruit in a decade of football.
I had the chance to speak with Mike Ford and his mother, Dondra Walker, last week. This reinforced the main thrust of a Sarasota Herald-Tribune story that broke news of his interest in the Bulls: Ford plans on enrolling at USF when spring classes start next week.
Ford said his understanding is that he is now fully qualified academically and has been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He signed with Alabama in February 2005, but could not attend school because he did not have a qualifying score on entrance exams. He attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., that next year, but still had not posted a qualifying score. It was only this fall, while he was taking classes part-time at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi, that he was able to earn a qualifying score. He said his mother got a letter from the Clearinghouse saying he had been cleared. The football coach at Copiah-Lincoln, Glenn Davis, told me that Alabama coaches had told him the same thing last fall. Ford did not play at Copiah-Lincoln but kept in touch with coaches there, effectively redshirting so as not to use a year of eligibility.
Because he only attended classes part-time, he should not need to earn an associate of arts degree to be able to transfer to a four-year school. His five-year window of eligibility has started, but he should still have four years to play four years of football. The only question is whether USF is able to get his academic transcripts and put everything in order -- to get into school at USF, he'd have to be cleared by the clearinghouse. Classes start Monday at USF, but he would have a full week to get in and start classes.
Ford has been away from football for more than a year, but he said he's kept in shape -- he's up to 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and is excited about joining his first cousin, USF receiver Amarri Jackson. The two were teammates at Sarasota's Riverview High, with Jackson as quarterback and Ford at running back, playing together his sophomore year before Ford transferred to Sarasota High.
"I'm excited. I want to do big things at South Florida," he said.
And asked if the recent hiring of Nick Saban could spark an interest in Alabama, Ford said not at all. "I know where I want to go. The new coaching staff has never heard of me."
There you have it. I don't know that anyone's talked to Ford since this whole deal started, so while there's no revelations here, it corroborates a lot of what has already been out there. Nobody will know he's at USF for sure until he's been cleared and starts classes. Stay tuned, and come back for the commitment news late tonight. ...