Ten quick thoughts on USF's recruiting class
Busy day and a solid showing for Skip Holtz's first USF recruiting class, which Scout.com has ranked 49th nationally and a close fifth in the Big East. Given the abrupt coaching change and quick turnaround in the final month of recruiting, I'd think it will be received as a strong first class. I've got a slew of NASCAR interviews in Daytona at 8 a.m. Thursday, so here are 10 quick thoughts ...
1. When Skip Holtz was hired at East Carolina, he came in five weeks earlier than he did at USF, and he patched together a class that didn't have so much as a single three-star recruit and was ranked as low as 104th nationally. In five classes at ECU, he never landed a four-star recruit, or had a class rated higher than 70th. And while this can't be taken fully as "his" recruiting class, Holtz has never been armed with recruiting tools like the lure of a BCS program, a fertile local recruiting territory or a sell like he now has. He picked up two four-stars and plucked two others out of solid commitments in the final 48 hours.
2. Can he evaluate talent and find gems in those two-stars? One of those two-star signees in 2005 was receiver Aundrae Allison, later an NFL draft pick by the Vikings. Another was running back Dominique Lindsey, who rushed for 1,180 yards for Holtz this past season.
3. Tiger Powell's first name is Lavoris. Yes, like the antiseptic mouthwash. I think "Tiger" sounds good. And if quarterback Jamius Gunsby ever becomes a star at USF, I fully expect the students to make signs with another imposing green character that say things like "Gunsby, damnit!" ... And if you weren't sold on Gunsby's athleticism, offensive coordinator Todd Fitch claims he's averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds a game for his high school basketball team, which is 20-0 to open the season.
4. It was a close call, but I think Jose Jose -- perhaps on name alone -- edges Todd Chandler for strangest recruiting process of the season. Chandler committed to Miami and then USF -- while telling another outlet within an hour that he wasn't committed -- and then entertained Louisville, Syracuse, Florida State and South Carolina to varying degrees. But as you may have read this morning, Jose, committed to USF, was wearing a South Florida hat in the moments before his signing day ceremony, but wound up signing with Central Florida with four of his Miami Central teammates. Not since the Kirby Kirby Dar Dar Fan Fan Club Club have I seen people enjoy a name's simple redundancy.
5. Skip Holtz is good with a joke. "This one was 'Fire. Ready. Aim,'" he said of the three-week scramble leading up to today's signing. At the recruiting party at Stump's Supper Club, when he opened things up for questions from the crowd, linebacker Sabbath Joseph raised his hand and put him on the spot, asking how he felt about the players' continued hopes for wearing black jerseys. "Mr. Woolard said I should have brought that up during negotations before I signed my contract," Holtz deadpanned. In other words, the athletic director isn't a big fan of the black unis. Holtz promises more color combinations, however.
6. It's commendable that Holtz didn't poach so much as one recruit from the class he'd collected. Several players -- including former Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis, who's from Lakeland -- called to express interest in following Holtz to USF, and he politely declined. You can learn a lot about him from this quote:
"It was easy because it was the right decision," Holtz said. "East Carolina paid all of our recruiting expenses when we were at East Carolina, for us to develop a lot of these relationships with these young men. When you look at some of the (coaching) changes going on in recruiting, a lot of people just took the class with them or tried to take the class with them. I felt like those young men committed to East Carolina ... I in no way, shape or form want to harm East Carolina. ... I want to see those young men succeed in that program. A lot of them wanted to visit, wanted to come and look. Some of them ended up leaving there and going to Southeastern Conference schools, to ACC schools, and Big East schools. There were some very talented players that were very interested. I just felt it was the right thing to do, ethically. It made it harder here, but I feel good about the class we have."
7. Oddest recruiting twist might have been Mark Snyder trying for months to lure Hollywood linebacker Hans Louis to Marshall when he was head coach there. His successor, Doc Holliday, got a commitment from Louis, and then Snyder went to work trying to convince Louis to come to USF. "He recruited me a lot, but he didn't talk bad about Marshall at all," Louis said. "He told me he wanted me to play for him, but he wasn't going to say a bad word about Marshall." Louis, excited to be closer to home and at a school where he can study mechanical engineering, has both parents from Haiti. His relatives were spared in the tragic earthquake there, and he's excited by the number of players with Haitian roots at USF. "On my visit, they told me I had to join the tradition," he said.
8. To be fair, these are not particularly quick thoughts.
9. Considering he's taking over a team whose leading rusher has been a quarterback four years in a row, I think this Holtz quote stands out: "I don't want a quarterback that is going to be our leading ground gainer," he said. "I'm not looking for a quarterback to be our tailback. So much goes into the development of that position mentally, that you'd rather not have the wear and tear of having him being your leading ballcarrier during the course of the season. ... I think being a quarterback and being successful is more about making good decisions than it is just your physical attributes." Remember, too, that B.J. Daniels has said several times that he prefers throwing the ball to running with it.
10. Holtz honestly hasn't begun to evaluate the returning players, which makes it more impressive that he limited the scholarships he used on this class. It would be reasonable to presume, say, three or four kids will transfer out to smaller programs, and sign more kids now anticipating those scholarships will come available. Holtz doesn't know who he has, but he's giving the returning players a default value higher than the potential he could bring in with additional signings.
"You don't know what kind of attrition you're going to have," Holtz said. "You really have to be careful. Once you're here for a year, you have a better idea of where your team is and you can make an educated guess with that. Where we are right now, we didn't want to get into oversigning. ... Not the thing you want to do in your first year is go back and call a recruit and say 'I'm sorry. We oversigned.' That was not something we wanted to get into this year."