Walk-on Okolie latest to earn scholarship
Sophomore walk-on Quincy Okolie has yet to play a down of defense for USF, but coach Jim Leavitt has seen enough in two seasons that the 6-foot-6, 245-pound defensive end will be on scholarship starting this fall. He's the sixth walk-on on the current roster that Leavitt has placed on scholarship.
Okolie -- not "oakley" but "oh-KOH-lee" -- saw limited action last season as a tight end, catching a 19-yard pass in USF's loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl. He made a cameo appearance on the final day of spring football at defensive end, and showed enough that he's now in the defensive plans for 2008. Leavitt is including Okolie in his current top five defensive ends -- with returning starters George Selvie and Jarriett Buie, and junior college standouts David Bedford and Craig Marshall.
Okolie has always been one of the team's most intriguing walk-ons -- a receiver from Palm Beach Central, where he was spotted when USF got Shane McElwain (who is back, yet again, at defensive end) in 2005. Okolie caught maybe 10 passes in his only season of high school football, but his lanky frame -- Leavitt puts his wingspan at about 7 feet -- and athleticism were what the Bulls liked.
He joins a solid list of former walk-ons who earned scholarships on the '08 Bulls: running back Ben Williams, receiver Colby Erskin, tackle Jake Sims, long snapper Eric Setser and kicker Justin Teachey.
-- A few interesting notes from Monday night's "Around the Horns" gathering at Tampa Palms, which saw a packed room to hear Doug Woolard, Jim Leavitt and other coaches. USF hasn't shared any information on football season ticket sales yet, so I was surprised to hear Woolard reveal that almost 5,000 new season tickets have been sold, and the renewal rate from last year's season tickets is around 90 percent. Woolard also pointed to the remarkable growth of the "Iron Bulls" donors, who give at least $10,000 annually to USF athletics. Woolard said just two and a half years ago, there were three such donors for USF, but that number has now jumped to 94.
-- Woolard noted that in this year's Sears Cup all-sport standings, USF finished 99th nationally, which is certainly better than last year's 133rd-place showing. The Bulls have actually finished better five times in the last 10 years, with a best showing of 59th in 2000-01. Being No. 99 puts USF sixth among the Big East's eight football schools -- it's West Virginia 30, Louisville 32, Connecticut 49, Pittsburgh 85, Syracuse 87, USF 99, Rutgers 126 and Cincinnati 164. Of the other eight schools, Notre Dame is 21st, Georgetown 77th, with six other programs lower than USF, putting the Bulls seventh out of 16 conference schools. In the state? Florida's sixth, FSU 15th, Miami 46th, then USF, then Central Florida (113), Florida International (185) and Florida Atlantic (222) among the schools with I-A football programs.