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Strong finish gives USF men's golf Big East title

For the second year in a row, USF has taken home a Big East golf championship, with the Bulls' men's team coming through with a clutch finish to take the team title at Reunion in Kissimmee, following the women's team's championship last year.

USF freshman Chase Koepka finished second individually, one stroke behind Cincinnati's David Tepe for medalist honors. He shot a 3-under 69 on Tuesday, finishing a consistent tournament that saw him shoot 70s in the first two rounds. The Bulls found themselves in a tight pack on the back nine with four teams within three strokes of the lead, but played impeccably in the final nine holes, with four of the five golers playing bogey-free on the back nine, combining for 8-under golf to close out the win. USF finished with a four-stroke win over St. John's to earn the Big East's automatic bid to the NCAA regionals.

"These guys stepped up like I have never seen a team step up in my life," said third-year coach Chris Malloy. "It was not an easy stretch of holes, and they just made birdie after birdie and clutch par after clutch par." …

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Mendez among USF athletes at spring graduation

USF baseball outfielder Alex Mendez, a national finalist for the prestigious CLASS Award, will graduate this weekend with magna cum laude degrees in both biomedical sciences and management, leading an impressive list of athletes among USF's spring graduates.

Joining Mendez from USF's baseball team are outfielder Anthony Diaz -- graduating summa cum laude in finance -- and reliever Steven Leisure, graduating in marketing. Other graduates across USF's athletic department:

-- Football has a pair of former players earning their second bachelor's degrees, with tight end Evan Landi adding a cum laude degree in criminology to his Dec. 2011 communications degree, and safety Jon Lejiste adding a philosophy degree to his December degree in criminology. With cornerback Kayvon Webster (health sciences) and linebacker Mike Jeune (communications) earning their degrees, 23 of the 25 seniors from last year's team have now graduated, with the other two due to graduate this summer. …

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Early 2014 mock draft has Lynch as No. 4 pick

We'll preface this by reminding that mock NFL first rounds that are assembled the day before the draft often get one or two picks correct out of 32 total, so anything speculating picks a full year in advance should simply be taken as a good conversation starter.

Having said that, you'll find way-too-early 2014 NFL mock drafts making the rounds. And one from a great site, thebiglead.com, has a curious entry for USF fans: Defensive end Aaron Lynch, the Notre Dame transfer who is draft-eligible next spring after his redshirt sophomore season, is projected as the No. 4 pick in the draft.

It's exciting news for Bulls fans, who have looked forward to seeing Lynch on the field for nearly a year now. There's certainly the possibility that he could be USF's third player selected in the first round, following Mike Jenkins in 2008 and Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010.

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USF in NFL Draft: What they're saying

Remember links posts? Used to do those all the time. With three USF football players getting drafted in the last two days and another five signing free-agent deals, it's a chance to see what other people are saying about the Bulls. Here you go ...

-- Denver Post points out that no less than Peyton Manning texted Kayvon Webster on Friday night, telling him it's time to go to work.

--Broncos' official site has pretty cool video of John Fox and John Elway delivering the news to Webster as he was picked.

-- Bleacher Report (yes, BR) has a thorough get-to-know piece on Kayvon Webster, and points out that he's unlikely to play a major role as a rookie, but has the chance to learn from a great veteran in Champ Bailey.

-- Yes, the SB nation site Mile High Report asked eight different staffers for grades on Denver's Friday picks. Some glowing, some "I honestly don't know this guy," but the selection of Webster got a "D" from one of them. "Montee Ball is our Austin Martin," another writes. You know, the car from the James Blond movies.

-- And Predominantly Orange has a photo that's not Webster, with a caption that says he played at Nevada. …

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Walkoff weekend: USF baseball does it again

It's quite a story that USF baseball is 12-2 in the Big East and sitting atop the conference standings, but how the Bulls are winning -- late in games, if not later -- continues to be all the more incredible.

The Bulls (28-15) won in the bottom of the 13th inning, getting an RBI single from shortstop Kyle Teaf to outlast St. John's for a 5-4 victory. This came one night after the Bulls won in the 10th inning on Nik Alfonso's RBI fielder's choice. It's nine times now that USF has won games in its final at-bat -- the Bulls say that's the most of any team in the nation. It's also their fifth extra-inning win in the last nine games.

The unsung hero in these late-game wins has been USF's bullpen, which came through for 6.2 innings of scoreless relief Saturday. Chad Taylor threw 2.2 innings Saturday, striking out four, and Janick Serralonga added 2.1 with only one hit. Steven Leasure pitched a scoreless 13th for his second win of the season. …

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Five more Bulls sign NFL free-agent deals

USF football wasn't done after three players were taken in the NFL Draft, as another five Bulls signed deals as undrafted free agents.

Defensive tackle Cory Grissom signed with the Patriots, tight end Evan Landi with the Bucs, offensive lineman Mark Popek with the Jets, and the Titans signed a pair of Bulls in kicker Maikon Bonani and cornerback George Baker.

Those five join the Bulls' three draft picks -- cornerback Kayvon Webster with the Broncos, linebacker Sam Barrington with the Packers and quarterback B.J. Daniels with the 49ers.

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Make it three: QB Daniels picked by 49ers

USF quarterback B.J. Daniels, whose senior year was cut short by an ankle injury in November, was drafted Saturday in the seventh round, going to the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.

Daniels, who finished his USF career with more than 10,000 yards of total offense, has a chance to be reunited with former USF coach Jim Leavitt, now the 49ers' linebackers coach. Daniels' dual-threat nature, as a danger to run or throw, is well-suited for Jim Harbaugh's offense in San Francisco.

Daniels is the first USF quarterback ever taken in the NFL draft, and the Bulls' first offensive player drafted since 2010. Most of USF's previous draft picks have been on defense -- only four have come on offense, while 17 have been on offense and one on special teams.

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LB Barrington goes in 7th round to Packers

Linebacker Sam Barrington became the second USF football player taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, going in the 7th round to the Green Bay Packers with the 232nd pick overall.

"This is a great day for my family, and I'm just so proud to be in this position," Barrington said in a statement from USF. "It's been a long journey and I've gained so much valuable experience, both as a player and person, during my time at USF. I'm so excited and just want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. I'm looking forward to getting to Green Bay and helping that storied franchise win a lot more games."

Barrington, a three-year starter for the Bulls, is just the fourth Bulls linebacker ever to be drafted, and the first since Jacquian Williams in 2011. He finished second on the team with 80 total tackles in 2012, including 6.5 for losses and two forced fumbles. Barrington's tackle totals increased in each of his four seasons at USF, from 41 as a freshman to 65 then 72 and finally 80.

He's the second USF draft pick for 2013, following cornerback Kayvon Webster, who went to the Broncos in the third round.

 

 

 

 

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Skeeters, Hanson won't return to Heath's staff

Making changes after a disappointing 2012-13 season, USF men's basketball coach Stan Heath said Saturday that assistant coach Eric Skeeters and director of basketball operations Reggie Hanson won't be back with the Bulls next season.

"My goal for next season is to improve our team in all areas. Part of those changes are difficult ... staff changes," Heath said. "I want to thank Eric and Reggie for their efforts. Both coaches helped our program and I am hopeful will find another opportunity."

The two coaches were the longest-tenured on Heath's 2012-13 staff. Skeeters spent four years as a Bulls assistant, and Hanson was among Heath's first hires in 2007, spending four years as a full-time assistant before moving in 2011 to his current role as director of basketball operations. With assistant Andy Hipsher leaving last week to become associate head coach on his father Dan's staff at Texas-Pan American, the Bulls now have three openings, with associate head coach Steve Roccaforte the only returning assistant. …

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USF's Webster goes in third round to Broncos

Kayvon Webster impressed scouts with a solid 40-yard time at the NFL combine workouts and in private workouts.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Kayvon Webster impressed scouts with a solid 40-yard time at the NFL combine workouts and in private workouts.

USF football got into the NFL Draft earlier than the experts had expected, as cornerback Kayvon Webster was picked in the third round by the Denver Broncos, going with the No. 90 pick in the NFL Draft.

Webster, USF's first draft pick since 2011, will have the privilege of learning from veteran cornerback Champ Bailey in Denver. He's the seventh-highest pick ever by a Bulls player, and the first drafted by Denver.

A starter in 32 games during his Bulls career, Webster had a career-high 82 total tackles as a senior, including four tackles for loss and six pass breakups. He's perhaps best known for scooping up a Notre Dame fumble and racing 96 yards for a touchdown to spark USF's 2011 win at Notre Dame. He had just three interceptions in his Bulls career, but the former USF sprinter impressed scouts with a solid 40-yard time at the NFL combine workouts and in private workouts.

The Bulls could hear more names called in Saturday's final four rounds, with defensive tackle Cory Grissom as the most likely to get picked and linebacker Sam Barrington as another possibility.

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Bulls announce signing of combo guard Allen

USF coach Stan Heath announced the signing Thursday of junior college combo guard Corey Allen, a versatile player who should help the Bulls move to a more uptempo style next season.

"He is a solid combo guard who can make a lot of plays, both scoring the ball and being able to find guys with his passing ability," Heath said in a statement. "He's very quick, so he'll give us an extra dynamic of speed on the court and an added dimension of being able to play with two ball-handling guards at the same time."

Allen, 6 feet tall, is from St. Louis, Mo., but played the last two seasons at Mount San Antonio College in California. He averaged 21.1 points and 4.2 assists as a sophomore, hitting an impressive 61.8 percent of his shots from the field. He is the seventh member of Heath's incoming recruiting class, joining a pair of top-100 big men in John Egbunu (now at Faith Baptist in Brandon) and Bartow's Chris Perry. The Bulls also have Orlando forward Dre Clayton, Michigan wing Bo Zeigler and points guards Drew Davis and Josh Heath (Stan's son, from Tampa Prep).

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Soccer pipeline: Juco All-American commits to USF

USF men's soccer has built an impressive pipeline from Tyler Junior College in Texas, which has sent the Bulls a pair of current MLS players in Dom Dwyer and Brenton Griffiths, as well as recent signees Kyle Nicholls and Samu Hosseini. Another standout is now headed to USF: All-American defender Wayne Hall, who helped Tyler to another national title this past fall.

Tyler coach Steve Clements confirmed Wednesday that Hall will be playing his final two years of college soccer at USF -- it's only a matter of when. Hall is working to complete his degree this summer, allowing him to play this fall; if that doesn't work out, he'll arrive in January with eligibility for 2014-15.

"Wayne is an outstanding left back. Since he got here, he's been an automatic leader," Clements said. "He's a smart player, and as consistent a 2-year player as anyone on our team." …

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Taggart: Bulls need to be stronger by fall

Willie Taggart talks to quarterback Matt Floyd during the spring game earlier this month at Raymond James Stadium.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Willie Taggart talks to quarterback Matt Floyd during the spring game earlier this month at Raymond James Stadium.

TAMPA -- Given time to reflect on his first spring of football at USF, coach Willie Taggart said Wednesday that his players, across the board, need to be busy in the weight room between now and the start of fall training camp.

"One big thing, we've got to get stronger as a football team," said Taggart, speaking to reporters for the first time since after the Bulls' spring game on April 13. "That's going to be a big emphasis, stronger and faster. That's huge. With what we're going to ask our guys to do, we've got to get stronger."

Taggart said he was pleased with the overall level of understanding and progress in terms of players learning a new offense and defense, but said in watching video of practices and scrimmages, his players aren't physically where he needs them to be.

"You look at the numbers in the weight room, (and) you see where it shows up on film," Taggart said. "Our guys give great effort and it gives you a chance. You just say 'If they were a lot stronger with that effort, we'd be a lot better.' You can make big strides (in a summer). You're not going to get all to where you want to be, but you can get better than where you're at." …

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Taggart quotes from USF St .Petersburg luncheon

We'll have some football notes up later today, as Willie Taggart is doing a spring wrapup interview with reporters this afternoon, but first, I want to share a few other quotes from Taggart's appearance at USF St. Petersburg on Friday. Taggart spent about an hour taking questions from fans in attendance, and had some insightful answers to share ...

-- On the power of a loud, packed Raymond James Stadium: "It really does get you going. You hear people talk about 'On third down, get really loud.' It makes a difference. I remember in 2010, my first year at WKU, we came down here and played South Florida. I know one thing: That one end zone, where the students were, it was so loud, the quarterback kept saying 'Coach, they can't hear me.' I said 'You've got to find a way to do something. Tell the students to be quiet. Something!' That was a great atmosphere. I can remember coming out of that tunnel, looking at some of those USF players, thinking 'Geez, if I could ever get my hands on those guys.'" …

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The geography of the NFL Draft's first round

With the NFL Draft starting Thursday night, it should be a return to prominence for the colleges of the Sunshine State, who combined for an inexplicable zero first-round draft picks last year, but could have as many as six in 2013, based on mock-draft projections.

If the state has six first-rounders, that would match the most since 2002, when there were seven; a year earlier, there were eight. What's clear is the state has been comparably quiet in producing first-rounders -- in the last five years, there have been 11 total (six from Florida). In the previous five drafts, there were 25, and in the first before that (1998-2002), there were 29.

Why? Obviously Miami has gone from extended streaks of first-rounders every year to having none in the last four drafts -- that will almost certainly continue this weekend. FSU hasn't been nearly as prolific in cranking out first-rounders -- in the last five years, USF has just as many as the Seminoles, with Jason Pierre-Paul and Mike Jenkins matching FSU's two. And while Florida is the only traditional state power to continue with a real first-round presence, it hasn't been what it was a decade ago. …

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