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For USF athletics, new American era starts Monday

Sunday's Times has a feature on a new chapter of USF athletics history that begins Monday, as the Bulls officially move into the American Athletic Conference. The change lacks the fanfare and celebration of USF's move into the Big East in 2005, but the Bulls have a chance to play a major role in building the image of the new league.

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Egbunu's enrollment pushed back to fall

John Egbunu, a national top-100 recruit and key member of Stan Heath's incoming recruiting class, will not start summer classes with other USF newcomers next week and will begin with fall classes in August. The move is being done as an academic precaution, though Heath is still optimistic his coveted signee will be able to play for the Bulls this coming season.

"We feel like things are in a good spot," Heath said Thursday after announcing the addition of veteran Donnie Marsh as an assistant coach. "We're just being a little bit cautious."

By not taking classes during USF's summer B semester, Egbunu, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound center, has the option of taking online classes to rectify any concerns from classes he took in Nigeria before coming to the United States. Egbunu began this season at Fort Walton Beach High School, then transferred to Faith Baptist, a private school in Brandon, this spring.

"If he needs one more course, we could still put him into a summer class or two to get him where he needs to be," Heath said. "I feel good. I think we have a good plan in place. If he needs a little bit more, he can do it; if not, he's fine." …

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Heath adds veteran Marsh to coaching staff

Stan Heath has added a veteran assistant to his coaching staff, announcing Thursday the hiring of Donnie Marsh, who has worked as an assistant at schools like Indiana, Florida State and Virginia Tech and was head coach at Florida International from 2000-04.

"I'm really excited. Stan is a coach I've always respected," said Marsh, 57, who spent the past season at Texas Southern, working under Mike Davis, who he coached with at Indiana and UAB.

Marsh joins Steve Roccaforte and new hire Mike Wells as the full-time assistants on Heath's staff, which still has an opening for a director of basketball operations. Marsh, born in North Carolina and raised in Atlantic City, N.J., said his family has greatly enjoyed living in Florida during his stints with the Seminoles and Panthers.

He was part of the UAB staff that played at USF in 2007-08, and he said he was "blown away" by the changes he saw when he interviewed with Heath, impressed with not only the renovations to the Sun Dome but the Muma Center practice facility as well.

"Since the last time I was down there, it's absolutely incredible," Marsh said. "Those are top-notch facilities there now."

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Bulls headed back to Vero on Aug. 10-17

For the fourth preseason in a row, USF will hold part of its preseason camp at the Vero Beach Sports Village, though the Bulls will have a shorter stay at the former Dodgertown complex, staying only from Aug. 10-17 this year.

USF officially announced its return to Vero -- the Bulls have stayed 10-11 nights in past season under Skip Holtz, but will have seven nights bunkered together under first-year coach Willie Taggart. USF starts practice Aug. 5, with a few days to get in pads and into full contact before their week in Vero, then another week back on campus before beginning normal game-week preparation for the Aug. 31 opener against McNeese State.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to train at the Vero Beach Sports Village," Taggart said in a statement. "I've heard nothing but good things about the people there, and I think it will be a good opportunity for this football team to come together. We have a lot of work to do heading into the season, and this will give us a distraction-free location where we can just focus on what we need to get done." …

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Staying home: CB Fullwood latest local commit for USF

Tajee Fullwood, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound cornerback, is rated as a three-star recruit by 247, Rivals and Scout.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

Tajee Fullwood, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound cornerback, is rated as a three-star recruit by 247, Rivals and Scout.

Tajee Fullwood's family and friends gathered on his grandmother's front lawn, with dozens of relatives and Tampa Bay Tech teammates taking phone pics until his moment arrived: Donning a USF cap and announcing he was committing to play for the Bulls in 2014, choosing his hometown school over Florida State and Rutgers.

Fullwood, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound cornerback who is rated as a three-star recruit by 247, Rivals and Scout, continues a strong surge of local recruiting in Willie Taggart's first full recruiting class, following quarterback Chase Litton and fellow corners Deiondre Porter and Devin Abraham in the last two weeks.

"I feel like if we can keep everybody in Tampa, we're going to be like Miami in the 80s. Unstoppable," Fullwood said, unveiling a "GREEN MACHINE" T-shirt as he made his announcement. "I feel like Tampa has the best talent in the state of Florida." …

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Talks ongoing for new bowl at Marlins Park

Marlins Park, which can seat 37,000 for baseball, would have a capacity in the "low to mid-30s" for football, with additional seating available through temporary bleachers if necessary.

Getty Images

Marlins Park, which can seat 37,000 for baseball, would have a capacity in the "low to mid-30s" for football, with additional seating available through temporary bleachers if necessary.

As college football looks to expand its bowl lineup in a new cycle of contracts beginning with the 2014 season, there is continued interest in bringing another bowl game to Miami at the city's new baseball stadium, Marlins Park.

"We would love to host a bowl game," said Claude Delorme, the team's executive vice president for operations and events. "It makes sense, and we can make it work for both parties. The ballpark can host football or soccer, and I think it has the ability to be a very intimate setting."

College football has added several bowl games in baseball-only stadiums in the past decade, including current games like the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Both came into existent with contracts with the Big East, which also had teams play in the International Bowl in Toronto when the game was played in the Rogers Centre. The Big East will soon begin a new existence as the American Athletic Conference, and commissioner Mike Aresco said in May that his league was looking into creating its own new bowl game with a home in south Florida. …

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East Lake CB Abraham latest to commit to USF

USF's strong momentum in local recruiting continued Saturday, as the Bulls picked up their third commitment of the week, this from East Lake cornerback Devin Abraham -- son of former Bucs corner Donnie Abraham. The Times' Bob Putnam has the story here.

Saturday was a great day for our preps coverage -- five Times writers busy all day at the 7-on-7 Battle of the Bay tournament at Jefferson, featuring a ton of locals considering USF. Here's a link to the main wrapup, as well as a strong four-minute video.

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Dominique Jones working for 2nd chance in NBA

Saturday's Times has a feature catching up with former USF star Dominique Jones, who has been back on campus much this summer, training as he tries to line up a second chance in the NBA. He and Stan Heath talk about lessons learned in three seasons with the Mavericks and what he has to do to continue as an NBA player. ...

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Surprise: WR Griffin transferring from USF

Sterling Griffin, who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of last season, was one of USF's most experienced receivers.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Sterling Griffin, who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of last season, was one of USF's most experienced receivers.

Surprising news from USF today, as the Bulls announced that USF junior receiver Sterling Griffin, expected to play a key role for the Bulls this fall, will graduate this summer and finish his eligibility at another school.

Griffin, who suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of last season, was one of USF's most experienced receivers, having caught 43 passes for 560 yards as a sophomore in 2011. Best known for a 73-yard touchdown pass he caught as a freshman in USF's 2009 win at Florida State, he missed the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury, and would be eligible for a medical redshirt for 2012, so it's possible he could land a sixth year of eligibility and play two years at his new school.

"I've had a great experience at USF and I'll cherish the memories and relationships I've made while on campus," Griffin said in a statement. "I appreciate Coach (Willie) Taggart for all he's done since taking over the program, and I wish this team nothing but the best moving forward. I want to thank my teammates, the fans, the administration and all the support staff, especially the athletic training staff, who have helped me during my time here." …

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Taggart on USF team speed: 'We're getting there'

USF football coach Willie Taggart was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce.

AUSTIN ANTHONY | Times

USF football coach Willie Taggart was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce.

USF football coach Willie Taggart was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, and this is a time of year where these public engagements are our best insights into how the summer is going for the Bulls.

Taggart talked for about 15 minutes, speaking about his excitement for the year ahead, then took questions from the crowd for about 20 minutes more. He literally did not mention a single player by name, which I suppose speaks to his focus on the team as a whole. He does like talking about himself in the third person, but you get used to that as well. If there's one quote you can count on from Taggart, it's Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." …

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Reminder: Greg Auman chat today at 12:30

A reminder that Times beat reporter Greg Auman will be chatting live today, starting at 12:30 p.m., so bring all of your USF Bulls questions.

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Sarasota QB among three new USF walk-ons

USF football's incoming freshmen report for their first classes next week, and that group of newcomers will have at least three new preferred walk-ons, including quarterback Evan Wilson of Sarasota.

We confirmed Wednesday that Wilson -- an all-state selection from Sarasota's Out-of-Door Academy -- has accepted a roster spot with the Bulls, along with tight end Spencer Adkinson of Indian Rocks Christian and fullback/long-snapper Elliot Jacobs of Fort Pierce Central. USF hasn't updated its roster since the middle of spring practice, so we might not know all the additions until close to the start of preseason camp in August.

Wilson had impressive numbers at Out-of-Door, throwing for 2,686 yards and 20 touchdowns against eight interceptions while running for another 614 yards and 10 more scores. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound passer earned first-team Class 2A all-state honors and has worked at IMG Academy in Bradenton, where he got to know current USF receivers coach David Reaves. …

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Jefferson's Porter commits to USF football

Deiondre Porter isn't likely to play quarterback at USF.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Deiondre Porter isn't likely to play quarterback at USF.

It all happened in a matter of minutes -- Tampa Jefferson quarterback Deiondre Porter was talking to USF coach Willie Taggart at the end of an informal workout on campus, then he had a scholarship offer, and then he was committed to play for the Bulls in 2014.

Porter walked Taggart over to meet his mother, who had been watching the workout, and Bulls coaches had another recruiting win to celebrate. We'll have much more shortly, but Porter's commitment continues USF's building momentum on the local recruiting front, having gotten a pledge this week from Wharton's Chase Litton. Porter isn't likely to play quarterback at USF -- he's a phenomenal athlete at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, also known as a standout in track in sprints and jumps.

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Replay live chat with Greg Auman

Greg Auman will be chatting Thursday, starting at 12:30 p.m.

Times files

Greg Auman will be chatting Thursday, starting at 12:30 p.m.

Want to talk USF Bulls sports? Join Times beat reporter Greg Auman for a live chat Thursday, June 20, starting at 12:30 p.m.

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USF hires associate AD for fundraising

USF has a new leader for its athletic fundraising efforts, as the Bulls on Tuesday announced the hiring of Ohio University's Jim Harris as senior associate athletic director, as well as the university's associate vice president for development.

Harris, 33, spent the last four years at Ohio, where he helped secure a $10 million lead gift toward an athletics facility for the Bobcats; while at Indiana, he helped the efforts to build a $45 million North End Zone facility as well as a $25 million basketball facility.

"I am excited to join the University of South Florida family and to work with all of the wonderful donors, alumni, fans, student-athletes and administration at USF," Harris said in a statement. "It is an honor to be part of such a tremendous and growing athletic program, led by Doug Woolard, one of the best in the business, and I look forward to playing a role in the future of USF athletics." …

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