The fourth gear beckons. Fans formally have been advised to buckle up. The craziest juncture of the sports season is nearing full throttle, replete with tension down the stretch, and, yes, some crashing and burning.
In other news, the NASCAR season is about to begin.
When it comes to swerving, swaying and even heart-palpitating flips, the Sprint Cup series has nothing on the final straightaway of recruiting season. Count Bulls football fans among those who can attest.
In the past day or two alone, they've experienced the nonbinding chaos of late January in all its fickle glory. On Monday, Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes two-star TE Gabe Nabers announced he planned to sign with FSU, ending his "commitment" to the Bulls after nine days.
"I've been dreaming about a day like this since I first put on a helmet," Nabers posted on his Twitter account Monday evening. "Today I committed to Florida State University."
Meantime, Bulls fans are charting the moves of Tyler (Texas) Junior College OL Craig Smith with mild trepidation. Smith (6 feet 7, 303 pounds) told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday morning he remained committed to USF, which he visited two weekends ago, but he has since visited UCF and was set to travel to West Virginia this weekend.
Additionally, Miami Central four-star WR Darnell Salomon, who pledged to USF in early December, visited Temple last week and reportedly is set to visit Pitt this weekend.
As it stands, USF has 15 nonbinding oral commitments, not counting three early enrollees. If signing day were today (instead of a week later), the Bulls' class would rank second or third in the American Athletic Conference, depending on which national scouting service you consult.
But seven days separate the Bulls from recruiting's figurative checkered flag.
Though fans await a more concrete commitment from Smith, USF still appears in the mix for East Bay three-star S K.J. Sails. A handful of other noncommitted three-star prospects also remain on the Bulls' board.
Such is this particular race to the finish. All the flipping, veering and general volatility arrive before that quintessential command.
Gentlemen, start your fax machines.
BEST OF THE BOTTOM-FEEDERS? During his brief session with reporters Monday afternoon, men's basketball coach Orlando Antigua said his beleaguered club — 4-17 entering tonight's game at Tulane — has been close in every conference contest.
Further research validated the claim. USF, 1-7 in the AAC, hasn't trailed by 20 in any of its eight conference games. Though it has led at halftime only once in AAC play — in Saturday's 71-62 win at Houston — it either has been tied or trailing by three or fewer points at the half in five others.
Saturday, the Bulls sealed things by going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the last 1:14. Their 32 total free-throw tries were a season high.
"We were one, two possessions away (in other league games)," Antigua said. "And one of the differences in looking back and reflecting on the Houston game and those previous games was, we got to the free-throw line and we made free throws."
ODDS AND ENDS: The 13th-ranked men's tennis team topped FSU and LSU — ranked Nos. 31 and 30, respectively — at home over the weekend, earning a berth in next month's ITA National Indoor Championship for the first time. … Four-time All-America triple jumper Matthew O'Neal eclipsed his school indoor record with a 54-foot, 8-inch performance in Boston on Friday. The distance is the NCAA's best this season.
AUDIBLE: "You continue to work. The results will happen if we continue to play strong, play together, work hard every day in practice just to get better. You can't worry about that stuff." — Antigua, 13-40 as Bulls coach, when asked how he handles criticism