TAMPA — Six months ago, he was nearly unknown on a national level, but this weekend, all eyes will be on former USF DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who can solidify his position as a high first-round draft pick with a solid showing at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
"I've just got to go out and do what I do best," Pierre-Paul said Tuesday in an interview on ESPN Radio. "There's nothing that I can't do. Basically, I just go out there and be me."
Pierre-Paul is perhaps the most intriguing athlete in the first round, 6 feet 6, 260 pounds with long arms and an NBA skills set. USF has gotten heavy traffic on Youtube.com from a video taken at a practice before the International Bowl that shows Pierre-Paul doing 14 back handsprings in a row. Asked if he would be more comfortable as a conventional defensive end or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, Pierre-Paul again showed his confidence.
"It doesn't matter. I'm going to get to the passer no matter what," said Pierre-Paul, who is projected to go No. 3 to the Bucs in the latest mock drafts from ESPN.com's Todd McShay and NFL.com's Bucky Brooks.
If Pierre-Paul is the highest-profile prospect among the six Bulls at the combine, the one with the most to gain might be WR Carlton Mitchell, a Gaither grad who left after his junior year.
Mitchell can help his stock with a strong 40-yard time, as well as showing off his hands during drills.
Mitchell said he has been especially focused since announcing for the draft. In six weeks of training in north Miami, he said, he hasn't gone out once.
"It's a business trip for me," said Mitchell, who has added 9 pounds since the season ended. "I definitely got faster, stronger and a lot smarter. I feel great, and I'm very excited — this is a true blessing."
Looking ahead: Stan Heath is wrapping up his third season as men's basketball coach, but he has already lined up solid opponents for 2010-11, with Virginia Commonwealth and Auburn among the teams coming to Tampa next season.
The VCU matchup will be a homecoming game of sorts for junior G Ed Nixon, a Lakewood grad averaging 8.3 points off the Rams' bench this season. VCU's top two scorers this year are juniors from Florida, in Oviedo's Joey Rodriguez and Fort Pierce's Larry Sanders.
While at Arkansas, Heath went 3-1 against Auburn in his last two years with the Razorbacks.
USF will play in an eight-team Thanksgiving weekend tournament in South Padre Island, Texas, with two home games the previous week as part of the tournament. BYU — now No. 13 in the country — and Texas Tech are part of the South Padre Island field.
This and that: The baseball team will face a likely high first-round draft pick Friday as the Bulls take on Ohio State ace Alex Wimmers on the first day of the Big East-Big Ten Challenge at 4:30 p.m. at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg. Wimmers, a 6-2 right-hander, is rated as the No. 8 prospect in college by Baseball America. The Bulls hope to bounce back from a three-game sweep at Florida to open the season. … The softball team is 5-4, but senior Alison Savarese has four home runs, with just one in each of the past two seasons. The Bulls will need their bats this weekend, with a three-game series at No. 10 Arizona State. The Wildcats beat Rutgers twice last weekend by a combined 33-0.