TAMPA — USF coach Skip Holtz is staying ahead of any problems with oversigning — a football recruiting issue in which teams sign more players than they have scholarships for — by being open with recruits long before the numbers are a problem.
USF could be over the limit this fall, with 68 players returning on scholarship from last season and 21 newcomers signed — four over the NCAA maximum of 85. But Holtz is anticipating normal offseason attrition and said that in the rare event everyone stays on the team, he has had conversations with "a couple" of signees who joined the team with the explicit understanding they might "grayshirt," or defer their enrollment to January 2012, if the Bulls are maxed out on scholarships this fall.
Grayshirting has benefits. Such a player typically would not play during his first fall anyway, and after arriving in January, he's eligible to be on scholarship for 51/2 years. Chances are that won't be necessary.
A year ago, the Bulls had eight scholarships open up in spring and summer for various reasons — transfers, career-ending injuries, dismissals and early graduation. As it stands, Holtz's team is young enough that next year's class will be another smaller one, with only 15 scholarships opening up from 2011's graduating seniors, and those grayshirts would count toward that 15.
Holtz doesn't expect to lose many if any signees to academic issues, so there should be fewer surprises this fall in terms of casualties from signing day to preseason camp.
More recruiting: Basketball coach Stan Heath used both of his available scholarships on post players in the early signing period, but he's still busy recruiting, which means he's anticipating at least one scholarship player not returning next season.
A top target is Sam Grooms, a point guard at Chipola College in the Panhandle. He has a scholarship offer from Heath and said this week that he's "very interested." Grooms also has North Carolina among his suitors. Heath went to see Chipola play Monday.
"They rank high on my list," Grooms said of the Bulls.
Baseball: Two local freshmen could play prominent roles on Lelo Prado's baseball team. Nick Gonzalez, a lefty from Leto, should open the season as Sunday starter, behind seniors Randy Fontanez and Andrew Barbosa. Brandon's James Ramsay is competing for a starting job in the outfield. Prado said Tuesday that two Tampa products who are recovering from surgeries — Alonso's Ray Delphey and Wharton's Derrick Stultz — won't pitch for the Bulls this season.
This and that: Softball got a strong start from its freshmen. Sara Nevins, a lefty from Pinellas Park, struck out 13 in her first career start against Florida Gulf Coast, getting a win and two saves in USF's first four games, and SS Kourtney Salvarola hit .583 in her first four games with a team-best eight RBIs. Another freshman, Chamberlain's Stephanie Medina, has four RBIs while batting cleanup. … With a potential NFL lockout ahead, USF hosted a "Big City Marketing Summit" this week with administrative representatives from 16 schools who, like the Bulls, are in NFL markets and are trying to optimize their home attendance this fall. Big East rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati attended, along with Miami.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346.