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Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Joey Knight

A fourth-generation Floridian, Joey Knight was born in Tampa and raised in Zephyrhills, where he still resides. He moved to the Times in July 2006 after 15 years at the Tampa Tribune, which included a seven-year stint (1997-2004) as University of Florida beat writer. He began covering the University of South Florida athletic department for the Times in 2013. A married father of three, he enjoys running, classic television and classic heavy-metal music.

Phone: (813) 310-6328

E-mail: jknight@tampabay.com

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  1. Signing day over, but Bulls likely aren't

    Blog

    After an extended stretch on the road, on the phones and generally on edge, USF's coaches have exhaled.

    In the wake of another recruiting season generally deemed solid if not spectacular, Willie Taggart and his staff have gotten reacquainted with their families, while the fax machine on the Selmon Center's second floor again has been relegated to cumbersome dust collector.

    But just because the coaches might have downshifted a gear doesn't mean they're shutting down. To the contrary, look for the Bulls to add a few more pieces -- some of them prominent names -- to the roster in the coming weeks and months.

    Such is the m.o. of the Taggart regime. In the same way women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez has developed a top-20 program via strong international recruiting, Taggart has partially rebuilt the Bulls via the transfer/late signee route.

    Last year alone, four prominent transfers -- LB Cecil Cherry (Texas), S Austin Hudson (Wisconsin), WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (N.C. State) and QB Asiantii Woulard (UCLA) -- joined USF's program well after signing day. In the summer of 2014, WR A.J. Legree (Kentucky) and DE Kevin Bronson (late freshman enrollee) came aboard.

    Look for that pattern to continue this year. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from speaking about prospects before they're signed, but recent buzz around the program indicates this summer's transfer haul -- even after a judicious vetting process -- could be as prosperous as 2015.

    Among those possibly on the Bulls' board is former Under Armour All-American DE Marques Ford, an East Bay High alumnus granted his release from Rutgers in December. Additionally, Florida fourth-year junior edge rusher Jeremi Powell -- a Pinellas Park alumnus -- is believed to be seeking a new home as a graduate transfer.

    Even if neither lands in Tampa, the Bulls runway still figures to be busy in the coming months....

    Expect coach Willie Taggart to add a few more names to his 2016 roster in the coming months.
  2. USF suffers worst defeat of season against No. 12 SMU

    College

    TAMPA — Of all the issues USF second-year coach Orlando Antigua has been forced to address in this destitute season, playing time isn't one of them. These days, every Bull gets ample minutes.

    Every healthy Bull, that is.

    Seven minutes into Sunday's 92-58 loss to No. 12 SMU, Antigua found himself down to five available scholarship players when forward Bo Zeigler had to be assisted off the Sun Dome floor after taking a shot to the left knee....

    SMU guard Nic Moore (11) passes around South Florida guard Jahmal McMurray (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) FLBB108
  3. Bulls rookie Garrett Zech earns preseason honor

    Blog

    Bulls OF Garrett Zech, who makes his collegiate debut two weeks from tonight at home, has been chosen the American Athletic Conference Preseason Freshman of the Year by d1Baseball.com.

    A 15th-round draft choice of the Dodgers who opted for college, Zech is joined by three teammates -- all of whom also were drafted -- on the website's AAC top-10 impact freshmen list. OF Chris Chatfield, a former Spoto High star, is third; while INF Coco Montes is fifth while INF/C Joe Genord is 10th....

  4. Did Scott Frost take signing day swipe at USF?

    Blog

    Maybe it's just us, reading too deeply into something. Chances are, we're transforming a benign observation into verbal kindling for a rivalry that's already flammable.

    Or perhaps our observation is on the mark, and new UCF coach Scott Frost was taking a swipe -- subconsciously or not -- at his rivals down the interstate.

    While Bulls coaches shamelessly reveled in their signing day success Wednesday, when a video snippet of them dancing in their war room surfaced on social media, Frost indicated in his signing day press conference such animation isn't his style.

    Check out the 16:50 mark of this video from Frost's presser, where he addresses his more subdued signing day philosophy.

    "Sorry guys, you're not gonna have a video camera in our office watching us celebrate if a kid commits or doesn't commit," he says, "because we're gonna go to battle with whatever kids want to be here, and want kids that want to be a part of this program."

    In a follow-up question, Frost, who signed 20 recruits on Wednesday, was asked why he doesn't care for the whole spectacle of signing day.

    "I think just too much is made of it," he says.

    "If you probably went back and looked for five years, a lot of the people that coaches are on TV celebrating about probably never played one down of college football. There's a lot more that goes into it than that. We're certainly excited to add talented people to our organization, and we're gonna get as excited as anybody and have as much fun with it as anybody. But signing day isn't gonna win you games."...

  5. Taggart's take: Bulls coach talks up his newcomers

    Blog

    While Willie Taggart didn't elaborate on all 18 of his newest Bulls at Wednesday's signing day news conference, he came pretty close.

    Here's what he had to say specifically on most of his newcomers:

    S Josh Dunn (6-0, 195)
    "A heck of a talent. He's one of those kids that he's smart and he's so nice, you wouldn't think he's that physical on the football field. But when you turn it on he's out there shortening guys' necks."

    OT Christion Gainer (6-6, 310)
    "He's a tackle, that's for sure. He's a big one and we expect big things from him."

    DE LaDarrius Jackson (6-4, 243)
    "Great kid. I mean, he's always around, always smiling. You can tell he's one of those kids who really appreciates being here, and he's willing to work. ... I talk with Coach O (strength coach Irele Oderinde) and talk to some of his teammates, and they all rave about him. I think that speaks volumes when a guy can just come in your program and the whole football team likes him already."

    DE Frank Johnson (6-5, 235)
    "Both of 'em (Jackson and Johnson) are really good football players. Frank Johnson, he's gonna have to sleep and spend the night in the weight room with Coach O, but both of 'em are very talented."

    OL Logan MacDonald (6-4, 270)
    "He's a tackle who's not as big as those other guys, but you talk about talented and physical, I think that kid's gonna be special for us, to be honest with you. He plays the game like you're supposed to. He's physical and he gets after it and he just loves doing it."

    QB Chris Oladokun (6-2, 184)
    "I think we always want to have at least four guys on scholarship at the quarterback position. ... You look at college football nowadays, you can't have enough of 'em. We wanted to sign a good quarterback that can come in here and compete and be able to continue the momentum that we've started, but also challenge the guys that we have here as well, to continue to get better."

    LB Andre Polk (6-4, 215)
    "I think the whole Bulls nation is gonna hear about him early. He's a kid that I think is under the radar. We kept him a secret for a while, but now I think everybody's gonna hear about him." (comment came during an interview with 620-AM)

    WR Darnell Salomon (6-3, 210)
    "He's big, he's strong and he's fast. When you have all those combinations, it can be scary out there at the receiver position. That's what we expect from him, some scary play out there on the football field."

    S Craig Watts (6-0, 190)
    "He's one of those kids from Day 1, you just sensed that he really wanted to be here. He was on campus a lot. When you saw him on campus, he was always smiling, he was always excited about being there, and we stayed with him the whole time. He committed elsewhere and we got him back and that was good to see. Now we have him for sure."

    C Michael Wiggs (6-3, 290)
    "There's never a dull moment around when Mike's around. He's a great kid, great academically, one heck of a football player. You look at him and you meet him and you're like, 'Man, he's so nice. He's too nice.' You wouldn't think that this kid plays the way he does. But when you turn on the film it's like, 'This don't match up a little bit. You meet him and he's nice, and then on the field he's trying to hurt you.' ... He's a leader. He's gonna be a great leader for us, I think."...

    USF coach Willie Taggart said he thinks new offensive lineman Logan MacDonald is "gonna be special for us."
  6. FSU lands a No. 1 signing class as UF falls off

    College

    After four years of building relationships with each recruiting class, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he still never knows exactly what to expect on national signing day.

    "I wish there was," Fisher said. "Every year I'd sleep a lot better knowing what's coming."

    Fisher probably slept just fine Wednesday night after his Seminoles landed their deepest haul of his tenure and claimed ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in the country....

    Plantation American Heritage’s Brian Burns works on his Tomahawk Chop after signing with FSU.
  7. New UCF staff flies fast, furious to fill needs

    College

    Introduced as UCF coach only two months ago, Scott Frost was forced to employ the same philosophy to recruiting — fast, furious and efficient — as he intends to apply to his offense.

    Knights fans can only hope what unfolded on signing day carries over into September. Working basically on the fly, Frost and his staff assembled a 20-player class ranked second in the American Athletic Conference by Rivals....

  8. USF adds bite to 'Bull Sharks' defense

    College

    TAMPA — While a couple of nameplates have changed in the Bulls' coaches offices, schemes won't. USF's defense is remaining dorsal.

    Coach Willie Taggart confirmed at Wednesday's signing day news conference the Bulls will retain the alignment (4-2-5) and nickname ("Bull Sharks") implemented last season by former defensive coordinator Tom Allen. Taggart promoted longtime assistant Raymond Woodie to coordinator in January when Allen left for the same job position at Indiana....

    Sickles quarterback Chris Oladokun embraces his father, Henry, after committing to USF during a signing day ceremony at the northwest Hillsborough County high school.
  9. Afternoon update: Bulls up to 18 signees

    Blog

    USF formally had announced 18 signees as of 2:30 p.m. excluding reigning Guy Toph Award winner Markese Hargrove, who committed to the Bulls on Wednesday morning as a walk-on.

    The class currently is ranked between third (247Sports) and fourth (Rivals, Scout.com) in the American Athletic Conference by national recruiting services, though Coach Willie Taggart told 620-AM early Wednesday morning the class will be "from a quality standpoint, probably the best since we've been here."

    Among the Wednesday surprises: signatures from Wharton three-star WR DeVontres Dukes and Hillsborough three-star CB Michael Hampton, neither of whom had been listed as Bulls verbal commitments.

    Taggart is expected to address the media in downtown Tampa at 2:30 p.m....

    Lake Wales safety Josh Dunn, arguably the best-dressed Bulls signee Wednesday, signs his paperwork with his mom, Carla Leath.
  10. Bulls' early signees include welcome surprise from Wharton

    Blog

    Barely two hours into national signing day, USF's greatest concern might involve a jammed fax machine.

    As of 9:15 a.m., the school already had confirmed 14 signees on its official site. The number included three early enrollees (OT Glen Bethel, DE LaDarrius Jackson, ATH Trevon Sands) as well as Wharton WR DeVontres Dukes, the initial signing day surprise.

    It didn't include reigning Guy Toph Award winner Markese Hargrove from Plant City, expected to announce his commitment to the Bulls at his high school Wednesday morning. Hargrove, who will join USF as a walk-on, becomes the first Toph Award winner to join the Bulls.

    Taggart told 620-AM on Wednesday morning that, in terms of quality, his 2016 signing class will "probably be the best since I've been here."

    During that interview, he received the fax from 6-foot-4 Fort Myers LB Andre Polk.

    "I tell you what, I think the whole Bulls Nation is gonna hear about him like, early," said Taggart, who awoke Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. "We kept him a secret for a while but now I think everbody's gonna hear about him."...

    Wharton wide receiver DeVontres Dukes was the initial signing day surprise.
  11. Bulls fans can sleep well on signing day eve

    Blog

    If you've already set your Rocky the Bull alarm clock for 7 a.m. Wednesday, find yourself scouring Twitter for any 11th-hour flips, and discover your appetite has been compromised by nervous energy, relax.

    Then get therapy. But mainly, relax.

    Hours before fax machines nationwide are kick-started in surreal synchronicity, the Bulls already appear in fine shape. Those panicking over USF's modest number of non-binding commitments (14) likely haven't been paying attention. 

    As newcomers go, Coach Willie Taggart and Co. are in stellar shape for 2016.

    Suppose the Bulls get no 11th-hour commitments from anyone remaining on their board and receive only 14 signing day signatures. First, that's not likely to occur. Second, the group still ranks as high as second in the American Athletic Conference (247Sports) and no lower than fifth (Rivals, Scout) in national recruiting rankings.

    Third, that doesn't paint the entire picture.

    Toss in three early enrollees -- OT Glen Bethel, DE LaDarrius Jackson and ATH Trevon Sands -- and the number of newcomers increases to 17. Then add in the heralded transfer players forced to sit out last season -- QB Asiantii Woulard, LB Cecil Cherry, S Austin Hudson, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling -- and it grows to more than 20.

    That's seven players -- all of whom figure to contend for starting jobs -- already enrolled, with 14 more who appear set on signing with the Bulls in the morning.

    Anything beyond that is green-and-gold gravy....

    USF coach Willie Taggart is expected receive letters of intent from no fewer than 14 recruits Wednesday.
  12. USF is still a buzzword in the Big 12's expansion plans

    College

    TAMPA

    The most pivotal, preposterous, picture-friendly day on the college football calendar has arrived. At last, the Bulls will expand their football roster.

    Are expanded horizons on deck?

    Mostly drowned out by the national signing day cacophony is the fact the Big 12 meetings are being staged this week in Dallas. Athletic directors from the 10 member schools convene Thursday, followed by the university presidents Friday....

    A Sporting News report - citing an anonymous source "close to the situation" - indicates the addition of UCF and USF as the Big 12 Conference's 11th and 12th schools is a possible scenario. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  13. Relic or required? Fax still a key player on national signing day

    College

    TAMPA — They text and tweet proficiently, study game tape on laptops and even dabble in emojis.

    But for one frenetic February day, USF's coaches concede to the technological equivalent of the wing-T. Modernity takes a backseat to a modem.

    "The fax machine is set up and we're gonna have a war room (on national signing day)," Bulls football spokesman Brian Siegrist acknowledged....

    Athletes still put pen to paper on national signing day, and even with all the technological advances, most will be faxing their letters of intent. (Times file)
  14. Bulls announce Jancek hiring

    Blog

    USF's hiring of former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek, widely reported last week, was confirmed by the school Monday afternoon.

    As expected, Jancek will coach safeties, a position overseen last season by former Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen.

    "John brings a tremendous amount of experience and football knowledge to our program and our players are going to love working with him," Coach Willie Taggart said in a USF news release.

    "We’re excited to add his background and input to the defensive foundation we have begun building and I look forward to his working with the very talented group of safeties we have returning."

    Jancek, a Michigan native who played at Division II Grand Valley State, has been a coordinator at seven different colleges of varying size. In three seasons at Tennessee, the Vols gradually improved from 83rd to 36th nationally in total defense, and went from 78th to 16th in scoring defense. The 19 points UT surrendered to Alabama last fall were the fewest allowed by a Crimson Tide foe.

    But the Vols squandered double-digit fourth-quarter leads to Florida and Oklahoma, and lost leads against 'Bama and Arkansas. They also took a moderate dip in pass defense, falling from 22nd nationally in passing yards allowed in 2014 (196.2) to 47th (210.4) this past season.

    Nonetheless Jancek, reportedly the highest-paid UT assistant coach ($520,000 annual base salary), represents a coup of sorts for Taggart, who brings more SEC experience to his staff (QBs coach David Reaves was an assistant at South Carolina) and gives first-year coordinator Raymond Woodie a veteran sounding board.

    "I am very excited for the opportunity to join the USF staff and be a part of the program Coach Taggart is building in Tampa," Jancek said in the USF release. "The future looks very bright for this program and I am looking forward to working with some very talented players in our secondary."...

  15. USF loses to Temple, snaps two-game win streak

    College

    TAMPA — Down to six available scholarship players for the time being, USF entered Sunday's matchup with Temple on a two-game winning streak sparked primarily by grit, cohesion and interior brawn.

    But the Owls answered the Bulls' peskiness with Quenton DeCosey's proficiency.

    The 6-foot-5 senior scored 20 of his career-best 30 in the first half as Temple escaped the Sun Dome with a 70-63 victory before an announced crowd of 2,875....