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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. USF gets three more commitments for strong 2017 class

    College

    At his current rate of recruiting success, Willie Taggart may have to upgrade to a double-decker bus.

    USF's mesmerizing surge of late-summer verbal commitments continued Wednesday with three central Florida rising seniors pledging to USF simultaneously.

    Cocoa quarterback Bruce Judson Jr., Apopka athlete Demetri Burch and Orlando Dr. Phillips receiver Emare Hogan all slipped on USF shirts and/or hats during a live press conference streamed on the Orlando Sentinel website....

    The time that Willie Taggart spends with one recruit is the key to a verbal commitment.
  2. Bulls land commitments in triplicate

    Blog

    The Bulls' mesmerizing surge of late-summer verbal commitments continued Wednesday with three central Florida prospects pledging to USF simultaneously.

    Cocoa QB Bruce Judson Jr., Apopka ATH Demetri Burch and Orlando Dr. Phillips WR Emare Hogan all slipped on USF shirts and/or hats during a live press conference streamed on the Orlando Sentinel's website. (Here's the link)....

  3. Bulls to remain mum about Big 12 pursuit

    Blog

    As you read this, the covert efforts to nudge USF farther up college sports' food chain are ongoing. Don't let the dearth of tweets or sound bites fool you. The Bulls would love to join the Big 12.

    Here's what they won't join: The chorus of presidents and athletic directors publicly lobbying for an invitation for their respective schools.

    After pondering whether to go more public about their Big 12 aspirations, USF officials have opted to stay their current course and keep operating below the radar, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.  

    Harlan and Coach Willie Taggart are sure to be asked about the Bulls' Power Five pursuit at next week's American Athletic Conference Summer Kickoff and Media Days, but any response is expected to mirror the one Harlan made when outlining his department's five-year strategic plan to school trustees in May.

    "We're aspirational, but this university's aspirational," Harlan said then. "If there's something that we're aspirational toward and it makes sense for the university, let's go for it."

    The taciturn approach, which USF officials believe is the most prudent going forward, stands in glaring contrast to the public comments emanating from other Big 12 prospects nationally.

    UCF president John Hitt has publicly said there "ought to be a home" for the Knights in the Big 12, while East Carolina has campaigned for its cause via its official athletics Twitter handle (@ECUAthletics)....

    USF athletic director Mark Harlan is among the Bulls administrators working quietly behind the scenes in the school's pursuit of Big 12 membership.
  4. Terriers ATH Duran Bell pledges to USF

    Blog

    USF's barrage of non-binding verbal commitments continued Tuesday with Hillsborough ATH Duran Bell giving his pledge to the Bulls, according to various online reports.

    Bell's commitment comes a day after Jefferson High OG Jean Marcellus gave his word to the Bulls. Bell (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), the Terriers' top rusher with nearly 600 yards last season, is No. 39 on the 2016 HomeTeam 100 list of the area's top prep players.

    He's a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.

    The Bulls have collected six non-binding commitments since Saturday, and now have eight overall. Earlier Tuesday, Tallahassee North Florida Christian OLB Michael Scott also committed to USF. ...

    Hillsborough High two-way star Duran Bell has committed to USF, according to online reports.
  5. Ken Eriksen again strikes gold

    Blog

    If all goes as Ken Eriksen hopes, USF's veteran softball coach ultimately could be competing for a gold medal even more priceless than the one he picked up last week in Canada.

    Eriksen, who watched his U.S. National Team roll past Japan in Sunday's title game of the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship, seems optimistic his sport will be reinstated to the Olympic schedule in time for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

    The International Olympic Committee announced recently it will recommend baseball and softball be added in an Aug. 3 general-assembly vote in Rio De Janeiro, site of this year's Olympics. Softball previously was an Olympic sport from 1996-2008; Eriksen was an assistant on the '04 U.S. team that steamrolled its way to a gold medal.

    "The buzz is that we're to be prepared for some positive news coming up," Eriksen said Tuesday.

    "All indications right now...are to be very cautiously optimistic for the vote on Aug. 3. ... I've been through this twice right now where it's been rejected, so I'm not gonna believe anything until I hear it coming from Rio. When we hear it coming from Rio, that's when I'll believe it."

    The recent tournament in Canada did nothing to harm the sport's momentum.

    The 15th Women's Softball World Championship attracted 30 national teams, representing the largest global footprint in the event's history, according to the WBSC. The U.S. finished 9-0, capped by Sunday's 7-3 triumph against Japan. Collectively, the Eagles -- as the U.S. team is known -- outscored its competition 83-10.

    "We didn't do much scouting reports in respect of worrying about the other teams. This is the first time that I've ever done that with our team," Eriksen said. "We really focused on what we were trying to do each day to (better) ourselves tomorrow. We wanted to be better than we were (the previous day). ... And that's what we really, really locked in on."

    Among the key contributors was Bulls pitching coach Jess Moore, who picked up the win in the title game by allowing a run on four hits in 2.2 innings. Moore also threw a complete-game, five-inning shutout against Venezuela in the quarterfinals.

    "Jess was a bulldog, threw some huge innings for us in some big games," said Eriksen, whose staff posted a 1.19 ERA in the tournament. "She was just a stalwart...and a big part of that gold medal, no question about it."...

    USF softball coach Ken Eriksen (second from left) guided the U.S. National Team to a gold medal at last week's WBSC Women's Softball World Championship in Surrey, Canada.
  6. Sun rises on Courtney Williams' pro career

    Blog

    Technically, she made her professional debut on May 14 in Minneapolis. But the Courtney Williams familiar to Bulls fans didn't truly hit the WNBA scene until the evening of July 2.

    Having been traded to the Connecticut Sun from Phoenix only a week before, Williams watched from a College Park Center bench as host Dallas built a 13-2 lead. Unable to stomach what was transpiring any longer, Sun coach Curt Miller opted for a wholesale substitution, supplanting the quintent on the floor with five off the bench.

    Williams was among those who entered. What proceeded wasn't necessarily pretty, but it provided the spark Miller was seeking. Five minutes into the second quarter, Connecticut had rallied for a 26-25 lead, with Williams providing five points and six rebounds.

    The Sun would hold on for an 86-83 triumph.

    "We all got in and we did what coach wanted us to do: rebound, defend, score," Williams recalled, "and we put our team in a position to get back in the game." 

    Finally, after a frustrating commencement to her WNBA career in Phoenix, Williams had made a contribution instead of a cameo.

    Buried on a Phoenix depth chart that already featured WNBA legend Diana Taurasi and three-time WNBA All-Star Penny Taylor, Williams was traded to the Sun -- a club clearly building for the future -- on June 25.

    Since the trade, Williams -- a two-time first-team All-American Athletic Conference pick and the No. 2 scorer in USF history -- has averaged 6.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 13.1 minutes in nine contests.

    The 24 minutes she logged in a four-point loss to Minnesota on July 7 equaled the minutes she totaled in six contests with Phoenix, which drafted her with the eighth overall pick in April.

    "A way better fit as far as basketball-wise, getting the playing time and fitting into a system," Williams said of her new team in a recent phone interview. "I think this definitely works for me."

    Her voice elicits the same exuberance it possessed on draft night, when Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman spoke of how Williams could provide a new dimension of "speed and quickness" to an all-star-caliber roster.

    She ultimately provided only one field goal, in six games.

    "I mean, it was definitely frustrating, but I think I was just being positive," Williams said. "My teammates needed a cheerleader, I was there. I just wanted to fit in where I could. I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer, so I was just doing whatever the team needed."

    Now, she suddenly finds herself around peers with whom she can grow. Connecticut, among the WNBA's youngest teams, is 8-16 and in last place in the Eastern Division.

    Williams, who will play professionally in Cyprus when the WNBA season ends, is among eight Sun players 25 or younger. She says she has been greeted warmly by the Connecticut fan base, already familiar with her hops, fleetness and dead-eye mid-range jump shot from her collegiate battles against UConn.

    Among her new teammates: former Huskies low-post star Morgan Tuck.

    "I definitely think we have a lot of potential," Williams said. "I think as far as when we learn the game a little bit more and we all get in sync a little bit better, I think we'll definitely be a tough team to beat."...

    Former USF star Courtney Williams (right), vying for a loose ball against Dallas' Erin Phillips, has found a new lease on her WNBA life with the Connecticut Sun.
  7. Jefferson's Jean Marcellus commits to USF

    Blog

    Jefferson OL Jean Marcellus, ranked No. 19 on the Times' list of the top 100 local high school players for 2016, announced via Twitter on Monday that he has committed to USF.

    Marcellus, a 6-foot-4, 301-pound Haiti native, is the fourth member of the Class of 2017 to give USF a non-binding pledge since Saturday night, when the Bulls wrapped up their one-day Saturday Night Lights camp. He projects as a guard in college.

    "After Saturday Night Lights I felt something," Marcellus said in a text message Monday afternoon. "I love the atmosphere and the people around me. I really would like to play for my city."

    Deemed a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Marcellus reportedly has 13 offers including Kentucky, Louisville and Miami....

    Jefferson lineman Jean Marcellus has committed to USF.
  8. Full disclosure: My preseason AAC ballot

    Blog

    When the American Athletic Conference's preseason media poll is released the morning of Aug. 2, the Bulls could be forecast as the East Division champion.

    At least they are on my ballot.

    The one I turned in over the weekend (see below) is only slightly different from the post-spring AAC prediction I put together in May. The two most significant changes: I've moved Navy up one spot, to third in the West; and I bumped UCF from sixth to fifth in the East.

    Navy's just too well coached to disappear from the radar, and I tend to believe UCF's offense and locker room have been reinvigorated. East Carolina, meantime, watched its onetime projected starting quarterback (Kurt Benkert) transfer.

    East
    1. USF
    2. Temple
    3. Connecticut
    4. Cincinnati
    5. UCF
    6. East Carolina

    West
    1. Houston
    2. Memphis
    3. Navy
    4. Tulsa
    5. SMU
    6. Tulane
    ...

  9. Five Bulls to join Taggart at AAC media kickoff

    Blog

    A quintent of Bulls veterans will accompany Coach Willie Taggart to the American Athletic Conference's annual Summer Kickoff and Media Days in Newport, R.I., next week, the league announced Monday.

    Joining Taggart will be QB Quinton Flowers, RB Marlon Mack, WR Rodney Adams, MLB Auggie Sanchez and CB Deatrick Nichols. No other team will send as many players to Newport, though four other teams are taking four. USF is one of six schools that will bring their projected starting quarterback.

    Live coverage of the event can be seen on The American Digital Network on Aug. 2 starting at 9 a.m. Here's the full list of those slated to attend:

    UCF: Coach Scott Frost, QB Justin Holman, DT Jamiyus Pittman
    Cincinnati: Coach Tommy Tuberville, C Deyshawn Bond, LB Eric Wilson
    Connecticut: Coach Bob Diaco, OT Andreas Knappe, S Obi Melifonwu, WR Noel Thomas, LB Matt Walsh
    East Carolina: Coach Scottie Montgomery, CB DeShaun Amos, WR Zay Jones
    Houston: Coach Tom Herman, DE Cameron Malveaux, TE Tyler McCloskey, QB Greg Ward Jr., CB Brandon Wilson
    Memphis: Coach Mike Norvell, K Jake Elliott, WR Anthony Miller, S Chris Morley
    Navy: Coach Ken Niumatalolo, LB Daniel Gonzales, RB Toneo Gulley
    USF: Coach Willie Taggart, WR Rodney Adams, QB Quinton Flowers, RB Marlon Mack, CB Deatrick Nichols, MLB Auggie Sanchez
    SMU: Coach Chad Morris, QB Matt Davis, DE Justin Lawler, LB Jackson Mitchell, WR Courtland Sutton
    Temple: Coach Matt Rhule, OT Dion Dawkins, RB Jahad Thomas, QB Phillip Walker, LB Avery Williams
    Tulane: Coach Willie Fritz, DT Tanzel Smart, OG Chris Taylor
    Tulsa: Coach Philip Montgomery, QB Dane Evans, WR Keevan Lucas, LB Trent Martin...

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) and tailback Marlon Mack (5) will appear at the American Athletic Conference's Summer Kickoff and Media Days next week, the league confirmed.
  10. Ernie Chatman, a legendary Hernando County coach and runner, dies

    Crosscountrypreps

    BROOKSVILLE — One of Hernando County's greatest institutions wasn't stationary. Unlike Weeki Wachee Springs, Brooksville's Coney Island Drive-Inn or Tom Varn Park, Ernie Chatman never was embedded in a singular spot.

    This local fixture — teacher, coach, mentor, umpire — got around, typically at a pace that belied his birth certificate.

    Every day, humidity or freeze warnings be darned, the married dad of three and grandfather of six churned out one mile after another, usually in preparation for an upcoming marathon. For 8,814 consecutive days — a stretch of more than 24 years — Mr. Chatman ran at least one mile (and typically several more)....

    Ernie Chatman
  11. Hernando coaching legend Ernie Chatman dies

    Blog

    Hernando High coaching icon Ernie Chatman, whose uncanny success spanned several Leopards sports and decades, passed away Sunday evening of an apparent heart attack at his Brooksville home.

    He was 66.

    A 1967 HHS graduate and member of at least two sports halls of fame, Mr. Chatman coached baseball, softball, basketball, track and cross country in a 42-year career, most of it at his alma mater. Success accompanied him to each sport....

    Ernie Chatman, arguably the most successful coach in Hernando County history, passed away Sunday at age 66.
  12. Bulls land 3 weekend commitments

    Blog

    In the immediate wake of their last on-campus recruiting showcase of the summer, the Bulls have landed three non-binding verbal commitments from the Class of 2017.

    On Sunday, Orange Park Oakleaf DB Nick Roberts and North Marion OT Jeremiah Stafford both announced via Twitter they have committed to USF. The night before, shortly after the Bulls wrapped up their Saturday Night Lights event on campus, Miami Dr. Krop WR Randall St. Felix tweeted his commitment to the Bulls.

    The latest pledges give USF five non-binding commitments for the Class of '17.

    Roberts (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, reportedly has nearly two-dozen offers including Florida, Miami, South Carolina, UCLA and Penn State. Stafford (6-4, 285) and St. Felix (6-2, 190) are deemed two-star prospects by Scout.com....

  13. 20 years of USF football: Five biggest program losses (w/video)

    College

    Five worst losses

    1. Rutgers 30, USF 27 (Oct. 18, 2007)

    Times files...

  14. 20 years of USF football: Ranking the coaches (w/video)

    College

    Ranking the coaches

    Okay, so the Bulls have had only three, and ranking them required nary a brain cell, but we did it anyway.

    1. Jim Leavitt (1997-2009)

    Career record: 95-57

    Times files...

    South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart and his team celebrate their victory over the UCF Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando on Thursday, November 26, 2015. The USF Bulls celebrate defeating the UCF Knights 44-3.
  15. 20 years of USF football: Five biggest program wins (w/video)

    College

    Five biggest wins

    1. USF 21, West Virginia 13 (Sept. 28, 2007)

    Times files...