TAMPA -- Seven months after leaving South Bend with a surprising victory, USF coach Skip Holtz picked up another huge win against his alma mater, Notre Dame, as the Bulls announced Monday that Aaron Lynch, a promising defensive end who earned Freshman All-America honors for the Irish last fall, is transferring to USF this summer.
Lynch, 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, was rated as the No. 10 overall recruit in the nation last year, given the prestigious five-star rating by Scout.com, and he didn't disappoint in South Bend, leading the Fighting Irish with 5.5 sacks as a true freshman. But a desire to move back close to his family and fiance in Cape Coral, near Fort Myers, has him joining the Bulls, though he'll likely sit out the 2012 season as required by NCAA rules.
"I'm ecstatic, really excited for a player with his talent level," Holtz said Monday after Lynch made an official campus visit this weekend, taking in the Bulls' spring game on Saturday night. "What really impressed me was having the opportunity to be around him this weekend. He's doing really well in school, and he's a great young man. He's got his head on straight, and I've got great respect for where he is right now."
USF was the first school to offer Lynch a scholarship, with assistant Carl Franks noticing him as an underclassman as part of Jim Leavitt's staff, and Island Coast High coach Joe Bowen bringing Lynch and his mother, Alice, up to USF to see the campus. Before long, the nation's elite programs were offering scholarships, and when Holtz arrived in 2010, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder also built a relationship with Lynch, who committed to Notre Dame and then Florida State before ultimately signing with the Fighting Irish.
Holtz said Lynch made it clear in the last week that USF was where he wanted to be, citing a combination of the proximity to home and the familiarity of having liked USF during the initial recruiting process.
"When he came here on his visit, it probably confirmed some things for him, being around our players, to see the morale and the attitude of those guys, the way everybody got along," Holtz said. "The recruiting process the first time around, although it wasn't strong enough to say that's where he's going to go to school, it was strong enough to say 'I really could be happy there.'"
Lynch is expected to sit out the 2012 season, and he'll have three years of eligibility with the Bulls starting in 2013, though he is seen as a potential early-entry candidate for the NFL Draft down the road. USF will apply for a hardship waiver that, if granted, would allow him to play immediate this fall without sitting out the year as normally required.
Holtz said Lynch's host for his visit was defensive tackle Luke Sager, but he also took a liking to junior defensive end Ryne Giddins -- the two could wind up as bookend pass-rushers for the Bulls in 2013.