Less than a month before national signing day, Robinson left tackle Connor Rafferty is suddenly in limbo.
Rafferty's mother, Tracy, confirmed that USF has rescinded its scholarship offer to her son, a first-team pick on the Times' 2012 all-Suncoast team.
Tracy Rafferty told the Times early Monday morning that new Bulls offensive coordinator Walt Wells informed Rafferty by phone around 10:30 on Sunday evening. Rafferty's dad, Robin, called Wells back and was told Connor wasn't in the plans of new Bulls coach Willie Taggart's staff, Tracy Rafferty said.
"He said it would be in Connor's best interest if he were to pursue other offers at this time," Tracy Rafferty said.
"He said that they looked at film and they compared him with other offers they had, and that he was on the list but they didn't think they would get to him. So he said in his professional opinion, it would be in his best interest to pursue any other offers he would have."
An honors student who takes dual-enrollment courses at Hillsborough Community College, Rafferty had no other offers when Wells phoned him Sunday, and had stopped going to camps after USF offered him last summer while Skip Holtz was coach. Athletic director Doug Woolard said when Taggart was hired that USF would honor scholarship offers to all recruits who had committed under Holtz.
On Monday afternoon, Knights assistant Shawn Taylor said Eastern Kentucky had offered Rafferty earlier in the day.
National signing day, the first day high school seniors may sign a national letter of intent, is Feb. 6.
"I feel we were blindsided here by this," said former Knights coach Mike DePue, who retired at the end of the '12 season.
"(Three) weeks 'til national signing day, and we're throwing his name out there again. Maybe this wasn't a good fit for him, but I'm not pleased with the direction this organization's taking. ... Right now, if I were the coach here, (USF) would not be welcome here right now."
DePue said this is the second time in three seasons one of his players has had an offer withdrawn by a Taggart-coached program. J.J. Hubbard, leading rusher from the Knights' 2010 team, had his offer withdrawn from Western Kentucky, then coached by Taggart. Hubbard currently is a tailback/return specialist at Division I-AA Gardner-Webb.
NCAA rules prohibit colleges from commenting on recruits until they have signed. Rafferty's classmate, two-way Knights lineman Bruce Hector, remains a Bulls commitment but visited Buffalo two weekends ago.
Rafferty (6-foot-3, 280 pounds) was widely considered the most physical player on the Knights' all-senior offensive line, which created lanes for a running game that averaged more than 215 yards. Robinson (12-2) reached the Class 5A state semifinals.
"He's disappointed, but we sat down and prayed about it," Tracy Rafferty said. "We figured there was something else in his future. I want him to keep a positive attitude."