TAMPA ― While speaking in mostly general terms about his new 19-player signing class Wednesday, USF coach Charlie Strong also had praise for another sleek newcomer with the potential to greatly benefit the Bulls.
The NCAA transfer portal. It’s a sprawling database (at least according to Strong), and the Bulls intend to maximize it this spring to help fill their roster.
“There’s 1,400 names right now in the portal,” Strong said, “so you’re gonna be able to go in and get the guys that you need, which will be a great asset to us in our program.”
Which isn’t to suggest USF, which added no new signees Wednesday, whiffed with its latest class.
Though the Bulls missed out Wednesday on Dublin (Ga.) edge rusher Steven Linton (Syracuse) and St. Augustine two-way standout Kenny Logan (Kansas), Strong addressed pressing needs at linebacker (three signees), defensive end (three) and cornerback (three early enrollees) in December’s early signing period.
He also signed four offensive linemen (including Largo High behemoth Raymond Collins), added three receivers for a unit recently besieged by attrition, and brought in a fourth quarterback (three-star dual threat Jahquez Evans).
But he said the Bulls still must acquire more pass-rush help, more depth at safety, and any other talent the portal might provide.
“Whatever’s there, if it’s a really good football player, we’re gonna take him,” Strong said.
Regardless of how the Bulls fare in the transfer market, Strong said he believes his 2019 club will possess more size and physicality than last year’s team, which dropped its last six games after a 7-0 start.
The five offensive linemen who started the Gasparilla Bowl against Marshall return, as does record-setting tight end Mitch Wilcox. Defensively, Strong returns five linemen who registered at least 10 tackles last season.
Additionally, veteran linebacker Nico Sawtelle, who missed seven games with a shoulder injury last season, is expected back for fall camp, Strong said.
“You have guys that have played a lot of football now, and you want to get 'em bigger,” Strong said. “So now with them getting bigger and stronger, you can feel like you will be a physical football team.”
Strong, who hadn’t addressed reporters since his Gasparilla Bowl postgame press conference, touched on various other subjects Wednesday.
* Strong said USF’s lack of a football-only complex, at a time when college football’s facilities arms race keeps intensifying, is hindering the Bulls in recruiting. “That’s gonna always be something that we’ve got to battle against, and that’s why you’ve got to have good recruiters on your staff, because you have to be able to overcome that,” he said. “It’s gonna be there and it’s gonna be something that some people talk about, because they’re gonna use it against you.”
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* Regarding his defensive staff vacancies, Strong indicated they could be filled by the end of the week. Former Bucs defensive line assistant Paul Spicer is expected to fill one of the three spots. “Monday we’re gonna come and it’s time to go to work,” Strong said. “So they should be in place.”
* Strong said two or three of the 11 players suspended before the Gasparilla Bowl remain in school and potentially could re-join the team. “They’re in school so they’re working, and...they may be earning that right to get back.”
* On new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell, a blossoming University of Florida quarterback when Strong was a Gators graduate assistant: “I’m glad we did get him because I just know that he’s gonna be able to help this team. ... He has the system, he knows exactly how he wants it run, he knows exactly what he wants done, and I just think he’s gonna do an unbelievable job.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.