USF hoping for ruling on KJ Sails any day now

The East Bay High alumnus is seeking an NCAA waiver that would allow him to play in 2019.
USF cornerback KJ Sails, an East Bay High alumnus, transferred from North Carolina earlier this year.
USF cornerback KJ Sails, an East Bay High alumnus, transferred from North Carolina earlier this year. [ USF Athletics ]
Published Aug. 26, 2019

TAMPA ― In what might be described as a gesture of wishful thinking, North Carolina transfer KJ Sails is listed on USF’s first game-week depth chart of 2019.

But at least for now, the junior cornerback continues his agonizing interval in NCAA limbo.

Bulls coach Charlie strong said he hopes to learn the ’19 fate of Sails, who is seeking a waiver from the NCAA, as soon as today. If granted, Sails, an East Bay High alumnus and father of a 2-year-old son, can play immediately.

MORE USF: USF hopes it’s not all downhill Friday for Jonathan Taylor

“I think (NCAA officials) meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so those decisions are made.” Strong said Monday at his normal game-week press conference.

“With us playing on Friday, we’ll probably get a decision before Friday because I think what they try to do is, you get a decision before you play that game.”

The reason for the NCAA’s seemingly slow action regarding Sails’ case is anyone’s guess. Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell’s name appeared in the NCAA transfer portal in early January, and his waiver was granted in March.

Just last week, UCF linemen Tony Gray (Ole Miss transfer) and Cam Goode (Virginia Tech) both learned they had received waivers allowing them to play right away.

If Sails, who started 14 games over the previous two seasons at UNC, is declared eligible, he likely would start at the corner spot opposite Hillsborough High alumnus Mike Hampton. In that scenario, former Tampa Catholic standout Bentlee Sanders would start at nickel.

“It’s been fun to just watch how (Sanders) has developed these last few weeks,” Strong said.

Sawtelle sidelined again

The anticipated return of Nico Sawtelle apparently is on hold ― again.

A senior middle linebacker who missed the last seven games of ’18 with neck and shoulder issues, Sawtelle was injured at practice last week and likely won’t play against Wisconsin, Strong indicated.

Oklahoma State transfer Patrick Macon (6-foot-3, 245 pounds), who drew raves through most of preseason camp, is listed No. 2 on the depth chart.

“(Sawtelle) got banged up last week so he’s the only one that’s played some that’s not on the two-deep (chart) right now for us,” Strong said. “But everyone else, we’re healthy and we’re ready to go."

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Why Willie Taggart named James Blackman FSU’s starting quarterback

Odds and ends

Raymond James Stadium is nearing a lower-bowl sellout (48,007) for Friday’s game, which includes 10,000 seats held for students, according to USF. ... No. 19 Wisconsin is the highest-ranked home-opening foe in USF’s 23-season history. ... The Bulls have won five consecutive season openers. ... Senior Mitch Wilcox needs four receptions Friday to break the school’s career record for tight ends (75) held by Sean Price. ... Sounds as if Strong will stick with his plan to use Newsome High alumnus Spencer Shrader for longer field goals (40 or more yards) and junior Coby Weiss for shorter kicks. Punter Trent Schneider is the holder. ... Walk-on Bryce Miller, an East Lake alumnus, is listed as the No. 3 slot receiver on the depth chart behind Johnny Ford and Eddie McDoom. “They’re all great playmakers and they’re all gonna be on the field at some point,” quarterback Blake Barnett said.

Follow the state’s college football teams

Follow the state’s college football teams

Subscribe to our free Florida Football Fix newsletter

We’ll bring college football analysis and insights — with a statewide focus — to your inbox weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options


“I think there were a lot of practices last year where guys were just kind of cruising. When it gets into the middle of camp, fatigue really sets in. ... Last year, they kind of just put it in cruise control and were just kind of coasting through. I don’t think that’s the case this year. I think we really worked.” ― Barnett