Coaching change means modest early signing period for USF

Jeff Scott, who has been on the job only a week, likely won’t get many signatures Wednesday.
New USF football head coach Jeff Scott, his wife Sara and their 4-year-old daughter Savannah at least week's official introduction.
New USF football head coach Jeff Scott, his wife Sara and their 4-year-old daughter Savannah at least week's official introduction. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Dec. 16, 2019

New USF coach Jeff Scott’s second impression in Tampa won’t be nearly as riveting or resounding as his first.

And that’s not necessarily a cause for alarm, though some panic-stricken fans surely will sound it by dusk Wednesday.

While trying to assemble a staff (he’s retaining none of Charlie Strong’s guys), assess the roster he inherited and memorize the key codes inside the Selmon Center, Scott also must try to salvage some signatures when the NCAA’s early signing period starts Wednesday.

At this rate, he’s not expected to get many. At least not initially.

Related: USF men, women earn another doubleheader sweep at home

Following a couple more weekend de-commitments, USF is down to 11 non-binding pledges less than 48 hours before the signing period commences. The class currently is ranked 10th in the American Athletic Conference by 247Sports.

“I’ve had to call some recruits and talk to their parents, recruits that have never been to the University of South Florida, recruits that have never met me in person, and I’m trying to talk the mother into allowing her son to sign with the University of South Florida next Wednesday,” Scott told The Athletic’s Andy Staples on a podcast that premiered Monday.

“I’ve never been in that situation before.”

Hence the reason Scott clearly is putting a premium on the conventional signing day (first Wednesday in February) and the transfer portal.

Related: USF owes Charlie Strong $3.1 million, per termination letter

Scott returns Thursday to Clemson, where he’ll remain with the Tigers throughout their College Football Playoff run. But during that time, he almost certainly will continue piecing together a Bulls staff and should have the nucleus of it in place by the end of December.

That will allow he and his new assistants to spend January identifying and homing in on the remaining prospects they covet in and out of the transfer portal. With a solid late push, Scott conceivably can put together a decent ― if not dazzling ― class during this winter of transition.

NCAA rules permit him to sign 25 “initial qualifiers” (new arrivals to the program) per year.

“I’m coming from a place and a culture at Clemson where coach (Dabo) Swinney’s taken pride that he has not taken one transfer in his 11 years as the head coach,” Scott told Staples.

“And now I’m in a position where we’re gonna need to fill some holes. So I’ve really got to kind of figure out where we are as a team, where maybe we need the most help, what positions.”