TAMPA ― Since his introductory news conference eight weeks ago, new USF coach Jeff Scott has hired a staff, salvaged a 17-player signing class, purchased a house and engaged more donors than his predecessor did in three years.
But what he has willfully neglected to do is watch any Bulls game tape from 2019. Though his assistants will review some of that forgettable 4-8 season for the purpose of slotting players in the right positions, Scott wants no preconceived perceptions of any Bull ― rookie or veteran ― entering his first spring practice.
Translation: Get ready for a doozy of a four-player quarterback derby. Not only for the No. 1 job, but for No. 2 and 3 as well.
“My overall message to the team is that every spot is up for grabs,” Scott said Wednesday after signing eight more high school seniors, increasing his 2020 signing class to 17 players.
“I’m choosing not to watch (2019 tape) because I told the players I want the first day of spring to be the first time that I’ve seen every one of those guys go out there and compete. Because it is a new day, it’s a new beginning. For some guys, they need a new beginning and new opportunity.”
Joining 2019 starter Jordan McCloud in the quarterback room will be North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin (a December signee) and incoming freshmen Katravis Marsh and Jordan Smith, both of whom signed Wednesday.
Fortin, who appeared in four games for UNC as a freshman in 2018 and is believed to possess the most potent arm of the bunch, already is enrolled and is eligible for the ’20 season.
Arriving in the summer will be Marsh, a 6-foot-5 pro-style passer who led Miami Central to last season’s Class 6A state title; and Smith, who totaled 6,361 yards and 68 touchdowns in three seasons at Lake City Columbia.
Smith, son of former Bulls tailback Quinton Callum, is believed to be the program’s first second-generation player. A fifth scholarship quarterback, sophomore wildcat specialist Jah’Quez Evans, has requested a move to receiver, where he also trained for a time in 2019.
“We’ve told everybody that we’re gonna allow everybody to compete,” Scott said.
“Usually it will start separating itself a little bit, but I think having an environment of competition and the right type of competition is really important. And I think if you don’t have that and there’s some entitlement … then you don’t have the culture that we want to have.”
Despite having fewer than two months to assemble the 2020 class, Scott said each of the 17 players signed were put through a “thick filter” to ascertain whether they met the program’s needs and culture criteria.
“Especially in the age of the early signing period … I wasn’t sure exactly what that pool (of prospects) was gonna look like in terms of player ability and also quality of person,” Scott said.
“We had seven guys here on that first (recruiting) weekend, and I called my dad after the first dinner on Friday night and said, ‘These are the kind of guys I’d want to recruit if we started a year out. This is the kind of group I want to get to.'"
The modest-sized group (programs are allowed to sign 25 initial qualifiers annually) will enable Scott and his staff to add a few more players via the transfer portal, though he doesn’t intend to tap heavily into the transfer market in the long term.
Two transfers already in place are place-kicker Jared Sackett (Arkansas) and Stanford defensive tackle Bo Peek (Stanford), a Plant High alumnus. Fortin joined Oregon running back Darrian Felix as transfers signed in December.
“I think once we kinda get our program up and running, we may tap into some transfer guys to help us from time to time,” Scott said. “But I don’t envision it being a major staple where we’re going out and signing six or eight guys every year.”
USF Wednesday signings
WR Sincere Brown, 6-5/175, Charleston (S.C.) First Baptist School
LB Le’Vontae Camiel, 6-1/200, Lake City Columbia
OL Uriah Greene, 6-3/290, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
DE Tramel Logan, 6-2/230, Miami Washington
QB Katravis Marsh, 6-5/198, Miami Central
OL Cesar Reyes, 6-5/300, Chamberlain
QB Jordan Smith, 6-1/180, Lake City Columbia
TE Holden Willis, 6-4/204, Greenback (Tenn.)
USF December signees (including transfers)
RB Brian Battie, 5-8/170, Sarasota
WR Omarion Dollison, 5-9/172, Columbia (S.C.) Gray Collegiate*
RB Darrian Felix, 5-11/197, Oregon*
QB Cade Fortin, 6-3/220, North Carolina*
CB AJ Hamilton, 5-10/161, Dunnellon
S Mac Harris, 6-0/200, The Villages Charter
CB Ben Knox, 6-2/173, DeLand
CB Chris Townsel, 6-2/176, Deerfield Beach*
DT Sione Tuitupou, 6-4/290, East Los Angeles College*