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USF football poised for AAC’s top-ranked class as signing period nears

The Bulls’ 2024 group currently is ranked among the nation’s top 50 by 247Sports.
 
USF coach Alex Golesh have assembled what is currently ranked the American Athletic Conference's top recruiting class for 2024.
USF coach Alex Golesh have assembled what is currently ranked the American Athletic Conference's top recruiting class for 2024. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Dec. 11, 2023

The pledges are starting to align for USF.

Even as Bulls fans still revel in quarterback Byrum Brown’s recent confirmation that he’ll remain at the school next season, one of the most highly regarded USF recruiting classes in recent memory is poised to make its collective commitment official next week.

The Bulls’ 24-member class of 2024 is ranked first in the American Athletic Conference — and 48th nationally — by 247Sports. East Carolina (57th) is the only other AAC program ranked in the top 60.

For context, the Bulls’ 2023 class — assembled even as USF was enduring a coaching transition — ranked sixth in the AAC. The 2022 group ranked eighth.

The NCAA’s early signing period for football begins Dec. 20, a day before the Bulls face Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl.

“Recruiting is going extremely well,” Bulls coach Alex Golesh said Friday. “We’ve had some really good additions. Obviously we’ve got to go close and finish on the 20th. I think here in the next week it will be some really exciting additions for us.”

In the immediate wake of Golesh’s comments came reports that USF had flipped Tennessee commitment Jonathan Echols, a tight end from IMG Academy deemed a four-star prospect by 247Sports. The only four-star currently in USF’s class, Echols possesses coveted physical upside (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and sleekness, having reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds at IMG’s pro day.

Meantime, the Bulls also got pledges this past weekend from three-star projected edge rushers Jaylen Pettus (Iowa Western Community College) and Levi Smiley (Cincinnati’s Purcell Marian High). Pettus (6-4, 250), whose team plays for a junior college national title Wednesday, leads the Reivers with 15.5 tackles for loss including seven sacks.

Smiley (6-4, 220), a two-way standout, had 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions on defense, while catching 49 passes for 821 yards and seven touchdowns this past season for Purcell Marian.

The Bulls also recently got a pledge out of the transfer portal from defensive end Obi Ezeigbo, who has spent the past five seasons at Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Ezeigbo’s 7.5 sacks in 2023 led Gannon, which finished 5-6.

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Including Echols, the Bulls’ class features 17 Florida high school players. Of that group, two — Gaither offensive tackle Tyreek Major and Cambridge Christian kicker Nico Gramatica — hail from a bay area school.

Gramatica, son of former Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica, would become the third member of his family to play for USF. His uncles, Bill and Santiago, kicked for the Bulls between 1998 and 2004.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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