TAMPA — Assess USF's football recruiting class through a pragmatic prism, in terms of needs instead of national perception, and the Bulls appear to be doing all right.
A defense in dire need of down linemen has verbal pledges from two ends. An offense expected to employ more spread principles has "commitments" from two receivers and a tight end. Four offensive linemen have said they'll sign next month, promising depth to a unit that never can get enough.
There's even a quarterback in the mix. Barring any 11th-hour reneging, the third signing class of the Willie Taggart era appears very serviceable, perhaps even solid.
Just not sexy.
According to the major national recruiting services, USF's class of 2015 is a constellation of three-stars. If the recruiting season ended today, it would rank between 60th and 75th nationally and second (behind Cincinnati) in the American Athletic Conference. Neither Rivals, 247Sports, scout.com nor ESPN deems any Bulls commitment a four- or five-star prospect.
Last year, nine signees were afforded four-star status by at least one service.
The class is "not bad considering the two seasons they have had and coordinator changes of late," scout.com national analyst (and Boca Ciega alumnus) Jamie Newberg said.
"I know this is a win-now profession, but people need to understand what Willie Taggart inherited in terms of a roster, which wasn't much at all. …Having said that, this will be his third class, and they need to produce some wins. Tough sell when you don't and go through coaching changes."
Though disclaimers won't be acceptable this fall, perhaps they should this February. USF's collection of signees likely will be assessed as an "all things considered" class, and understandably so.
Imagine the red flags being waved by rival coaches in Fowler Avenue's direction. Undoubtedly, prospects are getting earfuls about the Bulls' coordinator turnover, attendance issues and Taggart's job security. Prospects themselves likely are putting it on the table when visited by a USF staffer.
"It's no different than what Will Muschamp and the Gators went through over the last 12 months," Newberg said. "I am sure (Bulls coaches) will be asked about it from recruits, their parents and coaches. On the flip side, you know the teams recruiting against this staff will spin that in a not-so-good way."
Yet such a backdrop hasn't resulted in a significant recruiting backslide. And the possibility of USF finishing strong remains very real.
A handful of intriguing prospects remain on USF's board, the most prominent being Armwood inside LB — and Wisconsin pledge — Jordan Griffin. On Monday, Griffin told the Tampa Bay Times the Bulls are "serious contenders" for his signature.
If he flips, the Bulls could leapfrog Cincinnati for the AAC recruiting crown. To many, that might represent Taggart's best recruiting job since his arrival in Tampa.
All things considered.
HONOR FOR EATMON: Former Bulls offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon, who graduated in December with an economics degree, is among six finalists for the 2015 Rare Disease Champion Award presented by Uplifting Athletes.
Eatmon and his wife, Melyza, also a USF graduate, have a 20-month-old daughter born with a rare optical condition that originally had doctors unsure if she'd ever see. Following a procedure in New York City, Melaynna gradually has regained a degree of vision, spawning hope she'll ultimately be able to read large-print books.
Fans can vote for one of the finalists at upliftingathletes.org. Voting ends Jan. 31, with the winner announced Feb. 1 to kick off Rare Disease Month.
ODDS AND ENDS: Former men's soccer standouts Nikola Paunic and Lucas Baldin were taken Tuesday in the fourth round of the MLS SuperDraft by Vancouver and Real Salt Lake, respectively. Teammate Wesley Charpie was picked in the second round Thursday by Toronto FC. … USF's 22nd-ranked men's tennis team opened the season Friday with consecutive 4-0 romps over Stetson and FAU. … Former Bulls K Marvin Kloss' MVP performance (four field goals, PAT) in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game was by far the best of any Bull in the postseason. OLB Reshard Cliett and CB Chris Dunkley each recorded a pass breakup and no tackles in the Medal of Honor Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, respectively. … Exhibit 1,001 on how priceless pitchers are in softball: USF, which must replace All-American LHP Sara Nevins, received zero votes in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.