USF’s first signing day of Jeff Scott era builds steam

The Bulls’ new coach collected eight letters of intent on the start of the early signing period.
Sarasota tailback Brian Battie officially became new USF coach Jeff Scott's first signee.
Sarasota tailback Brian Battie officially became new USF coach Jeff Scott's first signee. [ THOMAS BENDER | Herald-Tribune ]
Published Dec. 18, 2019|Updated Dec. 18, 2019

A USF signing day initially projected to be fairly modest transitioned to fairly momentous before lunch Wednesday.

Shortly after their fax machine spewed letters of intent from four in-state prospects who remained committed to USF during its recent coaching change, as well as one from Oregon transfer Darrian Felix, the Bulls tuned in to their lone signing day announcement containing suspense.

What they heard elicited glee inside the Selmon Center. South Carolina three-star receiver Omarion Dollison announced at roughly 10:30 a.m. Wednesday he had chosen the Bulls over Cincinnati and Akron, among others.

That announcement, a day after former North Carolina quarterback Cade Fortin announced via Twitter that he plans to transfer to USF, gave new coach Jeff Scott two significant early recruiting victories only a week after his formal introduction as Bulls coach.

“We added a lot of speed, athleticism and explosiveness to our team today and we’ll look to add even more in the late signing period in February," Scott said.

Not including Fortin, the Bulls got eight letters of intent Wednesday, the start of the NCAA’s three-day early signing period. That number could triple for Scott ― who has yet to announce the hiring of any assistants ― by the conventional signing day in early February.

Dollison hails from Columbia, S.C., near the site of Scott’s first head coaching gig at Blythewood High. This past season at Gray Collegiate, he caught 86 passes for more than 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns.

It is believed he’ll enroll at USF in January.

Related: USF's Jeff Scott adds former North Carolina QB Cade Fortin

Earlier Wednesday, 5-foot-8 Sarasota tailback Brian Battie formally became the first signee of Scott’s tenure. He was followed roughly 20 minutes later by fellow three-star prospect Mac Harris, a safety from The Villages Charter School. By 8:45, Deland cornerback Ben Knox and Felix ― who will need a waiver to play for USF in 2020 ― had faxed in their respective letters of intent.

“I was really impressed with (Scott) and his vision,” said Harris, who had committed while Strong was coach. “And I believe he can put it into play.”

A Willie Taggart signee at Oregon, Felix was a three-star prospect and 1,400-yard rusher as a senior at Fort Myers High, but had an injury-besieged career with the Ducks.

Felix played in only two games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending injury, then found himself the odd man out in a congested backfield this past fall. He got only 34 carries for 197 yards in 2019, catching six passes for 78 yards. He entered the transfer portal in early December.

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All six high school seniors who signed Wednesday are three-star prospects according to 247Sports. So is Wednesday’s lone junior college signee, Hawaiian-born defensive tackle Sione Tuitupou of East Lost Angeles College. All seven committed to USF while Charlie Strong remained coach and didn’t waver following his dismissal.

“Stuck with USF because it’s a great place to be,” Knox said in a text message. “And I was impressed with (Scott’s) ambition for the program wanting to be great.”

USF early signees

RB Brian Battie, Sarasota (5-8/170)

WR Omarion Dollison, Columbia (S.C.) Gray (5-9/172)

RB Darrian Felix, Fort Myers/Oregon (5-11/197)

CB AJ Hamilton, Dunnellon (5-10/161)

S Mac Harris, The Villages (6-0/200)

CB Ben Knox, Deland (6-2/173)

CB Christopher Townsel, Deerfield Beach (6-2/176)

DT Sione Tuitupou, Kalaheo (Hawaii)/East Los Angeles (6-4/290)