Evidently, the Bulls are bent on infusing their roster with players in the mold of 5-foot-5 speedster Johnny Ford.
Case in point: diminutive Braden River junior tailback Brian Battie, who announced Wednesday via Twitter he plans to sign with USF.
A 2,100-yard rusher last fall, Battie becomes the third player to give a non-binding verbal pledge to the Bulls in a week. Depending on the reference, his size is listed anywhere between 5-foot-6 and 5-8, and 159-170 pounds.
But there’s a general consensus on his speed: elite.
“He had great vision,” said Plant City coach James Booth, who watched Battie run for 365 yards on 41 carries in Braden River’s 28-23 victory against the Raiders in a Class 7A playoff game last November.
"Braden River had a really good line, good-sized kids up front, and he’s a smaller scatback type, so he kind of hid behind his guys. But his burst through the hole was probably one of the best we’ve seen all season. He had great top-end speed.
“His lateral quickness was probably the best we’ve seen as well.”
Battie appears custom-designed for new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell’s system, designed in part to get speedsters the ball in space via short passes, jet sweeps or disciplined downfield routes.
Ford, moved to the slot after running for 787 yards last fall, appeared to flourish in his new role this past spring. Kenny Benjamin, a 5-foot-7 prep tailback whom Bell moved to receiver while coach at Valdosta State, had 40 receptions for the Division II national champion Blazers last fall.
“Every time they needed a big play, (Battie) was that guy that could get it,” said Booth, who watched Battie exploit an uncovered gap for a 97-yard touchdown against the Raiders.
“He did a great job of pressing holes and when he saw his lane, he had the burst and acceleration to hit it.”