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Inside The U
By Billy Tucker, Scouts Inc.Over the past few years we have praised Jim Leavitt and South Florida for building a nationally regarded football program by scooping up the residual Sunshine State talent annually passed over by the big three Florida schools (Florida, Florida State and Miami). USF typically signs in-state prospects who do not boast legendary combine workouts or hold nationally regarded, blue-chip status. Yet many of USF's recruits are simply great football players with the tools needed to develop into quality college starters (and even future NFL first-round draft picks like cornerback Mike Jenkins).
However, USF may have had its most successful week on the recruiting trail to date, and to the dismay of the three traditional powers, the Bulls could be changing the recruiting landscape in the state of Florida.
Following an impressive turnout at their "Super Bull" camp last weekend, South Florida received seven total commitments this week, the majority coming after or during the successful camp at Raymond James Stadium. From an objective standpoint, it is clearly striking to see five of those prospects, athlete Victor Marc (Hallandale, Fla.), corner and teammate Ricardo Dixon (Hallandale, Fla.), defensive end Demi Thompson (Lake Mary, Fla.), receiver James Green (Tallahassee, Fla./Leon) and safety Jacquez Jenkins (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood) all currently on the ESPN 150 Watch List, considering the Bulls had not signed one ESPN 150 player in their past three classes. The real significance for Leavitt, though, may be who some of these prospects chose the Bulls over.
USF's national emergence has started to create a big four on the Florida recruiting trail, at least in 2009. The on-field accomplishments, coupled with an energetic, straight-forward coaching staff that has taken the program from obscurity to national prominence in a short period of time, appear to be steering some of Florida's best players toward Tampa.
"I chose South Florida for its coaching staff, great football program and academics," said Under Armour All-American Marc, one of the higher-rated athletes in the country. "The coaches were honest and did not try and talk us all into committing, but did have us visualize winning a national championship at a program built around top Florida kids."
Marc said he chose USF over West Virginia, South Carolina, Clemson, Alabama and Florida. The Gators, who Marc said offered him more as an athlete (USF is giving him the opportunity to play QB), essentially did not recruit him as hard or make as big of an impact in his eyes.
Florida and Miami showed interest in Dixon, spending time at his spring practices for evaluations. The speedy corner said he had a "good thing early" with the Seminoles, even taking in their spring game and bonding with their coaches. Yet in the end, despite an offer from FSU, Dixon picked the Bulls. He thinks that this 2009 class could win could win a national championship and make history.
"I did not get the vibe I felt with the South Florida coaches [from other programs]," said the Under Armour All-American. "Coach [Larry] Scott had a big influence; all their coaches are down-to-earth and a bunch of the commits at the camp said we could start our own tradition at South Florida since it's a young program."
Leavitt also stayed true to his roots this week, landing a couple Florida sleepers with the talent to succeed at the more-established in-state programs. We feel that Thompson and Green -- like committed running back Bradley Battles (Marianna, Fla.) -- are great players who may just be lacking an inch of height or a tenth of a second off their 40-yard dash times to garner scholarship offers from the other Florida schools.
Green will be suiting up for Leon High School this year right in Tallahassee. Although future Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher made a stop to see the 6-foot-2 receiver during spring ball, an offer never made it his way. Green does lack great top-end speed and eye-popping stats, but last season he played in a run-oriented offense, which may not have exploited his true playmaking skills. The Bulls are landing an underneath go-to target who could emerge as one of the better receivers in the area next year with a breakout senior season.
"FSU came to like three of my spring practices and said they liked my skills a lot, but they never offered," Green said. "I am motivated now to show them what I can do."
It is still early to put South Florida in the same category as Miami, Florida and Florida State on the recruiting trail, but if the start to USF's 2009 recruiting class is any indication, the Bulls are closing the gap.
With student-athletes making their college choices earlier than ever, it's imperative for college programs to host rising senior camps and be prepared to make an offer or a hard sell on their own campus. For head coaches, the camps are crucial for evaluation purposes -- new NCAA rules prohibit them from going on the road in the spring. Busy fall schedules and off-campus limitations add to the importance of these summer evaluations for entire coaching staffs.
"Remember, college coaches can only watch a particular prospect play in one game per season; the opportunity to get that athlete on your campus for physical and football fundamental evaluation is crucial," said Scouts Inc.'s Bill Conley, a former recruiting coordinator with Ohio State.
ESPN 150 Watch list prospects Travante Stallworth (Leesville, La.), LaVoyd James (Mobile, Ala./Williamson) and LaDarius Perkins (Greenville, Miss./Saint Joseph) headed into Auburn's rising senior camp a few weeks ago without a desired offer from the Tigers, but all three left with one after standout performances on the field. Coach Tommy Tuberville could also have been looking for more than just prospects who passed the physical eyeball test at the Plains.
These camps are also valuable from a non-football evaluation standpoint, which can be the final test from a coach before extending an offer.
"Prior to offering, college staffs want to get to know and evaluate the character of the young man that their college or university is going to invest thousands of dollars in for the next four years," Conley said. "These camps are great for that."
Expect a lull in commitments next week. Most campuses will be quiet with the approaching July Fourth holiday.Editor's note: The Pep Rally will not be posted next week because of the holiday. It will return in full force July 11.
Big get for Kentucky with DT Walker
ESPN 150 Watch List prospect Myron Walker pledged to sign with the Wildcats, according to the Courier-Journal.
"Well, yesterday Kentucky scored a small victory on the recruiting trail by landing what we feel is a pretty good sleeper at defensive tackle in Walker. While not very tall, Walker is a compact, squatty player who can be a disruptive presence at the nose tackle position. He has good quickness off the ball and uses his hands well. He has a good motor and could develop into a stout presence versus the run."Walker's Briefing Room archive
Volunteers score QB Nunes
ESPN 150 Watch List QB Josh Nunes verbally committed to Tennessee Tuesday, reports ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill. Nunes had narrowed his long list of scholarship offers down to eight: Arizona State, BYU, Florida, Harvard, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford and Tennessee.
Bill Conley: I've always seen the tight-end type of athlete as crucial to a program. They have better feet than the normal linemen and can grow into a guard or tackle while still maintaining athleticism.
Bill Conley: Tough to say. I think ND is in the hunt but other schools like USC are on the list. He's a real good player and the Irish would like to land him.• To read the full chat, click here.
Newsome thinks his doubters have gotten the wrong impression.
"People think because you come out a week after you're done with track and not throw the ball well that you're not a good football player," Newsome said. "Even if I am not throwing the ball well, I just need a chance. You can't be perfect at everything. So I am giving up track and going to stick with my love -- and that's playing football."
|South Florida's 2009 verbals|