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February 8, 2013

Grading the 2013 USF Signing Class

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College football's National Signing Day proved to be a very memorable one for first year USF head coach Willie Taggart and Bulls fans everywhere. Although the day seemed anticlimactic due to the coaching staff having most of its recruits 'locked up' already, the 2013 class has left Tamp abuzz with interest about the new Taggart era. Here is my grade for the 2013 USF football signing class:

Offense: B

Willie Taggart and the USF coaching staff did a nice job finding some very strong pieces for the 2013 season. The additions of Zach Benjamin, Darius Tice and Stafon McCray will surely be felt right away for the Bulls. Benjamin, a 6-foot-4, 187-pound wide receiver adds depth to receiving corps and has good hands and great size. Adding two running backs is arguably one of the best things about this class, especially since USF is quite inexperienced in the backfield on the existing roster.

The offensive line is what keeps this class a 'B', instead of a C+. Bringing in Jeremi Hall and Cameron Ruff, both Rivals.com three-star linemen, are two guys that can upgrade the offensive line immediately. Hall, the Rivals.com 20th ranked offensive lineman in the nation and 28th ranked player in the state of Georgia, is a guy that went under the radar and, is a real steal for this signing class.

What troubles me most about the offensive side of the signing class is the quarterback position. Although there seems to be a great deal of confidence and excitement in University High School, and Rivals.com three-star recruit Mike White can develop into a good signal caller, the Bulls failed to bring in a QB that can compete for the starting job next year. I think one thing Bulls fans were hoping to see was the coaching staff to pursue a JUCO quarterback that would come in and push both Matt Floyd and Bobby Eveld for the starting job next year. Don't sleep on White as a difference maker in the future, I just don't think he jumps from 3A high school football to big time division one starter in a summer.

Not bringing in a QB that will compete for the starting job next year is what made me downgrade the offensive recruiting class from an 'A-' to a 'B'. All-in-all though, USF added some very strong pieces for the offensive arsenal this signing class.

Defense: A

I don't know how anyone could give any less than an 'A' to the Bulls for their defensive signing class. Raymond Woodie, Willie Taggart, Larry Scott, Chuck Bresnahan and David Reaves did a great job attracting great talent that can contribute right away for the Bulls.

USF added six defensive backs to a Bulls secondary that struggled mightily in 2012. The signing of four-star defensive back Lamar Robbins was one of the biggest for USF in the past five years. Adding Robbins gives the Bulls options in the secondary because he can transition between both the cornerback and safety positions. Freedom High School's Nate Godwin and First Coast Academy's Darius Whitty give the Bulls two quick and strong coverage cornerbacks that can matchup against bigger opposing wide receivers. USF also added JUCO DB Torrel Saffold, who gives the Bulls an experienced option in the secondary.

USF added three linebackers in the class of 2013; Mitchell Wright, Nigel Harris and Rahmon Swain. Harris, coming from Hillsborough High School, was the highest profile signing and gives the Bulls a athletic linebacker that can play both the pass and the run. Swain, just like Saffold, will give USF the traditional experience JUCO presence that Bulls fans have become accustomed to seeing with this program (see Jason Pierre-Paul and Fidel Montgomery). Many have overlooked Wright, but the Plant High School product gives the Bulls the prototypical linebacker build (6-foot-3, 210lbs) that can fill holes and chase down running backs.

The 2013 defensive line recruiting class is headlined by Manatee High School, four-star recruit Derrick Calloway, but Calloway is not the only impact player that the Bulls have brought to Tampa. Although Calloway was clearly a big piece to the puzzle, Deadrin Senat and Dominique Threatt have just as much potential to be difference makers in their USF careers. Senat and Threatt, both Rivals.com three-star recruits, are nice sized linemen that are warriors in the trenches. Countryside High School's Mike Love is another lineman like Calloway, Senat and Threatt that has the potential to win a starting job in the summer and get a quick start to his USF career.

Special Teams: B

I contemplated giving USF an 'incomplete' here, but instead settled for a 'B'. I mostly gave the Bulls that grade because Willie Taggart only needed to add a field goal kicker, so that is what he did, signing Emilio Nadelman.

Nadelman is the lone special teams player in the Bulls' class of 2013. Nadelman is a 5-foot-9, 180-pound kicker that went virtually untested his senior year at Miami Central, mostly because his team scored so many touchdowns. Although he did not see a lot of action in 2012, the Miami native still excels in the kicking game and will give the Bulls another competitor in a special teams unit for USF that has had its ups and downs the past five years.

Overall Grade: B+

Overall, I give Taggart and the Bulls a B+ for the 2013 signing class. The Bulls addressed many needs that they had, especially on the defensive side of the ball and did a great job adding guys with just a month of time to recruit. The coaching staff even got creative, signing St. Pete's Auggie Sanchez, a career linebacker, to play H-back, tight end and fullback. What would have made this signing class an 'A' would've been adding one of the 'one the fence' guys that announced on National Signing day. Unfortunately, the Bulls missed on each of Denver Kirkland (Arkansas), Stacy Coley (Miami), Travis Johnson (Cincinnati) and Malik Brown (Tennessee), but USF did hold on to all the verbal commits they had. Clearly, it would have been nice to add any of those guys listed, but the Bulls focused on making sure they kept the guys they had. Going into next year, the Bulls will have plenty of options for competition at each position, giving Taggart the opportunity to best build his new system at USF.



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