At this rate, the USF bus is going to run out of gas.
Monday was unofficial “USF Offer Day” for Central Florida athletes, and several college football prospects picked up scholarship offers from the Bulls.
You might recall last year when head coach Willie Taggart first came on the scene at the Tampa school, he said his recruiting radar was going to extend far beyond the 40-mile radius of the Tampa Bay area, and he was even part of a YouTube video “Get on the Bus with @CoachTaggart.”
OK, so the video was bad. The effort, however, at least stirred up some attention for the struggling USF program, which fell on hard times during the final season of former head coach Skip Holtz’s tenure.
The Bulls signed 22 Florida high school stars in February out of 28 total recruits. A pretty good in-state haul, but most of them (14) were of the West Coast variety, from the Tampa area to Fort Myers.
Taggart wants more. Bringing in former Miami Central head coach Telly Lockett certainly helped. The Bulls landed three Miami kids, but they’ve done that before. They’ll be looking for more out of South Florida and also Central Florida, as the offers attest.
Monday alone, USF offered scholarships to WR Nick Washington and DB JuJu Washington of Lake Mary, OL-DL Alec Shriner of Oviedo and DB Stephon Brown of Osceola, among others.
Last week there were others as the bus stopped at Orlando’s Oak Ridge with offers to DB Deangelo Antoine, WR Nyqwaun Murray and sophomore ATH Tyrek Tisdale, a transfer from Evans. Groveland South Lake OL Donovan Welch and Orlando Bishop Moore sophomore OL Parker Boudreaux, as well as Winter Springs ATH Brenton Nelson also picked up USF offers.
USF has offered scholarships to nearly 20 players in the 2015 Central Florida Super60, including Daytona Beach Mainland teammates and defensive backs A.J. Westbrook and Meiko Dotson.
By comparison, UCF has offered scholarships just 10 players from the Sentinel’s Super60 list.
For Lake Mary’s Washington, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound cornerback, it was his first major-college offer.
“It feels good and I’m very excited. I’m very interested in South Florida. It’s definitely one of my favorites, but it’s also my first,” Washington said.
Washington got his offer from USF receivers coach Ron Dugans, who recruits Central Florida for the Bulls. Dugans was waiting for Washington when he arrived at school Monday.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool. He messaged me on Facebook last night that he was coming over today and I didn’t see it until this morning,” Washington said Monday.
Washington spoke a bit about the lack of UCF offers to Central Florida players, but it doesn’t seem to weigh too heavily on the minds of the locals.
“I think it’s very weird,” Washington said, “but it’s two different styles and they’re in the same conference.”
As for USF, he said he’s impressed.
“I know their program is on the rise and I thought Coach Dugans was a pretty good dude. I can’t wait to go over there and meet Coach Taggart,” said Washington, who is the No. 50-ranked player in the Sentinel’s Central Florida Super60 and had eight interceptions last season. “It’s also pretty close to home and that will play a big role in it too.”
Most of these players won’t be making any decisions soon, first wading through other offers that could come during spring football practices.
Players like Boudreaux and Nelson obviously have plenty of time as members of the Class of 2016.
Nelson not only got USF Monday, but he also received one from Louisville, both of which were his first two offers.
“I couldn’t stop smiling all day,” said Nelson, a 5-10, 170-pound athlete who had 10 interceptions last season and also ran back several kicks for touchdowns for a team that qualified for the playoffs for the first time ever.
So what do all these early USF offers mean? Nothing. The way schools hand out verbal offers these days is almost like getting mail from Ed McMahon.
Last year, state schools offered an average of more than eight times the actual number of players they were able to sign in February. A search of the 247Sports.com database shows that FSU offered the most at 252 players, almost nine times the 29 players in the 2014 class. Miami offered 249 (signed 27), USF 241 (28), FAU 193 (23), Florida 183 (24), FIU 179 (25) and UCF 168 (17).
Obviously schools extend more offers than they have scholarships available because they can’t sign everyone they want, but many offers are also uncommittable. That is, schools express interest, but they have other players much higher on the board at that position.
Oh, college recruiting, isn’t it fun?
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun