Willie Taggart put together the best recruiting class in the AAC coming off a 2-10 season last year. It gave Bulls fans a reason to have some hope while at the lowest point in program history.
But repeating that feat might be tough if the Bulls can't show some improvement in 2014. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and for the Bulls to continue to recover from the smoking crater left by Skip Holtz they're going to need to put up some wins... both on the field and on the Class of 2015 rankings.
We talk to Josh Newberg of Bulls247.com about the potential upcoming class and what we can expect to see between now and National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February.
1. So after last year's best case scenario class, tell me why I shouldn't be panicking that we're five months out from signing day and there's not one four-star commit on the board, and only two offensive lineman that are hard commits when that's clearly the Bulls biggest position of need? We're going to be ok, right? RIGHT??
USF will see a majority of their recruiting success after the season.
Last years class was built early in the cycle with the momentum of the Willie Taggart hire. This year is different. Much of USF's class will be formed after the season. Coming off of a two win season, empty home stadiums and a lack of explosiveness on offense -- a lot of recruits are in wait-and-see mode.
Last year USF was given the benefit of the doubt. Taggart needs to get USF back to a bowl in order to maintain the same level of recruiting he saw in his first season at USF.
2. Reilly Gibbons is clearly found money... but how much found money? How good is this kid, and do you expect him to start in 2015?
USF has a long history as a landing spot for high profile transfers. Some have changed the program significantly, but just as many have come in and flopped. Which category will Gibbons fall under? It's hard to say, but if he does work out, it could be one of the most important additions to the roster since Taggart has taken over. USF's offense is predicated on strong play up front and USF has not been struggling mightily in recruiting on the o-line, specifically the tackle position. There's no doubt Gibbons will have an opportunity to be the anchor of USF's line for years to come.
3. We've all heard about USF's infamous academic committee for years now, but haven't heard anything about kids not getting in recently. Have we started to make more exceptions, or does Coach Taggart and his staff not really need them?
I agree with you, we haven't heard much about the committee lately. That doesn't mean it hasn't impacted USF's recruiting.
I'm not sure if it's the committee or the administration, but back when Taggart first arrived and the coaches hit the road in January. I remember the recruitment of Pasco high school ATH Janarion Grant (now at Rutgers). A source told me USF went to his school to see him, got his transcripts and brought them back. This coach was told not to even go back to the school because it's a waste of time, USF won't allow him in.
I think USF would have landed Grant. He's made a huge impact at Rutgers in his first two seasons.
Rather than putting up a fight at the end, the staff has learned to simply not get involved with recruitments on prospects that aren't given the go-ahead academically. Of course they're always going to try to sneak a few in, that was the case this year with Rohan Blackwood. Wisconsin backed off Blackwood, so USF knew what they were getting into, but the risk/reward is worth it. There's still a good chance Blackwood is on the roster next season.
4. What do you see as the Bulls biggest positions of need for the upcoming classes, and give us some kids we're close on at those positions.
The Bulls biggest needs will be at the same positions they have been the past few years, primarily quarterback and offensive line. After that USF needs to rebuild their secondary, add speed to the wide receiver position and continue to land quality running backs.
There isn't a quarterback on the roster that makes you say, "okay, I feel like we're set for years to come". Which means Taggart needs to keep adding quality arms. By only taking one quarterback per year, for the last three years, USF finds themselves continually hoping a true freshman can come in and run the offense. We've seen that doesn't work.
Same at running back. If Taggart is going to run the offense he envisioned when he arrived at USF, he's going to need a stable of quality backs, not just one. With the wear-and-tear of the season and the new concussion rules, the Bulls need more than one home run threat in the backfield.
The attrition has hurt the Bulls secondary and when Dunkley moves on there will be a lot of inexperience at the position. I think there's a good bit of talent in the secondary, USF needs to use this class to build talented depth behind guys like Nate Godwin, Devin Abraham, Lamar Robbins and Jamie Byrd.
5. Every class seems to come down to a few make-or-break kids (last year Marlon Mack, Jimmy Bayes) that are the difference between a perceived win or loss. Who are those kids for the Bulls that will be the difference between success, average, or falling short of expectation?
USF has an incredible player committed to them in Karan Higdon. He's a running back that could make an even bigger impact than Marlon Mack has. Higdon is explosive, strong and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. He also has excellent hands and could even be a slot receiver if he wanted to.
Right now there isn't a more talented player that USF is recruiting.
6. Somewhat off-topic: does the lousy attendance USF has had recently affect recruiting at all? Do kids pay attention to that stuff or is that just loudmouth bloggers reading too much into things?
Attendance absolutely affects recruiting. Ideally, you want to get kids on campus during the season to show them the atmosphere they'd be playing in. A lot of these kids take multiple visits during the season. One weekend they could be at a game with 75-100k in the stands and the next week they could be at Raymond James. Of course that impacts a kids recruitment. Luckily, kids don't base their entire decision on crowd size. USF has plenty of positives working in their favor, but attendance isn't one of them.
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See... attendance matters!! Go to the game!!
Thanks a bunch to Josh for the time, and check out his site for the latest news on USF recruiting.