For 2013 Signing Day, we analyzed and rated every recruiting class in USF history, going back to 2002. A year has passed since then, so let's revisit USF's recruiting history, and see what we've since learned in the past year. And what can history tell us about 2014's great recruiting haul?
I'm going to pick up with the 2009 recruiting class, the one that just finished its eligibility. To review USF recruiting classes from 2002-2008, read the original article. After the 2008 class, there's a link that will bring you back here to resume reading with the 2009 class.
2009 (5 ****, 17 ***, 29th nationally)
BLUE CHIPPERS: DE Ryne Giddins, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Jacquian Williams, RB Adaris Bellamy, and ATH Bradley Battles. Other stars recruited in this class were RB/KR/WR Lindsey Lamar, LB Sam Barrington, LB DeDe Lattimore, and DB Kayvon Webster.
HIDDEN GEMS: This class had only six 2-star signings. Of those, USF found contributors in DL Anthony Hill and 5-foot-4 WR/track star Derrick Hopkins.
OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: DE Julius Forte, RB Victor Marc, WR Sterling Griffin, DE Luke Sager, DB Ricardo Dixon, S JaQuez Jenkins
BUSTS: Battles and Bellamy, both running backs, were huge misses at the top of this class.
Bradley Battles stayed on the USF roster for four seasons, but got buried on the depth chart behind everyone from Moise Plancher to Willie Davis. Injuries in 2010 (knee) and the first day of fall practice in 2012 (ankle) didn't help. Battles might have found some playing time in USF's misbegotten 2013 season, but he was suspended by Willie Taggart in the offseason. He left the program and played his senior year at Division II Clark Atlanta, where he was the team's third-leading rusher. In the Wing-T offense.
Adaris Bellamy was another Skip Holtz recruiting mishap. Bellamy missed grades in 2009, went to prep school for a year, and was turned away from USF in 2010 when the newly-appointed Holtz couldn't find him a scholarship. Couldn't find a scholarship for a four-star recruit, who put in the work at prep school to get eligible, and still wanted to come to USF. Bellamy tried to sign with Cincinnati, but didn't have release paperwork from USF. Realizing this made no sense, he ended up at Youngstown State.
At YSU, Bellamy found himself second fiddle to Jamaine Cook, an excellent back who got a look-see from the Cleveland Browns. Bellamy finally got to start his senior year. In his first game, he ran for 203 yards against Dayton. Then he hurt his ankle. Bellamy would end his senior season with 207 yards.
Man, this duo was cursed.
ANALYSIS: This was the Rob Deer class: a few monstrous home runs, a good number of walks, and a lot of strikeouts.
Ryne Giddins was the biggest name at the beginning. Like Mike Jenkins before him, Giddins represented a new level of player willing to come to USF. But Giddins never quite attained stardom, at least not after his sophomore season.
Williams was a star, and Pierre-Paul was a superstar, but both stayed only one season. Kayvon Webster was a high NFL draft pick and starred in the Notre Dame win. Lattimore and Barrington were productive tacklers. Sterling Griffin had his moments, and a huge play in the Florida State win, but was often injured, and transferred out his senior year. Several other players had good careers.
Carlos Savala, Kevin Williams, Ivan Nicholas, Chase Griffiths, and Gerard Atkins never made it to campus. The aforementioned Leslie Stirrups re-signed with USF from East Mississippi Junior College in this class, and goes down as another miss.
The scariest thing about this class is that "29th nationally" ranking. This was by far USF's most touted recruiting class coming in. So let's not celebrate that #40 class too much yet, guys.
GRADE: C+. There were a lot of good players in this class, but a lot of misses that caused problems down the line. If USF had followed this class with a solid one, we might have been all right. But that didn't happen.
2010 (2 ****, 10 ***, 62nd nationally)
HIDDEN GEMS: C Austin Reiter, LB Reshard Cliett were 2-star recruits.
OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: RB Marcus Shaw, WR Deonte Welch, LB Hans Louis, DB Curtis Weatherspoon
BUSTS: Lots. Five members of this 19-person class never even played for USF: DE Brandon Wilkinson (Samford), RB Tiger Powell (New Mexico State), WR Jamaal Montague (supposedly he landed at Southern Oregon, but he's not on any online roster), RB Michael Hayes (Houston), and QB Jamius Gunsby (nowhere).
OL Tony Kibler was booted from the team after an arrest. DB/KR/WR/DB again Terrence Mitchell had a good season in 2012, but was suspended by Willie Taggart for behavioral reasons. Mitchell announced his transfer to D-II Fort Hays State, then got arrested again before he could go there. Kicker/punter Chris Veron never won a starting job. OL Jake Kaufman has only appeared in three games in four years, due to ongoing injury problems.
STILL ON THE ROSTER: Chandler, Cliett, Eatmon, Kaufman, Louis, Reiter, Welch.
ANALYSIS: Four years ago, the story was that Skip Holtz had miraculously saved an entire recruiting class, except for one guy. As that class enters its fifth season, it has produced no stars, and only a handful of starters. And they're starters for what has since become a losing team, so it's debatable how much of a virtue it is to be a starter for the Bulls.
Holtz's much-documented failure to land QB Brion Carnes would cause huge problems down the line, especially after his own QB recruit Gumsby left USF. But there are a lot of running back whiffs here too: between this and the last class, we had Battles, Bellamy, Hayes, and Powell. Hindsight is 20-20, but maybe we should have redshirted Victor Marc or Marcus Shaw at some point? Victor Marc's combination of size and speed would have been an interesting piece to Taggart's offense.
GRADE: Still a tentative D-, but has a chance to get better. Most of the seven remaining players will have important roles on the 2014 team. If they can help push USF back to respectability, that grade has room to come up.
And let's not forget: this class was mostly recruited by Jim Leavitt. Whether he could have done better with these players is a question that can never be answered.
2011 (1 ****, 15 ***, 63rd nationally)
BLUE CHIPPERS: DT Elkino Watson, who surprisingly signed with USF over Miami, was the four-star. WR Andre Davis was also a top "get" in this class.
HIDDEN GEMS: In a class heavy with higher-rated offensive linemen, two-star OL Brynjar Gudmundsson started all 12 games for USF in 2013.
CONTRIBUTORS: LB Mike Jeune was a JUCO transfer who played in all 24 games of the 2011-12 seasons. For other players, see Still On The Roster below.
BUSTS: QB Matt Floyd was a disaster, and is transferring to South Alabama. WR Ruben Gonzalez, once considered a recruiting prize on par with Andre Davis, won't be on the team this fall and leaves with 10 career receptions. OL David "Boo" Simon (health reasons) and OL Marquis White (academics) didn't stay long. More recently, DE Edsel Caprice left the team but still enrolled at USF. LB Antoine Pozniak seems to have left the team; his Twitter account describes him as a "former USF linebacker."
STILL ON THE ROSTER: Let's do this in chart form. Here are the 13 players (out of 20) still on the USF roster, and what they've done so far. All players are redshirt juniors except where noted.
|Zack Bullock, LB||Played 20 games in 2012-13. Started the McNeese and FAU games, but played little after that.|
|Andre Davis, WR (senior)
||One of the best receivers in USF history. But you wouldn't know it from his stats, as USF's QBs have struggled to get him the ball.|
|Willie Davis, RB||USF's third-leading rusher in 2013 (39 carries, 139 yards). Saw more playing time after Marcus Shaw's injury. Will challenge for a starting job in 2014.|
|Kenneth Durden, DB||Became starter in 2013. 9th on team in tackles. Also returned punts, though Chris Dunkley took over that role later in the season. His future is in doubt after he was arrested for having 21.7 grams of marijuana. The state felony threshold is 20 grams. Bummer.|
|C.J. Garye, LB||Only got into 2 games in 2013.|
|Brynjar Gudmundsson, OL||Started all 12 games in 2013.|
|Corian Hamilton, LB||Appeared in 11 games in 2013.|
|Thor Jozwiak, OL||Became a starter in 2012, but had to sit out 2013 due to an irregular heartbeat. He's back and healthy, and could be a big help to the offensive line in 2014. No word on if USF will seek a medical redshirt for him. (He took a regular redshirt in 2011.)|
|Max Lang, OL||Appeared in 4 games in 2012-13.|
|Clavion Nelson, DE||Another player who played less in 2013 than 2012.|
|Ty Turner, FB||Started one game (Memphis) but otherwise hasn't played much.|
|Elkino Watson, DT (senior)||Played as a true freshman and sophomore in 2011-12, started 9 games in 2013.|
|Darrell Williams, OL (senior)||Started all 12 games in 2013, and five games in 2012.|
ANALYSIS: Andre Davis and Elkino Watson could have played for any USF team. But on a 2013 team that was hurting for talent at almost every position, this class didn't contribute much.
Williams and Gudmundsson are among the few who even became starters. If Jozwiak is fully healthy, USF will at least have a veteran offensive line in 2014. Whether that constitutes a good offensive line remains to be seen, though they did play well in the spring game.
Beyond that, it's tough to see any growth in this group. Durden showed promise late in the season, but his future is up in the air after his off-season arrest. Some players actually yielded time to younger players from 2012 to 2013, or as the season went on.
MIDTERM GRADE: D. Last year, I said of this group "the question is whether or not they will step up as upperclassmen in USF's reconfigured league." To put it mildly, this did not happen.
From now on, it's too early to grade classes, so I'm just going to summarize their recruiting ratings and what we know so far.
2012 (2 ****, 16 ***, 49th nationally)
Of the 20 players signed just two years ago, a whopping nine are already gone. Five were junior college players, of which Tevin Mims was the most productive. Chris Bivins and D'Vario Montgomery, two of the bigger names in the class, have already transferred out. Two players were academic casualties: WR LaMarlin Wiggins was slated to go to East Mississippi JC, but was never on their roster. DB Jarvis McCall was a true freshman at Arizona in 2013; he must have gone to prep school for a year to get eligible.
STILL ON THE ROSTER: OL Kofi Amichia, OL Kameron Davis, TE Guito Ervilus, DT James Hamilton, DL Eric Lee, WR Alex Mut, DL Daniel Perry, RB Michael Pierre, TE Sean Price, DB Jalen Spencer, LB Tashon Whitehurst.
Of those players, Price is the most recognizable, having found a role in Willie Taggart's offense. Whitehurst, Hamilton, Amichia, and Lee saw some action in 2013 and could see more in 2014.
2013 (2 ****, 16 ***, 49th nationally)
That's not a cut-and-paste error; the stats and ranking for the 2013 class are almost identical to the 2012 class. But unlike all the prior USF classes, this class was pushed into action early - often at the expense of the two classes we just talked about.
True freshmen got a whopping 33 starts in 2013, mostly at important positions like offensive line, secondary, and quarterback.
The big story is QB Mike White. De-redshirted late in the season and thrown into action against Houston, he played much better than Floyd, transfer Steven Bench, or veteran Bobby Eveld, While Bench had the better spring going into 2014, Willie Taggart has boasted of having two quality quarterbacks on his roster. Since Bench is more mobile and White more of a pocket passer, it's likely both will see action this season.
And some of those who didn't play in 2013 are making a strong claim to do so in 2014. Auggie Sanchez impressed in the spring game and could start at middle linebacker. Kicker Emilio Nadelman is genuinely challenging Marvin Kloss, despite Kloss being one of the best kickers in the nation. 4-star recruits Derrick Calloway and Lamar Robbins will get more opportunities to play.
So what does it all mean?
I only have one new conclusion to add before I send you back to the original article. And that is:
Recruiting rankings are biased towards larger classes. Much was written about how USF's 2014 recruiting class crushed the non-Group of Five competition, loaded with 3-star talent and a couple 4-stars. But USF had one particular advantage: they signed a whopping 28 players, compared to as little as 15 for some schools. When you account for that, the advantage is much thinner.
This is not just in terms of mathematical ratings, but in terms of having more opportunities to develop star players. In studying all this, I've concluded that the best classes aren't the ones that start with the most talent, but the ones that avoid attrition. It's easier to find starters in a group of 25 recruits than a group of 15. That's been USF's biggest problem of late. The level of talent they signed from 2010-12 was similar to previous years, but they had high attrition rates, which led to fewer players developing from those classes. Hopefully the 2013 class can begin to reverse that trend.