Selection Sunday brings both good news and bad news for USF fans.
The bad news: USF basketball will not be playing in the NCAA tournament, and given the current state of the program, may never make an NCAA tournament again for the rest of eternity.
The good news: this doesn’t mean that USF fans have to sit out the postseason. We’ve whipped up a bracket of our own for Bulls fans to enjoy during March. This is the Ultimate USF Football Player Tournament, a 68-player bracket that will determine the best Bulls football player of all time. And you, the readers, will get to vote on each and every matchup! We’ll post a handful of matchups per day on the site, and will have the polls open for 24 hours before announcing the results.
Examine the bracket in all its glory below:
As the NCAA tournament does, we’ll start with the First Four— in this case, eight 16 seeds battling for the right to face off against the tournament’s top seeds. Let’s dive in! You can read our breakdowns below, or vote right away at the bottom of the page.
(16) Mike Ford vs. (16) Ryne Giddins
Ford stats: 2007-2009: 331 carries for 1502 yards (4.5 YPC), 23 touchdowns
Giddins stats: 2009-2013: 117 tackles, 33.5 TFL, 19.5 sacks
The case for Ford: Oh, what could have been. A genuine five-star talent who originally committed to Alabama before attending prep school for academics, Ford was a huge cog in the 2007 team’s record-setting offense as a true freshman. He was a bruising 6’2”, 225 lb. back with breakaway speed and the ability to take over a game when he was hot.
Of course, he got into the doghouse and was eventually dismissed from the team due to off-the-field issues but man... Ford was a talent. His ‘07 season, in which he ran for 647 yards and 12 touchdowns, is still one of the more impressive seasons from a USF running back. Ford pretty much single-handedly won the 2009 International Bowl, running for 207 yards in arguably one of the best single-game efforts from a USF player.
Ford was named an Honorable Mention Freshman All-America by The Sporting News in 2007. He’s tied for fifth in career rushing touchdowns at USF, and is 10th in career rushing yards. His 207-yard effort in the International Bowl is the eighth-highest single-game rushing total in USF history.
The case for Giddins: Ford was a big recruiting get, but he was a non-qualifier out of prep school. Ryne Giddins redefined the quality of recruit that USF could get directly from high school. To this day, USF hasn’t pulled in a better commit than the high four-star DE from Armwood, who was ranked as the 53rd best prospect in his class.
Though like Ford, he never quite lived up to his billing, he had some really impressive years. The best of the bunch was probably his sophomore season in 2011, when he notched 5.5 sacks and 11 TFL. Though he was more of a rotation player by his senior season, he still put up 5 sacks and 10.5 TFL. Perhaps he never became the superstar he was expected to become, but Giddins was always a consistent, threatening presence on USF’s defensive line, and one of their more impressive edge rushers of all time.
Giddins was named Second Team All-Big East in 2011. He ranks sixth on USF’s all-time sack list.
(16) Evan Landi vs. (16) Marcus Shaw
Landi stats: 2009-2012: 72 receptions for 846 yards, three touchdowns.
Shaw stats: 2010-2013: 239 carries for 1153 yards (4.8 YPC), six touchdowns.
The case for Landi: USF’s Mr. Everything, Landi arrived in Tampa as a quarterback in the same recruiting class as B.J. Daniels. When Daniels permanently succeeded Matt Grothe in 2010 and inherited a black hole at receiver, Landi seamlessly made the switch and became one of B.J.’s most reliable targets. He was asked to switch positions by Skip Holtz again in 2011, put on weight and became USF’s starting tight end. In his final game in 2012 against Pitt, Landi got to take some snaps at QB in relief of a banged-up Matt Floyd, and moved the offense significantly better than Floyd did.
Landi’s best season statistically was in 2010, when he caught 28 passes for 390 yards, but he was a fan favorite and had a knack for making memorable plays— in the season opener against Notre Dame in 2011, he caught USF’s lone offensive touchdown on a jump ball in the end zone which ended up being the game-winner.
Landi was named a District 4 Academic All-American in 2011.
The case for Shaw: A speedy change-of-pace back for his first three years in a Bulls uniform, Shaw finally earned the starting halfback spot as a senior in 2013, and was the literal lone bright spot on a historically horrendous Bulls offense. He finished with 765 rushing yards on the season, but it’s easy to forget how fantastic he was before he got sidelined with an injury. In his first four games, the diminutive Squirrel was averaging 131.3 rushing yards per game and 6.8 yards per carry. It’s not unreasonable to say that if Shaw had stayed healthy— and had anything resembling a decent offense around him— he could’ve had an all-timer of a season for a USF running back.
Shaw was named to the All-AAC Second Team in 2013.
(16) Mattias Ciabatti vs. (16) Cedric Hill
Ciabatti stats: 2012-2015: 196 punts for 8,333 yards (42.5 yards per punt)
Hill stats: 2005-2008: 60 receptions for 774 yards, four touchdowns
The case for Ciabatti: Ciabatti had about as eventful of a career as a punter could reasonably be allowed to have. He burst onto the national scene with a majestically awful two-yard punt against Miami in 2013... but from that point on, he was pretty much perfect. By almost any statistical measure, Ciabatti was the best punter in USF history, and he was a verifiable weapon for USF in their offense-starved 2014 season, when he pretty much single-handedly won the UConn game by booming massive punt after massive punt in the midst of a quasi-hurricane. He was a genuine Ray Guy Award contender in 2014 and 2015— say what you want about punters, but not too many USF players can claim that they were contenders for national honors. Ciabatti certainly can.
Ciabatti was named First Team All-AAC in 2014, and Second Team All-AAC in 2015. He holds a handful of the major records for punting in USF history, including best yards-per-punt in a season (44.4, 2014) and career (42.5).
The case for Hill: It’s underrated how impressive of an athlete Hill was. A 6’3”, 244 lb. former Miami signee with 4.6 speed, Hill was a mismatch waiting to happen, a staple of Jim Leavitt’s three and four-wide sets, and one of Matt Grothe’s favorite targets in 2007. He would often line up wide and was an absolute nightmare to cover— too fast for a linebacker, and too big for a safety. In the Bulls’ magical 2007 season, Hill caught 23 passes for 264 yards, but he was a consistent receiving threat throughout his career, and could’ve put up even bigger numbers if not for Leavitt’s aversion to tight ends. He also scored 75% of his career touchdowns against UCF, which is something we can all appreciate.
Hill was named Second Team All-Big East in 2008. He ranks second in both career receiving yards and career receptions by a USF tight end.
(16) Sean Price vs. (16) Eric Lee
Price stats: 2012-2015: 75 receptions for 897 yards and six touchdowns
Lee stats: 2012-2015: 90 tackles, 18.5 TFL, four sacks
The case for Price: One of USF’s biggest recruits to date, Price was a four-star tight end who looked destined for stardom after his true freshman season in 2012, when he caught 21 passes for 209 yards. The arrival of Mike McFarland and the departure of a functional USF offense saw his production drop in the next two seasons, but he had a marvelous senior season, posting career highs in yards (306) and touchdowns (5). Price was a tremendous athlete with soft hands, and by 2015 was basically un-coverable on a seam route over the middle. The point can certainly be argued, but he’s got a strong case for the title of best tight end in USF history. He was certainly the most productive.
Price was named Second Team All-AAC in 2015. He holds the USF career records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end.
The case for Lee: Lee took a similar career path as Price— he had a promising freshman season before falling out of favor once Willie Taggart came in, but he was an invaluable piece of USF’s resurgent defense in his senior season. Tom Allen’s newly-instated 4-2-5 defense required edge rushers, and the speedy Lee might have been the best of the bunch. He went on to post career highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. Lee might have been most noticeable in his absence, as the Bulls’ defensive line totally collapsed without his pass-rushing abilities in 2016.
Lee was named Second Team All-AAC in 2015