The February signing day has come and gone and with that, USF’s 2020 recruiting class is in the books.
With limited time to salvage a recruiting class that had collapsed following the firing of Charlie Strong, Jeff Scott and his staff were able to sign eight players on Wednesday, adding on to the haul they shipped in during the early signing period.
Wednesday’s signees included quarterbacks Katravis Marsh and Jordan Smith, offensive linemen Cesar Reyes and Uriah Greene, receiver Sincere Brown, tight end Holden Willis, linebacker Le’Vontae Camiel and defensive end Tramel Logan Jr. The only surprise came when previously committed LB/DE hybrid Gilber Edmond flipped to South Carolina out of nowhere. Recently committed offensive linemen David Anderton out of Orlando Edgewater did not sign on Wednesday and the Daily Stampede has learned that he may take a gray shirt.
Here’s a list of all of USF’s signees and incoming transfers:
- Sarasota RB Brian Battie
- The Villages Charter Safety Mac Harris
- DeLand CB Ben Knox
- Dunnellon DB AJ Hamilton
- Gray Collegiate Academy (SC) WR Omarion Dollison
- Deerfield Beach DB Chris Townsel
- East Los Angeles College DT Sione Tuitupou
- Greenback (TN) TE Holden Willis
- Charleston (SC) First Baptist WR Sincere Brown
- Lake City Columbia QB Jordan Smith
- Tampa Chamberlain OL Cesar Reyes
- Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek OG Uriah Greene
- Miami Central QB Katravis Marsh
- Lake City Columbia LB Le’Vontae Camiel
- Miami Washington DE Tramel Logan Jr.
- Oregon RB Darrian Felix
- North Carolina QB Cade Fortin
- Stanford DT Bo Peek
- Arkansas/UTSA Kicker Jared Sackett
Salvaging a Class
At this very moment per 247, USF’s class finished 100th in the nation and ninth in the American (seventh in overall composite score). That is by no means the neighborhood USF wants to be in rankings-wise, but given the circumstances of the new staff having little time to salvage a class that had been decimated in the aftermath of the coaching transition, they did a good job at: 1. plugging holes and 2. finding the right fits for what they’re trying to build moving forward.
During his press conference on Wednesday, Coach Scott talked about scrambling to put a class together in less than a month:
“My typical way to recruit a young man and a family is to start in the ninth and tenth grade and have about a 2-3 year relationship with that young man and that family. I found myself on a couple of occasions this year to be on the phone with a young man and try to convince him, his mom and his granddad to sign to a place where they’ve never visited and to a coach they’ve never met in person,” Scott said. “That was definitely a new experience, but what that showed me was the reputation the University of South Florida has that these young men can see the potential and they’re truly buying in to the vision that we’ve laid out.”
Here’s more quotes from the first year head coach about what went in to finding the right players to fit his long-term vision for the program.
“Being a great player is just one of about five or six boxes that need to be checked for us to offer an opportunity to come here. One of our staff’s big jobs is to create the culture that we want to have a championship program that can last not just for one season, but can achieve high success year-after-year-after-year. I think the most important thing to do when you’re trying to create that culture is bring in the right type of young men and the right type of families into your locker room.”
“You recruit your culture and that was my message to my staff in making sure that we’re not just going off their highlight tape, but making sure that they’re a fit and a foundation piece to our program for the next three, four, five years. Are they gonna represent this university, this football program, our coaches, our team the way we want them to represent us. And if not, we don’t need to sign them. I know every single one of these young men that we signed, we put through a pretty thick filter. It wasn’t just finding someone online and signing them up because we’re going late.”
Length and Athleticism
A common theme with this 2020 class was the size and length of several prospects. From quarterbacks like Cade Fortin and Katravis Marsh checking in at 6’4”, to an offensive linemen Cesar Reyes coming into the program at 6’5”, Scott and staff definitely targeted prospects who possess a lot of reach.
According to him, he wanted long, athletic kids who have an ability to grow:
“The length that we were able to get with some of these guys. Sincere Brown, he’s a long guy. He’s thin and he’s gonna have to put on some weight but somebody’s going to come out two years from now like ‘where in the world did they find that guy?’ Katravis Marsh, big long arms, lot of growth potential with him and a lot of these guys,” Scott said. “We’re getting a nutritionist that I think is getting here Monday, so we’re going to have plenty for them to do when our guys get here this summer. I would rather have them that way than have some of the bigger guys that you have to take weight off of.”
That holds especially true for wiry, 6’4”, 205-pound Holden Willis, the Class A Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee who will convert from receiver to tight end when arriving to campus this summer. Given where the tight end position is going, Scott has a vision in place for the receiving threat out of Greenback.
“It’s easier with your strength staff and nutrition to put weight on an athletic guy than to take a guy that’s already 260 pounds and make them more athletic, make them a better route runner, separator, that’s very difficult,” Scott said. “I’m looking through a lens of big picture, long-term program success and not immediate success. If we were worried about just having one great season next year, then you probably don’t take a 205-pound tight end. But when you’re thinking about long-term success, you’re planting some seeds.”
Marking Your Territory
Unsurprisingly, a majority of the high school signees in this class came from the state of Florida with two hailing from the Bay Area, three from Miami-Dade/Broward Counties, two from Lake City, two from the Ocala area and one from the Daytona Beach area.
Having spent several years hopping on a plane to come down and recruit the Sunshine State for Clemson, Scott shared his excitement at the prospect of all of these recruiting hotbeds being within just a few hours.
“We drove to Lake City and got their in about two hours and 35 minutes and I said ‘we’re this close to Lake City?’ The next morning, we started driving south and I said ‘man, we’re three and a half hours from Miami’ and it kind of dawned on me that we have the best location,” Scott said. “To get to north Florida and south Florida, it’s no longer than a three to three and a half hour drive at most. That got me really excited to think about the potential that is here.”
In his opening press conference, the first-year USF head coach stated that his staff’s approach to recruiting would be starting in Tampa and expanding out from there, a plan of action he enacted on the the first day of the contact period a few weeks ago when his staff “blitzed” local high schools to get a jump on the 2021 class.
“We took the entire Bay area and we sent all 10 of our coaches to go through every school to make an introduction and invite all of the coaches to come over,” Scott said. “I went to probably 16 schools in this area and met nine head coaches that are all USF graduates and are wanting to help and want to see their kids come to the University of South Florida. I haven’t been around that and that amazed me. Even among the high school coaches, there is a genuine hunger in this program doing well and being successful so their kids don’t have to go out of state.”
Of course, talent isn’t exclusive to the state of Florida, evidenced by the staff picking up three prospects from the Carolinas and one from Tennessee. Throw in Georgia, which has surpassed California in number of blue chip recruits, you have a handful of nearby pipeline states that you can also mine for talent.
Coming from a program like Clemson who’s recruiting has become national, Scott stated that his staff will keep an eye out for out of state talent, but their focus will remain within the state’s borders.
“Obviously I’ve been in South Carolina for 20 years. My dad has a lot of relationships there. You look at a guy like Joey King, one of the most successful coaches in the history of Georgia football, he’s got a lot of connections there. You think about Pat White being from Alabama, he’s got a lot of connections there,” Scott said. “So out of state, it will be one of those things where we kind of spot recruit. If there’s a certain type of young man that’s a good fit who’d like to visit, they can. But we won’t spend a majority of our time out of Florida because we have so many guys right here in our own backyard.”
With the 2020 class now in the rearview mirror on the recruiting front, Scott and staff can now better implement their recruiting strategy and focus their attention on the 2021 class.
They hosted several junior prospects on campus this past Saturday and even got a pledge from linebacker C.J. Ross out of Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. With more time to build relationships and perhaps more momentum in getting the long talked about football center built, the potential is there for the next class to be one of the strongest USF has seen in recent memory.