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#ScottsTots22: USF Football Early Signing Day Wrap Up

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USF football giving its fans a reason to be happy this holiday season

NCAA Football: South Florida at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

That was fun

Coach Scott and his assistant coaches laid a clear objective for themselves this Early Signing Period; to inject production and depth into this team by taking advantage of the instant eligibility rule for transfers provided by the NCAA. As a result, the Bulls welcomed 12 transfers, six high schoolers, two JuCo transfers, and one prep schooler to the class of 2022 stampede.

Who Signed from High School

Of the five high schoolers who were committed to USF, four of them signed on early signing day:

  • Sickles Wide Receiver Javohn Thomas
  • Lake Mary Quarterback Gunnar Smith
  • Rolesville (NC) Quarterback Byrum Brown
  • West Orange Defensive End Eddie Kelly

USF also waited patiently for the signatures by two additional athletes who were being courted by other schools:

  • Beech (TN) Tight End Jackson Long
  • Lowndes (GA) Linebacker DeAunte Hunter

And finally, two players who were initially signed in the Class of 2021 finally inked their name for USF after waiting over a year and a half.

  • Lennard Defensive Linemen Jhalin Hobbs
  • Jenkins (GA) Defensive Linemen Jacquez Williams

Jackson Long’s decision came down to Tulane, Coastal Carolina, and USF, where Long decided on the latter to sign his name to. The 6’4 TE from Hendersonville, Tennessee is ranked as a three-star and the #72 TE in the country. In his three year varsity career, he accumulated 49 catches for 838 yards and 11 TDs.

Joining him is DeAunte Hunter from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. Sitting at 6’4 200 lbs, Hunter converted from WR to LB and is ranked as a three-star and the #131 linebacker in the country. Coming into signing day, it looked like the decision was coming down to Syracuse or West Virginia, but a last second phone call from Ernie Sims and Bob Shoop flipped him to the Green and Gold. His three year varsity career resulted in 94 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and four sacks.

Who Didn’t Signed from High School

Although he participated in National Signing Day festivities, West Orange DB Tony Newsome did not officially send in his NLI. Similarly to last year with Jacquez Williams and Jhalin Hobbs, this could be a move to gray shirt the standout defensive back to prepare him for the class of 2023 (A player who receives a gray shirt delays their enrollment until after the football season, i.e. Winer Semester of 2022).

JuCo and Prep School Signees

Joining the high school recruits, three additional athletes gave their NLIs to USF, joining the class of 2022. Those three are:

  • College of the Sequoias Tight End Jayson Littlejohn
  • Coffeyville Linebacker Jhalyn Shuler
  • Palmetto Prep Defensiveback Tavin Ward

The Portal

The number one ranked transfer class in the country (as of December 16th) belongs to the University of South Florida, as they lapped and ran circles around the rest of the country utilizing the Transfer Portal. Their 12 transfers in is followed by Michigan State and Indiana in the current 247Rankings. Prior to ESD, the following players had announced their intentions to transfer to USF:

  • Temple Defensive End Nick Bags
  • Wake Forest Defensive Linemen James Ash
  • Clemson Running Back Michel Dukes
  • UNC Defensive Tackle Clyde Pinder Jr
  • UNC Wide Receiver Khafre Brown
  • Virginia Tech Offensive Tackle Derrell Bailey Jr
  • C. Florida Offensive Guard Mike Lofton
  • Kansas State Defensive Back Aamaris Brown
  • Minnesota Linebacker DJ Gordon IV
  • Clemson Defensive Back Ray Thornton III

However, the transfer portal didn’t stop giving to USF, as two additional transfers were announced. The first being former Clemson wide receiver Ajou Ajou, who rejoins Jeff Scott after the talented receiver entered the transfer portal earlier this month. In his two seasons at Clemson, Ajou had eight catches for 143 yards and one touchdown after being a hotly sought after recruit out of Clearwater Academy International.

The next day, another transfer in the Early Signing period for USF is Mizzou defensive end Jatorian Hansford, who is making his way to Tampa with one year left of eligibility. Hansford accumulated 27 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and a sack in his three seasons in Missouri after a successful high school career at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, GA.

And finally, on Sunday of the early signing period, USF received an additional defensive linemen signing with former Minnesota defensive tackle Rashad Cheney making his way from freezing Minneapolis to sunny Tampa. Joining his teammate DJ Gordon, Cheney worked in the wings as a rotational defensive tackle for the Golden Gophers, collecting nine tackles in two seasons after joining Minnesota in 2020.

According to Jeff Scott’s press conference on ESD, 19 of the 24 will be early enrolling to USF, pending Hansford’s status. He also noted that they were looking for a certain type of player when attacking the transfer portal as they had a list of ‘red flags’ to stay away from when evaluating the portal. Additionally, Scott noted that they were looking at players that had around three years of experience, and three years of eligibility left. The three years of experience comes from players signed in 2019 and redshirted, the 2020 year not counting towards eligibility, and then played in 2021, meaning they have three full years of D1 weight room lifting and conditioning. All of the transfers, except Hansford, fit this eligibility criteria sought after by the coaching staff.

What the Future Has In Store

They. Aren’t. Done. Yet.

With this being only the Early Signing Period, Coach Scott knows he still has the traditional signing day of February 5th to solidify and cement the class of 2022. With this in mind, they are looking to add even more talent from the transfer portal to help manage attrition and changes. He said they are looking at one more offensive linemen, two or three more defensive ends (potentially including Hansford and Cheney), and one or two more defensive backs. He noted it’s crucial that the staff stay selective in who they pursue when it comes to body type and scheme, especially with a potential influx of more players transferring after the Bowl Games.