When the USF football team takes the field of Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Saturday, the Hurricanes will boast a 3-1 lead in its overall series with USF. If the players on the field are any indication, however, that gap could be closing quickly.
Though the Hurricanes have the advantage of a storied history, more championships and more national recognition, USF has closed the gap in the recruiting trail. The Bulls have multiple players that hail from the Miami area who chose USF over Miami.
I think it makes a difference, coach Skip Holtz said about recruiting the same players as other in-state schools. When you talk about the in-state rivalries, it starts to put you on a par. (Miami, UF and FSU) have won conference and national championships, so to win the recruiting battles really speeds things up for the program.
Senior linebacker Sam Barrington is from Jacksonville, but was heavily recruited by the Hurricanes and committed to USF over Miami.
I was always favoring USF. I kept my opinion silent, he said. Miami was my final visit and I spent some time with those guys and played in the North-South Florida all-star game with (Hurricanes running back) Mike James who was my roommate. Hes a great guy but like I said, I was always favoring USF.
The Bulls also managed to snatch senior cornerback Kayvon Webster, a Miami native, from the Hurricanes even though his high school quarterback, Stephen Morris, decided to attend Miami and will start at quarterback on the opposing side of the line.
I dont regret the decision I made, Webster said. I met a couple of friends that Ill have for the rest of my life. (USF running backs) coach Larry Scott and I had a really good relationship, and it gave me a good chance to get away from home and develop on my own a little bit.
One Miami native the Bulls managed to recruit had a big impact in USFs streak-breaking win against Connecticut. Sophomore defensive lineman Elkino Watson, who attended Booker T. Washington High School, had USFs second interception of the fourth quarter to seal a 13-6 win.
I took my official visit (to USF) and I saw the family bonding and camaraderie that the team had, and thats something that I wanted, he said. My whole family is Miami fans, so being recruited by Miami was a big honor, but USF is my home. You can go to any school that has the business mentality, but its better to be able to feel at home and have fun while also playing football.
Sophomore defensive lineman Todd Chandler who batted down the pass that Watson intercepted expects support from his family when the Bulls play Miami, even though they are usually Hurricanes fans.
Growing up, most of my family were Miami fans, he said. I was with my uncle at Buffalo Wild Wings the other day, and he said, Itll be good if you win, itll be good if you lose, so it goes both ways. But I think all of them will be out there supporting me. The Miami shirts will have to stay at home.
Though the gap between schools like USF and Miami may seem large on the field the Hurricanes have won two of the four matchups by 20 or more points USF can continue to close that advantage by attracting key prospects away from Miami and toward Tampa.
The Bulls and Hurricanes kick off at 3 p.m.