The revolution begins with 9

The Kiefer revolution is officially under way.

The Bulls’ 2003 signing class will bring no fewer than nine players into men’s soccer coach George Kiefer’s 24-player roster. Renowned for his recruiting ability while an assistant at Connecticut, Kiefer has maximized this first opportunity to stamp his identity on the squad.

And it is not just the quantity that is startling. The 2003 signing class announced Wednesday features three players who have represented their countries at the youth level and the Indiana State Player of the Year in 2002. A glance at the resume of the other signatories reveals a glut of All-American, all-conference and other honors. The bar, it seems, has been raised.

“They all bring a real special quality,” Kiefer said. “Every one of them is a great athlete. Some have played for their country, but I’m excited about every single one of them. I don’t recruit to fill a roster, I recruit because I think they can do a job for me.”

Prominent among the newcomers are Jamaica’s Kevin King, who, as a member of his country’s U-20 national team, appeared in the World Youth Cup in Argentina; United States U-17 national team representative Kareem Smith; and Keeron Benito, who has U-17 and U-20 national honors for Trinidad and Tobago.

To bolster the Bulls’ roster, Kiefer has cast his net far and wide. In addition to recruits from the Caribbean, Kiefer’s inaugural signing class includes players from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana and Texas. The network of contacts that served Kiefer well at UConn is now benefiting USF.

“I was given a lot of responsibility at UConn, so I established a good network of people I can trust,” Kiefer said. “We talk to coaches, but every guy we’ve taken, I’ve gotten out and seen them. There’s no guesswork here.”

In addition to six graduating seniors, making way for Kiefer’s new recruits will be goalkeeper Clayton Spriet, midfielder Jon Peterson and forwards J.P. Pagano and Rustin Kluge. All of the departures were on amicable terms, Kiefer said.

“A few players have decided that they were putting too much into it and not getting enough out of it,” Kiefer said. “Some of them wanted to commit more time to their academics.”

Among Kiefer’s other recruits are Indiana 2002 Player of the Year Blake Sharpe and all-conference selection Eddie Bettega, who hails from Sugar Land, Texas.

To spice up the competition for the starting spot between the sticks, Kiefer has persuaded sophomore goalkeeper Peter Lechak to transfer from UConn.

“He’s a very good goalkeeper. He was there when I was at Connecticut,” he said. “Every guy on the field needs to have some pressure on them. Peter will provide that for both Dane (Brenner) and Troy (Perkins).”