No surprises in this season’s recruits

All around the country at various colleges, signing day is usually exciting.

But at the USF Athletic Facility, an exhausted coach Jim Leavitt entered the Big East media room with circles under his eyes and announced something a little unusual.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night,” Leavitt said. “I couldn’t relax. I tried to watch some TV – that didn’t work. I laid on the couch, then I drove out to the beach at about 3:30. Then I went to Dunkin’ Donuts and got to (campus) around five. I’m tired. I just couldn’t sleep.”

So while there were no exciting or last-minute surprises about the football team’s 2006 recruiting class, the event did keep Leavitt – who always thinks about football – up all night.

The Bulls’ 2006 class boasts a signing of more than the NCAA limit of 25 scholarships allocated to each team, meaning some players will either leave the team, be ineligible academically for enrollment or defer enrollment until next January and count toward the 2007 class.

Leavitt, however, is looking forward to bringing in his new, hand-picked players, as he’s done for nearly 10 years.

Most division coaches travel outside their residing states to recruit players. Not Leavitt: This year, all incoming freshmen are Florida natives, something he says wasn’t originally planned.

“I really didn’t set out to recruit from all the same area,” said Leavitt, as many of this year’s newcomers hail from the Florida Panhandle. “It just happened that way. We will recruit Florida hard next year, but most of the assistants will be headed to the neighboring states. Probably Alabama a little more.”

The class brings in 12 defensive players and another player – such as quarterback Nate Allen – who can switch to safety. It also includes 15 linemen, both offensive and defensive.

“Every single guy comes from a background where you know they were a hard worker and worked hard on a team,” Leavitt said. “I really think we hit a gold mine with the defensive ends.”

The “gold mine” is local standout defensive tackle from Hillsborough High Leslie Stirrups, junior college transfer Frank Harry and Milton High defensive end Josh Smiley. All three will look to replace departing defensive linemen Terrence Royal, Jon Simmons, Jason Allen and Tim Jones.

“We lost a lot of guys in that area, so your class is going to reflect that position,” Leavitt said. “It had nothing to do with if I used to be a kicking coach or a defense coach or even if I coached water polo. You lose linemen, you’re going to recruit linemen.”

The class also brings in three more receivers to an already deep position, which has also accepted transfers from LSU and Oregon. On top of that, Leavitt is adding two more quarterbacks – Allen and Miami Washington’s Alwan Lee – to push fellow QB’s Pat Julmiste, Matt Grothe, Grant Gregory and Carlton Hill (who goes into spring practice as the starter).

“The receivers are all big receivers, where we want some size and strength. We want them to be physical and to compete,” Leavitt said. “But we are going to see some improved play by both our quarterbacks and wide receivers.”

Leavitt said he liked this year’s class, despite the lack of hype or high ranking by either or, which rank the class at No. 63 and No. 58, respectively. ranks USF as sixth out of the eight teams in the Big East. But he also knows the class will take time to develop.

“I’ve said this before: we can never really know how good a player is until about two years from now,” Leavitt said. “I remember when J.R. Reed got here. He didn’t want to do anything. Weight train, go to class, practice. Nothing. He went on to lead the NFL in kickoff returns as a rookie.

“I see that all time, but as a coach I go after the guys who fit my program the best and it’s a very, very solid group. I’m excited about every single one of them.”

WR Edner Alcin, (6-1, 177), Chamberlain; QB Nate Allen (6-2, 185), Cape Coral; P/K Delbert Alvarado (6-2, 185), Robinson; G James Boger (6-4, 315), Dixie Hollins; RB Keeley Dorsey (5-11, 207), Tallahassee Lincoln; CB/KR Dylan Douglas (5-10, 170), Jacksonville Jackson; DE David Fonua (6-2, 252), Bradenton Southeast; LB LeBrandon Glover (6-1, 215), Pensacola; DE Aaron Harris (6-5, 250), Williston; DT Frank Harry, (6-3, 285), Pearl River Community College; OT/TE Jeff Ide (6-6, 260), Bradenton Manatee; G Zach Hermann (6-3, 310), Tarpon Springs; DT James Jackson (6-1, 260), Tallahassee Community College; DE Joseph Jackson (6-4, 205), Miami Washington; LB Sabbath Joseph (5-11, 212), Miami Central; TE Andrew Ketchel (6-5, 225), Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee; QB Alwan Lee (6-0, 180), Miami Washington; DE Craig Marshall (6-5, 217), Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee; OT Kevin McCaskill (6-3, 285), Tallahassee Godby; LB Alonzo McQueen (6-1, 210), Jacksonville Lee; Carlton Mitchell (6-0, 190), Gaither; DT Julian Riley (6-3, 280), Lakewood/Florida; RB Aston Samuels (5-10, 190), Belle Glade Glades Central; WR Jason Sherman (6-4, 195), Jacksonville First Coast; DE/LB Josh Smiley (6-3, 230), Milton; LB Robert Spann (6-1, 200), St. Petersburg; DT Leslie Stirrups (6-3, 265), Hillsborough; OL Jeremiah Warren (6-3, 280), Panama City Bay; S Jerrell Young (6-2, 205), Gibbs.Bold already enrolled at USF.