Four USF players nab Big East awards

Though the Big East had postponed the announcement of its postseason conference awards for two days until Wednesday, the results were no shock.

USF quarterback Matt Grothe was named Big East Rookie of the Year; but surprisingly, receiver/returner Ean Randolph was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year.

Grothe, who started 11 of 12 games this season, accounted for 70 percent of USF’s total offense, passing for 2,495 yards while leading the team in rushing with 607 yards. Grothe also had 23 total touchdowns this season and completed 63 percent of his passes.

“He’s had a tremendous year – he’s been outstanding,” offensive coordinator Rod Smith said Tuesday. “He’s a freshman, and he’s going to make freshman mistakes, but at the same time he’s going to have a lot of good happen as well.

“He’s not where I want him to be yet, but the developmental process is going to be fun to watch.”

Randolph emerged early in the season as a returner, though he had two punt returns called back in the Florida International game on Sept. 9. Yet the walk-on senior finished the season with 323 punt return yards and a touchdown, all while leading the Bulls with four touchdown catches, 47 catches and 479 receiving yards.

While West Virginia quarterback Pat White and Pittsburgh linebacker H.B. Blades won the Big East Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards, respectively, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano won Big East Coach of the Year after leading the No. 16 Scarlet Knights to a 10-2 record and a upset over Louisville.

In addition, three USF players made the All-Big East first team: linebacker Stephen Nicholas, cornerback Trae Williams and Randolph as a return specialist.

Nicholas was second on the Bulls with 96 tackles, which includes 12 tackles-for-loss and five sacks, while Williams led the conference in interceptions and tied for sixth in the nation with seven. His season total ties the single-season record set by J.R. Reed in 2003, and his 10 career interceptions rank him second on USF all-time list. Williams had 49 tackles, nine pass break-ups and a blocked kick this season.

Baseball coach Lelo Prado announced his first recruiting class Wednesday, consisting of nine pitchers, three infielders and three outfielders.

Players include: Chris Jones (LHP), Gaither High School; Randy Fontanez (P), Oviedo High School; Junior Carlin (P), Riverview High School; Yoandy Barroso (OF), Miami Springs High School; John Koscso (3B/OF), Jesuit High School; Zach Pietrzyk (P), Bloomingdale High School; Kevin Quackenbusch (P), Jesuit High School; Garrett Trezona (P), Gulliver Prep High School; A.J. Regoli (OF), Palm Beach Central High School; Efrain Nieves (P), Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School; Stephen Hunt (1B/LHP), Jesuit High School; Derrick Stultz (RHP), Wharton High School; Todd Brazeal (IF/OF), Chamberlain High School; Denny Almonte (OF), Florida Christian High School; and Rey Navarro (SS), Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School.

“On paper, this is the best recruiting class I have ever signed as a head coach. Now they have to come here and do their job,” Prado said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal here is to recruit the best players. … I think any baseball guy in this state and around the country is talking about USF baseball and what is going on here.”