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RECRUITING FIGHT: A Win 'Would Do Wonders' For USF


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RECRUITING FIGHT

A Win 'Would Do Wonders' For USF

By Tom Zebold

THE LEDGER

Published: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 12:25 a.m.

Last Modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 5:24 a.m.

TAMPA | You can hold off the Big Four discussion for now. USF quarterback B.J. Daniels said the Bulls still have some work to do.

The rising South Florida program stirred up talk of being in the mix with the state's premier programs - Florida, Florida State and Miami - by beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee earlier this season.

But Daniels said USF isn't quite there yet.

"We have to beat all of them," Daniels said this week. "Until that happens, and I'm not even going to say there's a Big Four or anything like that."

South Florida can take step No. 2 today when it faces the 19th-ranked Hurricanes at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. A sweep of two of the top three would certainly be sweet for the Bulls.

"Those are two powerhouses in Florida," USF senior receiver Jessie Hester said. "If you can knock off both of them in one year, that means a lot for your program."

A win today would certainly do a lot for USF recruiting. And recruiting is the only way the Bulls will get a place among the top schools.

"It would do wonders," USF offensive coordinator Mike Canales said.

It would certainly make things easier for USF head coach Jim Leavitt, who said competing with Miami for players is extremely difficult.

"Any time you go into homes and you try to get anyone away from them, that's a tall order," he said.

USF has been creeping closer in the recruiting game and has a history of scooping up players who considered becoming Hurricanes.

Linebacker Sam Barrington and cornerback Kayvon Webster are two of the most recent examples. Both freshmen were recruited by USF and Miami and opted to get their college careers going in Tampa. Leavitt said USF has something to bring to the bargaining table that deeper schools of the Big Three might not be able to toss in - instant opportunity. It certainly helped bring Barrington and Webster.

"The opportunity to stay in your home state and play a little bit sooner. That's real. That's something you can grab hold of," Leavitt said.

Barrington and Webster ran with the early chance to take the field. Barrington, who has a strong chance of starting in 2010, is fourth on the team with 39 total tackles in 10 games and has 2 1/2 sacks. Webster has an interception and 24 tackles in 10 games.

"They knew they'd have the opportunity here to come and play right away... Both of them are great players for us," Leavitt said.

USF freshman receiver Sterling Griffin can relate. He grew up in Hurricane country and said "everybody just expects that you're going to Miami when you're down there."

Griffin thought about his options and where he'd be able to play early and went with USF even though he still gets some flack from people back home. He now has 13 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

"I have yet to regret it," he said. "I love it here, and it was the best decision I made."

As for step three in the process of becoming a big-time program, USF gets a shot at Florida in Gainesville next September. If the Bulls lose Saturday, they'll still have a third crack at beating the Hurricanes next season.

"It is exciting to have all these teams on our schedule," Daniels said.

[ Tom Zebold can be reached at tom.zebold@theledger.com or 863-802-7553. ]

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