Above photo: The USF Football team added 25 players on National Signing Day. 14 were defensive players; 11, offensive. Courtesy of Chaveli Guzman
By Michael Fergusson
National Signing Day for the Bulls of South Florida should have students and fans beaming with excitement.
The saying “defense wins games” rings the loudest with head coach Charlie Strong, so it’s no surprise that the University of South Florida added 14 defensive players to its roster. Of those 14 players, eight are defensive lineman, so expect a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
One of the crazy moments from the early signing period was the success of acquiring 3-star defensive end Stacy Kirby from Jones High School in Orlando.
Kirby was expected to choose University of Central Florida over USF because Orlando is closer to his home, but he said, “the players actually sold me on the Bulls.”
Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary also influenced Kirby’s decision.
To counteract the departure of cornerback Deatrick Nichols, the Bulls added 3-star cornerback Jajuan Cherry and safety Keyon Helton. Both players showed grit and determination in high school, which should bode well for USF’s defense.
South Florida added 11 offensive players, including 4-star wide receiver Zion Roland.
Roland played wide receiver for Admiral Farragut Academy, as well as cornerback and return-man for kickoffs. That versatility is just what USF needs.
Quarterbacks Octavious Battle and Jordan McCloud should become big names for the Bulls. These two will be going after the starting job this fall and it’ll be interesting to see their development.
Battle is a 6-foot-3-inch, 3-star recruit who threw for 3,221 yards and had 23 touchdowns at Carver High School in Georgia. He can also rush, as he put up 713 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns as the runner.
McCloud is a Tampa native who routinely blew out opposing teams en route to a 12-2 record. The Plant High School quarterback threw for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 389 yards and six touchdowns.
While the common perception is that Battle is more of a pocket passer than a true dual-threat quarterback, he shows his explosiveness when the pocket collapses, forcing him to take off for the end zone.
Both quarterbacks have play styles similar to former quarterback Quinton Flowers. The two freshmen have cannons for arms, and can run faster than Forrest Gump when needed.
It will be interesting to see who Strong chooses as the starter.
Replacing running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice will be no easy task, but 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound crusher Brian Norris out of Chiefland High School and 5-foot-8-inch sprinter Johnny Ford out of Coral Gables High School are fantastic replacements.
Norris will be able to bully his way through defensive players, while Ford makes opposing defenses look like they’re standing still.
The 2018 signing class for USF should frighten every team in the American Athletic Conference.
Not only is it the second best signing class in the conference, it touts players ready to stampede on Sept. 1.