Based on his time at East Carolina, Skip Holtz seems to prefer a feature back in his offense instead of a running back by committee. Things are looking good for rising senior Mike Ford! He just has to show up to spring practice ready to roll with his head on straight, and there's no way Holtz can resist making him the starter with his speed and power!
Thus ends the Mike Ford era, and you'd be hard-pressed not to call it disappointing. Ford arrived at USF in 2007 after signing with Alabama two years earlier, but failing to qualify. After a stint in junior college, Ford became eligible and turned into (I think) the first five-star recruit the Bulls ever had. He scored 13 touchdowns in 2007, mostly in short yardage running, and was likely one of the targets of a truly ridiculous tirade from Alabama coach/dark lord Nick Saban about partial qualifiers at USF, which turned out to be bogus.
Ford had other bursts of productivity. In last year's International Bowl he rushed for 207 yards, mostly in the second half when the Bulls stopped screwing around and ran it down Northern Illinois' collective throat. Still, he never really lived up to his potential. Because he could never be depended on in blitz protection or blocking schemes, it was tough to keep him on the field for every down despite the shrill pleas of a very loud minority of fans. His hard running style didn't always fit into USF's previous spread offense, which needed running backs who can catch passes. Former running backs coach Carl Franks used a rigid and sometimes bizarre rotation at the position, which affected Ford's reps. He suffered some injuries, and off the field there was a litany of issues. I'll let Greg Auman run them all down:
Ford has been suspended twice before, for one game in 2007 for missing classes and for the first two games of 2009 for a violation of team rules. He has also been arrested twice on driving-related infractions, turning himself in to Sarasota police in 2007 after missing a court date for driving without a valid license and registration, then getting arrested on campus in December for driving a moped on campus without a valid license.
(And you thought the Athens, Georgia, police were the only ones who busted people on mopeds.)
With his prior history, Ford didn't have a lot of goodwill built up that would let him get away with another screwup. There are nine or ten running backs expected to be on scholarship next season and a new position coach coming in, so the time may have finally been right to cut ties with him. It's not the biggest flameout story we've seen at USF (I'd still give that one to Carlton Hill), but it might be the most high-profile one. It sounds like Ford is committed to making the best of this situation, though, and we join in with Holtz with wishing him good luck.