Mar 7, 2012; New York, NY, USA; South Florida Bulls mascot cheers on the team during the first half of the second round against the Villanova Wildcats at the Big East Tournament held at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
As we (finally, belatedly) begin the second half of the countdown, we reach a player who could be the most important new starter on the roster if he ends up starting when the first game rolls around.
#49 P/K Mattias Ciabatti
Redshirt Freshman, 6'0" 183 lbs.
Stats in 2011: Ciabatti redshirted last season, so no stats.
Current Spot on Depth Chart: As of the end of spring, Ciabatti had taken the lead on Justin Brockhaus-Kann and was listed as the first-string punter.
How Did He Come to USF? Mattias was given preferred walk-on status by USF in the spring of 2011. He kicked, punted, and played on the soccer team at Tampa's Hillsborough High School. Ciabatti was also named an AP Scholar at Hillsborough for passing three different AP exams, which is a major accomplishment. (I only passed one of mine, and I wasn't playing two sports.)
Recruiting Rankings: Not ranked by 247, Rivals, or Scout.
Projected Playing Time for 2012: I was plenty vocal about how USF needed to give someone else a shot at the punting job, both during and after Brockhaus-Kann's poor performance last season. If you want to play close to the vest and manage field position, you can't have a 30-yard net punt while the other guy is averaging 40+. Even if your defense shuts them down every time, eventually you give up too much ground and they score points anyway. Ciabatti averaged almost three yards more per punt in his senior year of high school than Brockhaus-Kann averaged for the Bulls in 2011. He has a strong chance to be the "someone else" who takes the punting job in 2012.