Welcome to the beginning of the third annual stampede through the USF football roster, where we count down the days to the Bulls' opener vs. McNeese State with previews of every player on the roster. We're starting a little late this year, so we'll have to squeeze a couple players in per day, and the players' numbers won't initially match up to the number of days to go. By the time the opener comes around, hopefully we'll have hit the newly-reinstated, #1-wearing Chris Dunkley.
To begin with, let's take a quick peek at the incoming freshmen and transfers who probably won't have numbers assigned to them until practices start up on August 4th.
The headliner of the group is obviously Steven Bench. Bench was a three-star quarterback coming out of Cairo High School in Georgia who committed to Rice before receiving an offer from Penn State and switching loyalties. It's worth noting that Penn State was his only BCS offer.
He was pressed into duty perhaps earlier than anticipated in his true freshman season due to returning starter Rob Bolden's transfer. Bench was the second-stringer behind Matt McGloin, and earned a few series of playing time when McGloin got banged up, most notably against Virginia where he was 2 for 7 for 12 yards and had 18 yards on the ground (here is that series).
McGloin departed after the season, but Penn State brought in JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson and all-everything recruit Christian Hackenberg, and Bench elected to transfer after it seemed he'd lost his spot on the depth chart. I saw Bench play in the spring game and thought he looked every bit Ferguson's equal, completing 9 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
It seems to me USF fans are already preparing themselves for the Steven Bench era in Tampa when he hasn't even taken the practice field for the Bulls yet. The near-desperation with which Willie Taggart pursued a transfer QB this offseason suggests that neither Bobby Eveld nor Matt Floyd has his full confidence, but I think Bulls fans would do well to temper their enthusiasm over Bench a bit until he actually claims the starting job. Remember, Eveld and Floyd both have much more game experience than he does, and Floyd was actually ranked just as highly coming out of high school.
While Bench does seem like the favorite in the QB race, incoming freshman Mike White may have a shot to win the job once he arrives on campus. White was rated a three-star recruit as well, though it's worth mentioning that he was a two-star until he picked up a late over from Mississippi State. Recruiting experts, everyone. White has good size-- he's 6'4"-- but probably needs some time to learn the offense and grow into his frame. A redshirt year would probably serve him well.
There are a couple other incoming freshmen with decent chances to see immediate playing time. 6'4" receiver Zach Benjamin is an interesting prospect with his height and the Bulls' lack of depth at wideout, and running backs Stafon McCray and Darius Tice will probably have a shot to earn playing time during summer practices. I'd expect one of the two backs to see significant snaps this fall. Kennard Swanson, rated by 247 as the second-best fullback recruit in the country, may have a chance to start right away at a position that the Bulls haven't really used since Richard Kelly back in 2010 if he can get his grades in line.
On the defensive side of the ball, four-star defensive back Lamar Robbins could make an immediate impact in a pretty weak secondary. At 6'3", Robbins might be a little large to fill either of the vacant spots at corner, but perhaps he can land as a nickel back behind returning safeties JaQuez Jenkins and Mark Joyce, nether of whom had particularly impressive seasons last year. JUCO transfer Torrel Saffold was in for spring practices and should be in the mix as well.
The front seven should be a strength on this year's team, and it should get a big boost from a big body in 6'1", 300 lb Derrick Calloway, who Rivals rated as a four-star recruit and has a chance to play right away, along with 6'0", 311 lb Deadrin Senat. JUCO transfer Rahmon Swain committed to Kent State out of high school and had offers from Boise State and Kansas State before joining the Bulls for spring practice. Swain should compete for a weakside spot alongside DeDe Lattimore and Reshard Cliett while freshman backers Nigel Harris and Mitchell Wright are probably bound for redshirt years.
Dominique Threatt, Cameron Ruff and Jeremi Hall are all three-star recruits destined for the O-line (also Threatt was moved from defensive tackle), while Hassan Childs, Nate Godwin and Johnny Ward join the secondary. Bruce Hector, Mike Love and Auggie Sanchez are all two-star defensive linemen, but Sanchez is listed as a fullback on USF's roster and hopefully can follow in the footsteps of his brother, Bulls' Swiss army knife Armando Sanchez.
That leaves just the kicker, Emilio Nadelman, who will compete with Marvin Kloss and Oklahoma transfer Michael Hill for the job in August. Defensive end Eric Mayes and cornerback Darius Whitty did not qualify academically and will not be with the team this season.
The Bulls also gave three freshmen preferential walk-on status: tight end Spencer Adkinson, fullback Elliot Jacobs, and quarterback Evan Wilson.