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USF making strong push for Jesuit's Harris

Jesuit multi--purpose standout Travell Harris (1) will sign with the college of his choice Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Jesuit multi--purpose standout Travell Harris (1) will sign with the college of his choice Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.

If the Bulls can't encourage Jesuit ATH Travell Harris to sign with them Wednesday, it won't be for a lack of effort.

We've learned USF is applying a full-court press to Harris, led by running backs coach (and local recruiting ace) Shaun King. Helping the Bulls' cause is the fact C Cameron Ruff and DE Vincent Jackson are Jesuit alumni. Harris also got an in-home visit from Charlie Strong two weeks ago.

Harris, who has narrowed his list to USF, FAU, Washington State and Arizona, is scheduled to sign at Jesuit at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

It's believed the Bulls consider Harris -- a two-star prospect according to 247Sports -- a 2017 sleeper who simply was overshadowed in high school by all-time Hillsborough County rushing leader Malik Davis (a Florida commitment).

A first-team pick on the Times' All-Tampa Bay team this past season, Harris returned six kicks (two kickoffs, four punts) for touchdowns in 2016, while recording 22 receptions for 592 yards and nine other TDs. He ran for 250 yards on only 22 carries, averaging 11.4 yards per handoff.

"Travell is like a PlayStation game back there," Tigers coach Matt Thompson said earlier this season.

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Temple win boosts Bulls' RPI

USF junior Maria Jespersen has 22 rebounds in her last two games.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

USF junior Maria Jespersen has 22 rebounds in her last two games.

On the heels of their 55-51 victory at Temple, USF's women find themselves with a solid RPI and stable position in ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme's latest NCAA Tournament projections.

Sunday's triumph moved the 20th-ranked Bulls (17-3, 6-1 The American) to 24th -- an eight-spot jump -- in the RealTimeRPI.com women's standings. They're currently projected by Creme as a No. 8 seed in the Stockton, Calif., region, facing Virginia Tech in a first-rounder.

On Sunday, the Bulls finished with a 47-36 rebounding edge, held Temple to one field goal (in 11 attempts) in the second quarter, and escaped when the Owls missed three 3-point attempts on their final possession.

Since being publicly called out by Coach Jose Fernanded for their lack of physicality in a 14-point home loss to Louisville nine days ago, the Bulls have finished with a plus-11 rebound margin in each of their last two games.

"These guys were upset, they rose up to the challenge. They knew how we rebounded against Louisville was unacceptable,"  said Fernandez, whose team hosts Cincinnati on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

"The last two games we've had to get a defensive stop to win the basketball game, and they did that."

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USF hoops: Hank Beard wins promotion from 'General'

Seminole High alumnus Hank Beard has appeared in three games for USF this season.

Photo provided by USF

Seminole High alumnus Hank Beard has appeared in three games for USF this season.

This time last winter, Henry "Hank" Beard was a manager for the Bulls women's team and one of the regular male scrimmage players Coach Jose Fernandez collectively refers to as the "Generals."

"Hank's job was to guard (eventual WNBA first-round draftee) Courtney Williams every day in practice," Fernandez said. "He challenged her every day."

A year later, Beard's newest team also has found itself in need of bodies on the floor, and the Seminole High alumnus again has obliged.

The former "General" has been promoted, to cameo player for the foundering Bulls men.

With USF limited to six scholarship players, Beard, the sixth man on Seminole's 2014 district title team, made his third appearance of the season in Sunday's 94-53 loss at Cincinnati, logging three second-half minutes.

"It's definitely awesome to see and it gives you a sense of pride," Seminole coach Josh Walker said.

"Honestly, it's a credit to him and everything he did. People along the way have told him no or he's not gonna make it. He just defies the odds and keeps on going out and working as hard as he can every day." …

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Mark Harlan tweets he's staying at USF

Amid reports he's in contention for the same job at Arizona, Mark Harlan indicated he's staying put, tweeting his family remains "100% USF BULLS."

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Amid reports he's in contention for the same job at Arizona, Mark Harlan indicated he's staying put, tweeting his family remains "100% USF BULLS."

In the spirit of verbal commitment season, USF athletic director Mark Harlan appeared to make one Monday morning via Twitter.

Amid reports he's in contention for the same job at Arizona (his alma mater), Harlan indicated he's staying put, tweeting his family remains "100% USF BULLS."

 

 

When asked if he cared to add anything to the tweet, Harlan replied in a text message, "Speaks for itself!!"

Harlan earned his bachelor's (political science) and master's (education) degrees from Arizona, where he met his wife, Carolyn. The school is seeking a replacement for Greg Byrne, who took the same job at Alabama.

UA's search continues, though the school has hired senior associate AD Erika Hanson Barnes on an interim basis.

 

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State's Big 3 never will be toppled in recruiting, analyst says

At least one national recruiting analyst believes Charlie Strong and USF never will be on the same recruiting plane with Florida, FSU and Miami.

Times file photo

At least one national recruiting analyst believes Charlie Strong and USF never will be on the same recruiting plane with Florida, FSU and Miami.

At least one national analyst doesn't believe the state's recent run of splash coaching hires will alter Florida's balance of recruiting power.

The Big Three -- FSU, Florida, Miami -- will remain entrenched at the top, Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell said Friday. Which isn't to suggest Butch Davis (FIU), Lane Kiffin (FAU) and Charlie Strong (USF) won't snag a four-star Floridian now and again. They will, Farrell said.

Just not enough to topple the state's oldest and most established programs.

"Florida State is still the king right now," Farrell addded. "Miami's No. 2 when it comes to recruiting, Florida's No. 3, and then you have a massive dropoff to the USF, UCF range, and then another massive dropoff to th FIUs and FAUs of the world. That's just life. It's never gonna change."

Less than 48 hours before national signing day dawns, UCF (No. 65) and FIU (No. 83) are the state's only non-Big Three schools with top-100 recruiting classes, according to Rivals.com. But Farrell doesn't expect a quantum rankings leap in 2018, when Strong, Kiffin and Davis have had the benefit of a full recruiting cycle.

"Now does that mean Charlie can't get good south Florida players? It doesn't mean that, because there's so many of them that he's gonna be able to pull a four-star kid here and there," Farrell said. "Maybe an athlete that other schools want to move around, but wants to play quarterback."

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Could USF surprise on signing day?

USF coach Charlie Strong's first Bulls signing class formally will be unveiled Wednesday.

Times file photo

USF coach Charlie Strong's first Bulls signing class formally will be unveiled Wednesday.

The recruiting season's final stretch has been quiet -- almost strangely so -- around USF. No 11th-hour flips or midnight-hour pledges. Instead of the normal din, we're getting mostly dead air.

All of which leads one to wonder if Charlie Strong has called the first misdirection play of his Bulls tenure. Could a surprise or two be in store?

So far, we've had subtle suggestions. On Saturday, Miami Southridge S Naytron Grayson tweeted his commitment to USF, but deleted it soon thereafter. He also tweeted, "Signing day gone(sic) be a shocker."

Meantime, running backs coach (and local recruiting extraordinaire) Shaun King continues teasing Bulls fans with tweets rife with optimism if not specifics:

Its gonna be such an awesome signing day! (Wednesday)

Got some great news today!!!! (Thursday)

And don't forget four-star Hillsborough DE Zachary Carter, a Florida commitment who told Times staff writer Bob Putnam that Strong is the only coach who possibly could lure him away from Gainesville.

Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, said Friday he doesn't see the Bulls pulling off any signing-day stunners, but does believe Strong will add some players. Currently, USF has 11 non-binding verbal commitments, now that Deerfield Beach three-star WR Daewood Davis announced Sunday he has flipped to Oregon.

"It would shock me if (Strong) didn't add anybody, so I think you'll see a few kids added between now and Wednesday," Farrell said.

"Some of 'em could be high-level, three-star kids. But I don't see anybody...that's a four-star kid that's gonna say, 'I'm not going here, I'm gonna go to USF,' unless they're dropped. This is the time of year where teams fill up (scholarship allotments). So there are some four-star kids that get sort of left out."

At any rate, the suspense ends Wednesday.

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