Restocking the interior defensive line is always a recruiting priority for the USF staff and the '11 class is no different with 4-year starter Terrell McClain graduating after the season. One prospect that could fit the bill is Gilbert Pena, a defensive tackle at ASA College Brooklyn (N.Y.) that is coming in this weekend for an official visit
Pena, a 6-foot4, 315 pound defensive lineman at ASA College Brooklyn (N.Y.) just finished his season 51 tackles, 16.5 for losses, 5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles, and was invited to play in the JUCO All-American bowl on December 13th.
"I think I did pretty well this season, and think I improved a lot," said Pena. "I was more explosive off of the ball, used my hands better, and have a better understanding of the game."
Pena played primarily at nose tackle for ASA, but can also play other positions on the d-line and long snapper.
"We run a 3-5-3 defense, but I can play in any defensive scheme," said Pena. "In high school I played defensive tackle and defensive end, and I also played a little 3-techinique. I can fire off the ball pretty well, and I do a good job of I can use my strength and power with my hands."
After his solid play this year, the JUCO stand-out's recruitment has taken off, and teams have taken notice as he's received offers from North Carolina, Ole Miss, Kansas State, Syracuse, Rutgers, South Florida, and Miami of Ohio, with others schools showing interest."
"Things are going well actually, I got things lined up with three schools," said Pena "I also just got contacted by Florida, and Miami just asked for some transcripts."
Pena is scheduled to graduate in early January and since he plans to sign with a school during the junior college signing period in mid-December his official visit schedule is in the fast lane. He already visited North Carolina in Oct., has a date set for Ole Miss December 4th, said he'll probably take one to Kansas State, but this weekend will take a trip to Tampa to check out USF.
"Yes sir, I'll be visiting South Florida this weekend," said Pena. "I'm excited to see what they're all about."
The Bulls recruitment of Pena picked up recently with an offer, but the staff has been talking to Pena for some time.
"Actually I started talking to South Florida last year, nothing too extreme, but they definitely showed interest," said Pena. "There was a situation with them going through a coaching change, and then they picked it back up recently."
Pena admits he doesn't know a lot about the Bulls football program or Tampa, but is eager to take the visit and learn more.
"I really don't know too much, so I'm looking forward to going down there and seeing what the school about, seeing what the coaching staff is about, and meet the players," said Pena. "One of my teammates, Ivan Nicholas signed with them out of high school and he said it was nice, and he felt real comfortable with how they treat you there. He said a lot of good things."
Pena said he talks the most with USF defensive line Coach Kevin Patrick, and says they have a good relationship.
"I definitely talk the most with Coach Patrick, KP tells me all about the program," said Pena. "He's an awesome guy, and has a great personality. He tells me that there's definitely a spot for me on the team. He likes the way I play, and wants me to be a Bull."
Originally from Yonkers, NY, Pena said he has no problem with playing his college ball away from home.
"I don't have a particular place where I'd rather play, I just want to go in where I fit in, play ball, and get my degree," said Pena. "I could definitely play in south, I could play out west, or in the cold, it doesn't matter as long as I get an opportunity to play and I'm comfortable."
Pena does know what he's looking at when he makes his decision.
"The number one thing for me is definitely getting my degree, and that my credits will transfer over for what I'm taking now, which is criminal justice," said Pena. "No one in our family has a degree, so everybody in my family sort of looks up to me. Family is very important to me, always put family first. So I want to make sure where I go, they'll help me achieve that. Another thing that is very important to me is playing time. I don't want to go somewhere that I won't play. I understand that you always have to fight for your spot, but I want a good opportunity. Of course the staff and players, and how they are with me as well."
The New York prospect says he pays attention to team's depth charts and that the Bulls are in need of a future interior presence
"I'm aware of the situation at South Florida, with them having a couple people leaving after this year," said Pena. "Coach told me that their 4-year starter is graduating, and they're going to need a big strong interior D-linemen."
Being in New York and playing on Saturday's, Pena said he's seen the Bulls play before, but not a lot.
"I really have not had a chance to watch them play because our games are always on Saturday's, so I don't get the opportunity," said Pena. "I did see them play once, but I can't remember who it was against."
With a weekend visit to Tampa on tap, Pena is very eager to learn as much as he can about the Bulls, and how he fits in this weekend.
"I want to watch how they play as a team, how the plays are run, how the coaching staff is, and things like that," said Pena. "I'll definitely be watching the D-line and see how I fit in, at DT, nose, or 3-techinque."
As of now Pena doesn't claim a leader as he's still learning about the schools recruiting him.
"No, I really don't," said Pena. "UNC stands out because I actually went on a visit, but nothing crazy, it's more because I went on a visit and I have nothing to compare it to. I'm still looking, learning."
Pena said he's never been to Tampa or to Florida for that matter, but is very excited to make the trip.
"I'm hyped actually, I'm actually kind of hyped, I really am," said Pena. "I've been talking to Coach Patrick, and I definitely think I'm going to have a good time. So I'm going to enjoy it, meet the guys and see what they have to offer."