Wilkins Wants to Put USF Back on the Map

Local Tampa (Fla.) Plant cornerback, Mazzi Wilkins, will start his collegiate career at South Florida on Wednesday. Wilkins talks about the training he's been doing leading up to his arrival at USF, the message the Bulls' staff has passed along, his expectations for the 2014 season, some of the incoming freshman he has great relationships with, and much more below.

Mazzi Wilkins is approaching his arrival date at the University of South Florida. In fact, the Tampa (Fla.) Plant cornerback is arriving on campus on Wednesday, much earlier than the majority of the Bulls' incoming freshman.

Wilkins placed a strong emphasis on his academics the second half of his senior year to ensure he's qualified and ready to suit up in the green and gold for the 2014 season.

"I've just been training hard and doing a lot of ladder drills to get my feet quicker," Wilkins said. "I ran track to get my speed right and I'm just really staying on top of my grades so I can get there and get my study habits down. Right now, I'm 6-foot, 168-pounds."

Ron Cooper will have a lot of young bodies in the defensive secondary to work with in 2014, and the Bulls' coaching staff wants all of the incoming freshman to have the mindset of playing early and to be ready if their name is called.

"I've been talking to (quarterbacks) coach (David) Reaves and (assistant director of football operations) Trae Hackett the most," Wilkins said. "Those are the main two people I've been talking to.

"They just want me to come in and be ready to play. They need someone to step up, so (they're saying to) just come in with my shoes tied and get ready to go to work."

With such short proximity between South Florida's campus and Wilkins' home in Tampa Bay, the defensive back attended several spring practices this year and was intrigued by the direction of the offense under first-year offensive coordinator, Paul Wulff.

"They look like they're coming along quite well," Wilkins said. "The offense looks like they're finally picking it up a little bit. Last year, it was all defense. Now, it's starting to balance out and become more competitive."

Wilkins has built tight-knit relationships with a number of the incoming freshman over the past year, but isn't sure who he'll be rooming with in the dorms once he makes it up to campus.

"I vibe with Marlon Mack, Jimmy Bayes, Devin Abraham, and pretty much the whole team," Wilkins said. "Devin and I are real cool and go way back. That's why I feel like we're going to be something. We all know each other and it seems like family. We've all seen each other and we're all cool with each other."

Derrick Baity, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound cornerback and a former teammate of Wilkins, started opposite of Wilkins as a junior in 2013 and the two are close friends off the field.

The rising senior collected a Bulls' offer before the start of junior campaign, and playing college football close to home has always been appetizing to Baity.

"Yeah, I've been in his ear about USF," Wilkins said. "He's kind of being quiet about it and doesn't really know what he wants yet. I'm not going to really pressure him that much, but I've been in his ear quite a bit."

Wilkins doesn't have the stomach to digest another 2-10 season. The hometown product wants to put the Bulls back on the map and make a name for himself during his freshman campaign.

"The first thing is just to win," Wilkins said. "I just want to change our program around so we can become winners and have our community behind our backs. I'm also trying to start. I don't want to expect to go there and just sit the bench or redshirt during my freshman year.

"That's not the ultimate goal. The overall goal is to start and get on the field so I can be one step closer to my dream."


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