Restocking the O-line is always a priority, but with the Bulls graduating two offensive tackles after this year, the staff is looking at the JUCO route to ease the transition of the younger guys. One player that could fit that bill is Nassau Community College offensive tackle Zenal Demhasaj, who travelled to Tampa to check out the Bulls this week.
Demhasaj prepped at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, NY, but took the JUCO route. As a freshman, Zenal was a standout tackle for Nassau in 2009 and was expected to be one of the top JUCO tackles in the country this fall, but suffered a torn ACL in the spring and redshirted this fall. Now that he's healthy schools are showing interest.
Cincinnati offered before his knee injury, but he hasn't spoken to them much since, and now he's focused on three BIG EAST programs in Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and USF. Zenal took an unofficial to Rutgers, and earlier this week made the trip to Tampa to see what USF had to offer.
"The visit was good," said Demhasaj. "The place was cool, the coaches were real nice and I liked it actually."
Zenal is a big boy, and the 6'6, 325 pound offensive lineman said the Bulls are recruiting him at tackle, and he can play either tackle position.
"I spent a lot time with coach Shank," said Demhasaj. "No joke, he's one of the reasons why I like the school a lot. He's very real, and explains everything. I can tell who's an idiot and who's not, and who I like and who I don't. He's a cool guy, and talked to me the whole time, even when we ate. He knows a lot, and I like him."
Zenal was hosted by defensive tackle Luke Sager for his visit, and got to spend time with some of the other players that didn't go home during their time off.
"I went over to one of their apartments and hung out with some of the guys, Luke Sager, the tight end Shields and a few others," said Demhasaj. "I didn't see one lineman while I was there, but I liked the guys I hung out with. They tried to get me to go out, but I'm not into that, so we just hung out for like 4-5 hours. They're all cool guys, and a lot of fun. They reminded me of my old high school team. They were non-stop ragging and cracking jokes on each other and were a good bunch of guys."
The next day Demhasaj spent the day touring the USF campus, facilities, academics, and got a feel for the campus.
"The next day we got up and took the grand tour of the whole place," said Demhasaj. "I saw everything, the campus, and went down to see the stadium, took a tour of where the Bulls and Bucs play, I saw a lot."
Zenal was raised in the New York area, and admitted that he didn't know what to expect on his visit down south, but was pleasantly surprised.
"Honestly, I went down there and expected something way different than what I saw," said Demhasaj. ‘Everything was real nice, and I didn't feel out of place at all, and felt very comfortable there. I thought I would feel awkward, but that wasn't the case and I liked it, except for the fact that it was freezing down there. They said I brought the cold with me."
"I checked out the weight room, meeting rooms, training room and all the new stuff they're building, and liked it," said Demhasaj. "I met the staff, spoke to the trainer, and he checked out my knee and said I'm perfect with where I'm at. They lose a couple of tackles this year and need some help on the line."
"I liked my visit to Tampa, it was very calming," said Demhasaj. "I'm used to things being hectic up here, and I went down there and it was nice and calm. I liked the people, and the coaches and everything. The head coach was real cool, and Coach Shank was great. That's what got me really looking at them was the coaches."
After a good visit to Tampa, and wanting to play in the BIG EAST, the Bulls have landed on the O-lineman's top list.
"USF is in my top three," said Demhasaj. "It's Rutgers, USF and Pitt."
Zenal has already taken an unofficial visit to Rutgers, and had an official planned for Pittsburgh this week, but the resignation of Pitt Coach Dave Wannstedt has things up in the air.
"That's the crazy part, the head coach is gone," said Zenal. "They told me now's not a good time to take a visit, so I'm not sure what's going on now."
The other school on his list is Rutgers and they made a visit to see Zenal once he returned home.
"The coach from Rutgers came by yesterday," said Demhasaj. "He didn't offer, but said we haven't forgotten about you. I'm not sure what they're going to do."
With not a lot of time before a decision has to be made, what are his final choices looking like?
"I'm from NY, and always liked Rutgers, so out of all these schools, they're my top choice, they're only thirty minutes away, and I like to be closer to home," said Demhasaj. "So I'm still waiting to see what they're going to do. Pitt is also not that far away."
"Obliviously South Florida is the only one that has offered and I like them," said Zenal. "I can see myself playing at anyone of the three schools, but I want to know how everything stands before I decide."
Being a December graduate and planning to enroll in January, Zenal planned to make a decision next week, but his choice may come a bit later now.
"Next week is when I can first decide, but I can wait until the first week of classes," said Demhasaj. "I want to see what is going on with all the schools first. Then I'll make my choice."