Skip Holtz apparently is very good at making a good first impression.
The first-year South Florida coach had less than three weeks to get his first recruiting class together, and though it likely wouldn't cause any consternation for the neighboring Florida Gators just up the interstate in Gainesville, it is a class not without some distinction.
Holtz managed to bring in Terrence Mitchell, a cornerback who was once a Florida State commitment, and Todd Chandler, a defensive tackle who once seemed bound to join his former high school teammates at Miami, among the 15 signing-day newcomers who will join four early enrollees.
Overall, Holtz got new commitments from seven players after his hiring.
"This has been a whirlwind, and we have been going 900 miles per hour since we had the press conference," Holtz said, referring his debut with the media on Jan. 15. "We had the press conference on Friday, and then Friday night I was at a dinner with about 10 recruits selling South Florida and the dreams and visions of where we are trying to go here.
"I need to compliment and applaud this staff for the job that they did."
The new signees include nine offensive players and five on defense. Of the four already enrolled, three are on defense, one on offense.
Significantly, Holtz did not pirate any players from among commitments at his former school, East Carolina.
"It was an easy decision," Holtz said of not going after them. "It was an easy decision, because it was the right decision."
But that didn't keep him from luring prospects from other schools.
In addition to Mitchell and Chandler, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Hans Louis, a linebacker from Hollywood, Fla., had committed to Marshall, and Deonte Welch, a wide receiver from Williston, Fla., had committed to Arkansas before signing with the Bulls.
--Five new assistants and four holdovers make up first-year coach Skip Holtz's new staff. The newcomers are Todd Fitch, Vernon Hargreaves and Rick Smith, who were with Holtz at East Carolina; Peter Vaas, who has served as offensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio); and Mark Snyder, former Marshall head coach. The holdovers are Kevin Patrick, Larry Scott, Carl Franks and Phil McGeoghan. Specific responsibilities have not been announced.
--QB Brion Carnes of Bradenton, Fla., who was the first player to commit to USF's 2010 recruiting class under former coach Jim Leavitt, ended up signing with Nebraska after Holtz withdrew USF's offer.
--CB Terrence Mitchell, Tampa -- A solid all-around athlete who finished second in the state in long and triple jumps as a high school junior, Mitchell is considered the "crowning jewel" of the class. Rivals.com rates him in the Top 100 prospects with four stars, and Scout.com has him the 12th best prospect at corner. He had previously committed to Florida State.
--DT Todd Chandler, Miami -- Chandler (6-1, 290) comes from the same high school (Miami Northwestern) that had eight players sign with the Miami Hurricanes just two years ago. Rivals.com rates him a four-star prospect and the 20th-best player nationally at his position. He had committed to Miami but withdrew that commitment, and Louisville represented a strong possibility until he signed with the Bulls.
--LB Curtis Weatherspoon, Valdosta, Ga. -- Weatherspoon has spent the last two seasons at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., where he was the Northeast Football Conference defensive MVP last season. His early enrollment addresses an area of critical need for the Bulls.
--DE Claude Davis, Lakeland, Fla. -- Davis is another junior college transfer (East Mississippi CC) who will get an early opportunity with the Bulls losing both starters at his position. Scout.com rates him a four-star prospect. He will take part in spring drills.
--QB Jamius Gunsby, LaGrange, Ga. -- A three-star prospect (Rivals.com), Gunsby has good size (6-4, 220) for the position. He struggled with an ankle injury last season but threw for 10 touchdowns on his 42 completions (83 attempts). He also gained 351 yards rushing.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We were involved in some battles, going down the stretch. I think we lost a couple here in the last couple of days. There were some high, very talented recruits, but we made them think. We made them look." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on the whirlwind of recruiting.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 LOOK AHEAD: USF has the offensive nucleus to contend in the Big East if the Bulls can get over the October slump that has hit the team over the last three years after 5-0 starts. There are some key losses on both sides of the ball, however, and especially on defense, where DEs George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Kion Wilson, and DBs Nate Allen and Jerome Murphy depart.
SPRING SNAPSHOT: Spring practice will begin March 16, and the spring game is set for April 17.
It's going to have a distinctly different atmosphere with Skip Holtz taking over as coach from Jim Leavitt, who has been the Bulls' only coach since the program was started in 1997. Both coaches and players are going to have to devote considerable time getting to know one another, but the period of adjustment shouldn't be that difficult. "The offense that he runs at East Carolina is very similar to what we've done and what I'm used to," QB B.J. Daniels told the Tampa Tribune. "So everybody's really excited."
PRO POTENTIAL: USF could have two players go in the first two rounds. The Bulls are losing a couple of underclassmen (Jason Pierre-Paul and Carlton Mitchell).
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul -- Pierre-Paul played only one year for the Bulls after transferring from junior college, but it was good enough to make him a first-round prospect. He has the potential to be the highest draft pick in USF history.
--DE George Selvie -- Selvie got a lot of attention from opposing blockers in the last two years, so his statistics were not as gaudy as they were in his sophomore season, when he had 14.5 sacks. But he is still considered a top-10 prospect at his position.
--S Nate Allen -- Allen is considered one of the top safety prospects in the draft. He had four interceptions last season and was the team's second-leading tackler. He also had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
--CB Jerome Murphy -- Murphy is ranked among the top 20 cornerback prospects but also hurts himself with some bonehead moves from time to time. He had four interceptions in 2009. Murphy also enhanced his draft stock with his play at the Senior Bowl.
--WR Carlton Mitchell -- USF's all-time leading receiver is passing up his senior season to enter the draft. He is a big-play threat who had 40 catches despite missing time because of injuries in 2009.
--QB B.J. Daniels had surgery on his left shoulder and will be held out of contact situations during spring practice. He will take part in seven-on-seven drills and will be full tilt for summer workouts.
"We are hopeful B.J. will be able to go through spring with it being his non-throwing shoulder and be able to participate in spring from a mental standpoint," coach Skip Holtz said. "But he will not be able to go through any of the physical contact work, which I'm OK with that."--With the arrival of QB Jamius Gunsby to back up Daniels, Evan Landi looks likely to end up back at wide receiver. It all depends on how quickly Gunsby makes the adjustment with his arrival in the fall.