© St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2003
TAMPA -- The first big recruiting weekend quickly paid dividends for South Florida as the Bulls received commitments from several players, including two of Tampa's premier preps.
Hillsborough High coach Earl Garcia said Terriers linebacker Ronnie McCullough committed, as had Jefferson linebacker Josh Balloon.
"I just got off the phone with Ronnie's dad, and he said Ronnie and Josh Balloon committed," Garcia said. "I'm real happy for Ronnie. We think (USF) coach (Jim) Leavitt has done a great job, and we've always had a player there since its inception."
Jefferson coach Mike Simmonds said he had not that heard Balloon committed, but expected "to hear it (today)."
McCullough (6 feet, 220 pounds) is the No. 34 senior in Florida by floridakids.net despite a knee tendon tear. Garcia said McCullough has full range of motion two weeks into rehabilitation.
Balloon (6-0, 210), rated No. 42 by floridakids.net, had offers from Iowa State and Purdue. McCullough (6-0, 220) considered Purdue, Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Central Florida. Five others, including East Bay wide receiver J.B. Garris (6-0, 180) and Durant cornerback Trae Williams (5-10, 180), also committed. Both were named first-team All-Hillsborough County by the Times.
The other commitments are Lake Wales linebacker Gene Coleman (6-1, 230), Jacksonville Trinity Christian offensive lineman Rashid Lavergne (6-3, 310) and Lake City Columbia defensive lineman Allen Cray (6-1, 265).
MIAMI -- Running back Willis McGahee still could turn pro and rehabilitate in the NFL instead of at Miami, where he might lose his job to Frank Gore or incoming freshman Tyrone Moss.
The Miami Herald reported at least one NFL official said McGahee, who set the school record for rushing yards (1,753) and touchdowns (28) last season, might be drafted as high as the third round despite tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
And he could get a year closer to free agency in the NFL and a chance to recoup the money he potentially lost when he was hurt in the fourth quarter of the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
McGahee must decide by Wednesday, the deadline for underclassmen to declare. He cannot wait until summer and apply for the supplemental draft, league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
McGahee has a $2.5-million insurance policy if he does not play again, but the injury likely will cost him about $10-million. He likely would have had a bonus of more than $12.5-million.
If McGahee can get healthy and become a free agent, he could get another signing bonus. NFL players are eligible for restricted free agency after their third season.
-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.