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USF enters picture for CCC star Rumph

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2003

The race for LeRue Rumph, once thought to be over, has heated up again.

Credit Jim Leavitt and Co.

South Florida left such a good impression on the heralded Clearwater Central Catholic safety last weekend that Rumph, who orally committed to North Carolina State in December, is giving the Bulls a serious look.

He'll visit the Wolfpack this weekend.

"If I hate things up there or if it's not what I thought it would be, I'll probably end up going to South Florida," Rumph said.

He would be a huge signee for the Bulls. rates him as the country's 15th-best safety and gives him four out of a possible five stars. He is No. 5 on the Times' Best of Tampa Bay list.

USF has five CCC graduates on its roster. And CCC senior defensive lineman Nick Capogna has committed to the Bulls.

"I had a real good time (at USF)," said the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rumph. "I learned a lot of new things. I was pretty impressed. The coaches are real honest people. All the questions I had, they had answers for."

N.C. State coach Chuck Amato visited Rumph at his home Tuesday and Rumph said the coach remains confident he'll land him.

"I'm weighing everything," Rumph said. "I had a good time at USF, but I'm pretty sure I'll have a good time (at N.C. State) too. After this last visit, I'll come to a conclusion and call the papers."

WIDE OPEN: Lakewood defensive end Julian Riley (6-4, 260), the Times' No. 7-rated area prospect, has narrowed his choices to Florida, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin. This weekend he'll visit the Gators, who jumped into the picture after the recent hiring of Charlie Strong as defensive coordinator. Strong held the same position at South Carolina.

"He has a plan," Lakewood coach Brian Bruch said. "He has been really mature. He had a few guys try to hold his toes to the fire, but he didn't waver. He said early on he'd take all his visits. ... He has a tremendous upside. His potential has not even begun to be tapped."

SEALED DEAL: Michael Hall, who committed to Division I-A Connecticut as a defensive end, was a Times All-Suncoast pick as an offensive lineman. Hall helped Lakewood win a district title and advance to the region semifinals. He also considered Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State.

"He's everything you want a kid to be," Bruch said. "He has an incredible motor."

GOING WEST: Plant quarterback Stephen Reaves will visit Southern Cal this weekend. He lists Auburn, Louisville, Michigan State, South Florida, USC and Wake Forest as his choices, with all but the Trojans having offered a scholarship. Auburn and Michigan State, which he visited last weekend, are his co-favorites.

DIFFERENT LOOK: If heralded quarterback Chris Leak honors his commitment and signs with Florida, he'll become the second black quarterback (joining 2002 recruit Gavin Dickey) to sign with second-year coach Ron Zook. In Steve Spurrier's 12 seasons as coach, UF signed one black QB, Antwan Chiles. Chiles transferred after he was unable to leap past Terry Dean and Danny Wuerffel on the depth chart.

A black quarterback hasn't started for UF since Donald Douglas in 1989.

ODDS AND ENDS: Tallahassee North Florida Christian linebacker Ernie Sims III, the Times' Blue Chip Prospect of the Year, played youth football in Tallahassee with UF's Dickey. The two remain friends. ... Jefferson receiver Andre Caldwell hits LSU this weekend, his fourth of five scheduled visits. He'll finish with a trip to Florida State on Jan. 31. ... Jefferson tight end Jamesley Jean will choose between Auburn, LSU, N.C. State, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He visits Auburn this week. ... Current team rankings by 1. LSU, 2. Miami, 3. Georgia, 4. UF, 22. Florida State. ... Signing day is Feb. 5.

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