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Leavitt is 'ecstatic' over Bradenton CB

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2003


TAMPA -- One of the last things South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said after addressing the media Wednesday was that the Bulls intended to sign one more player, a cornerback.

They did -- and he's a good one.

Bradenton Southeast's Mike Jenkins signed Thursday morning, choosing the Bulls over Nebraska and Auburn. He is USF's 26th freshman signee (plus one transfer), and he might have the most impressive credentials.

Jenkins (6 feet, 185 pounds) is rated a three-star prospect by rivals.com, one of five USF signed. He is the No. 27 prospect in the state, according to Bill Buchalter of the Orlando Sentinel, and No. 91 by Larry Blustein of Floridakids.net.

"I just couldn't be more ecstatic about Mike Jenkins," Leavitt said. "He's strong and he runs extremely well."

Jenkins is an impressive late catch. He initially intended to take his third official visit to Clemson, but opted for USF the weekend of Jan. 24. He then told auburnsports.com he likely would choose between Auburn and Nebraska.

Jenkins also had offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Central Florida.

BAYLOR LEAVES USF IN BIND: Baylor released its 2003 schedule, and it did not include USF.

The Bulls had been scheduled to host the Bears on Sept. 20 at Raymond James Stadium. It was a return date for USF's visit to Baylor on Sept. 23, 2000, a 28-13 Bears win. Instead of a rematch, Baylor will host Division I-AA Sam Houston State, putting USF in a bind.

The Bulls now have just four home games, 10 total and two open dates next season. Most Division I-A schools have full 12-game schedules and no openings, leaving USF scrambling.

"Due to the lateness of this cancellation, it poses some challenges," USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon said. "We're throwing a net out there to see who's available and would be willing to come here."

Baylor did not inform Selmon directly. Selmon has been playing "telephone tag" with a Baylor representative, but acknowledged it had been made clear on his voice mail that the Bears were exercising the buyout option.

"I'm disappointed, but that (buyout) clause is in there," Selmon said. "I'd like to know why they did it."

Baylor must pay USF $100,000 for canceling. The Bears, 3-9 last season in the Big 12 Conference, were to receive $150,000 for coming to Tampa, where USF has won 19 straight. USF received the same amount for its trip to Baylor.

The Bulls' schedule consists of eight to-be-announced games against Conference USA teams (four home, four away) and trips to Alabama (Aug. 30) and Eastern Michigan (Sept. 13). Selmon had been trying to fill the Sept. 6 opening for months.

Last season the Bulls played 11 of an allowable 12 games, nine against I-A teams. Selmon said he has been talking to I-A and I-AA teams but would prefer I-A opponents.

In Baylor's release, which hailed the Bears' seven homes games, there was no mention of canceling the USF game.

UF loses recruiter

GAINESVILLE -- One day after helping to bring in the nation's second-best recruiting class, Florida recruiting coordinator Tyke Tolbert is leaving for the NFL.

Tolbert, 35, has accepted a job as an assistant with the Arizona Cardinals, where he will coach receivers.

The Texas native acquired his new position via ties made while participating in the NFL's Minority Internship Program with the Detroit Lions in 1997 and the Cardinals in the 2001 training camp. Tolbert worked under the supervision of Cardinals offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan, who is a former Lions receivers coach and Tolbert's position coach during his career at LSU.

"Tyke Tolbert is a protege of Jerry Sullivan's proven methods of developing and teaching a wide receiver," Arizona coach Dave McGinnis said. "It began as a player and continues as a coach. Tyke is a tremendous addition and quickly will make his mark in the NFL."

Tolbert joined UF after coach Ron Zook was hired in January 2002. Before that he spent two seasons on the Louisiana-Lafayette staff as wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator.

"Tyke played for me in the mid '80s on some of the best teams we had at LSU," Sullivan said. "He was a very hard worker. I encouraged him to enter coaching and have followed his career. He is a high-character individual, a true student of the game, and I have great trust in him."

Also Thursday, the Gators received a signed letter of intent from cornerback Jermaine Thomas of Citra North Marion.

Thomas, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, also played tailback. He is a state high jumper and an all-area basketball player who considered Iowa State, Louisville and Southern Mississippi.

Florida has signed 27 recruits. CAL POLY-SAN LUIS OBISPO: The son of Steve Mariucci signed a national letter of intent. Tyler Mariucci is a 6-foot, 180-pounder who played quarterback and defensive back at Valley Christian High in San Jose, Calif.

FAIRFIELD: The private Jesuit school in Connecticut is dropping its football and men's hockey programs, saving $570,000, university president the Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley said. The money will be reallocated to the student financial aid program. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is down to six football members: Iona, St. Peter's, Siena, Duquesne, Marist and La Salle.

MIAMI: Defensive lineman Teraz McCray signed a national letter of intent, giving the Hurricanes four players from state champion Ely High. He chose Miami over Iowa and Mississippi. McCray, 6 feet and 285 pounds, joins running back Tyrone Moss and offensive linemen Andrew Bain and Cyrim Wimbs as signees from Ely. ... The Hurricanes announced their 2003 schedule, hosting Florida on Sept. 6, visiting Florida State on Oct. 11 and hosting Tennessee on Nov. 8.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Running back Nick Turner faces trial April 30 on charges of possession of counterfeit money, court records show. Coach Jackie Sherrill said Turner will remain on the team.

NOTRE DAME: The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has cleared officers of wrongdoing when they used force to restrain an Irish player during a December arrest.

Chad DeBolt, a 22-year-old safety, was in Jacksonville Beach on Dec. 27 when he was arrested for trespassing at the Ocean Club. A Duval County jail booking photograph shows him with both eyes swollen and dried blood on his face.

Prosecutors formalized a pretrial intervention agreement with DeBolt's lawyers. Criminal charges were dropped in exchange for a $150 fine paid to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, said Sheila Loizos in the State Attorney's Office.

EX-LB PLEADS GUILTY: Former Ohio State linebacker Marco Cooper pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and faces up to three years in prison for that charge and violating probation. Cooper pleaded guilty Wednesday and will be sentenced Feb. 19.

-- Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.

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