South Florida – Four and A Half Star Recruiting Class – The Bulls didn't have the type of year many expected them to have in 2012 with an 8-6-5 overall record and a 2-3-3 mark in conference play which didn't qualify for a spot in the Big East Tournament. Nonetheless, they earned an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the second round of play. It is highly likely that South Florida would have had more wins last year had they not experienced several key injuries that contributed to a roller coaster up and down season.
George Kiefer will enter season number twelve as the head coach at South Florida with some big gaps to fill due to graduation and likely hoping that the Bulls can avoid the injury bug in 2013. Kiefer is as competitive as they get which is a good thing as reflected in the fact that South Florida has been an NCAA Tourney team seven out of the past eight seasons and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2008 and 2011. In the past Kiefer and the South Florida faithful have expressed dismay when the Bulls were not included in preseason rankings indicating the program does not get the respect that it deserves based on past success. However, the bottom line heading into the 2013 campaign is that the jury is still out on South Florida.
No doubt the Bulls will be a dangerous opponent to face but just how dangerous is likely going to depend heavily on Kiefer's ability to merge an extremely talented nine member recruiting class in with his returning players. Kiefer stated, "We're excited to have brought in a very talented and diverse class which we love." He added, "We look forward to watching them develop with the guys returning over the next few years."
Departures due to graduation include forward Kevin Olali (2g, 2a), midfielders Kyle Nicholls, Sebastien Thuriere (2g, 2a), and Paul Leston (3g, 6a), and center backs Brenton Griffiths (2g, 3a) and Ashani Fairclough (0g, 3a). The Bulls will also be without forward/midfielder Roberto Alterio (5g, 1a) who transferred to FIU.
Considered by many to be among the best recruiters in the country, Kiefer has added an international recruiting class that includes several newcomers with the potential to make an immediate impact. The class features junior forward Kennedy Selorm Adablah out of the University of Ghana, midfielder Lindo Mfeka from Durban, South Africa who is ranked by College Soccer News as the number eight recruit in the class of 2013, and winger Marcus Epps who played for the Chicago Fire Academy among others.
Junior back Wayne Hall, a 2012 NJCAA First Team All-American, is the latest in a line of talented players from out of Tyler Junior College to transfer to South Florida. Hall is likely to slot right into a starting role. Junior Nikola Paunic, a transfer from the University of Toronto, who gained valuable competitive experience as a member of the Canadian U-20 Youth National Team should also be in the hunt for playing time in the back.
Junior Dallas Jaye from Danville, California returns in goal. Jaye started seven contests last year and had a 1.09 goals against average and two shutouts. Seniors Ben Sweat from Palm Harbor, Florida and Ricardo Webb from Clarendon Jamaica return in the back. Sweat is a 2013 College Soccer News Preseason Third Team All-America selection with three years of starting experience. Sweat and Webb provide an experienced nucleus around which Kiefer can build.
Junior Wesley Charpie (2g, 3a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons is a prime time playmaker who returns as the team quarterback in the midfield. Charpie will set the pace for the Bulls and his play is a key to their success in 2013. Seniors Samuel Hosseini (0g, 3a), Lucas Baldin (3g, 0a) and Brandon Curriston are among other returning midfielders who look to play key roles in 2013.
Sophomore Terry Delancy who appeared in fifteen contests last year, junior Humberto Bertran, redshirt junior Edwin Moalosi who took a medical redshirt last year, and senior Stiven Salinas are among returning players who look to be in the mix up-top in 2013.
South Florida is among the many teams impacted by conference realignments in 2013. The Bulls move from playing in the Big East Conference to the newly formed nine member American Athletic Conference which will consist of Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, Temple, UCF and South Florida in 2013. The American Athletic Conference is basically made up of the schools that were in the Big East Conference last year that also field football teams with the addition of Memphis, SMU, and UCF who were previously in Conference USA.
The teams in the Big East last year that did not field football teams, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova, remained in what is now the "new" Big East Conference and were joined by Creighton, Butler, and Xavier.
The Bulls have a very competitive schedule. They open the 2013 season on August 30 when they host a very good Florida Gulf Coast University team. They have a big early season test coming up when they travel to Ann Arbor on September 6 to tangle with Michigan from the Big Ten. Things don't get any easier when South Florida opens American Athletic Conference play on September 27 when they host highly regarded Connecticut in a key conference matchup.
None of the returning South Florida players scored over three goals last year. This is a team that needs another go-to goal scorer to emerge like Dom Dwyer (16g, 2a) did in 2011. One of the newcomers may be the solution to that problem.
Consistency may be a concern in the early going. The talent is there for the Bulls to contend for the American Athletic Conference title and to earn another trip to the NCAA Tourney, but there is no getting around the fact that the team's success really depends on the newcomers' ability to help plug the gaps and to get up to speed quickly. Only time will tell.
Kennedy Selorm Adablah – Forward – Dansoman-Accra, Ghana – ACCRA Academy High – A junior transfer from the University of Ghana. Named Ghana University League's MVP. Played with Ghana U-20 Team.
Marcus Epps – Midfielder – Jackson, Mississippi – Played with the Chicago Fire Academy. Region 3 OPD team. Ranked by CSN as the number fifty-nine recruit in the class of 2013.
Lindo Mfeka – Midfielder – Durban, South Africa – Played with the South African U-17 National Team. Played with Javanon 94. Great quickness and the ability to finish.
Duane Muckette – Midfielder – Port of Trinidad, Spain – Queens Royal College – Served as captain of Trinidad and Tobago's U-17 and U-20 National Teams. Player of the Year at FC Santa Rosa.
Brentton Muhammad – Goalkeeper – London, England – Florida Institute of Technology – Senior transfer from FIT. Second Team Sunshine State All-Conference selection for three years.
Cameron Thomas – Midfielder – Tampa, Florida – Countryside High School – Played for the Clearwater Academy. Played in Germany for Vsl Osanderuck.
Wayne Hall – Defender – Darlington, England – Tyler Junior College – Junior transfer from Tyler Junior College where he was an NJCAA First Team All-American.
Nikola Paunic – Defender – Mississauga, Canada – University of Toronto – Junior transfer. Played with the Canadian U-20 Youth National Team. Team captain for Toronto FC for past two years.
Drew Trautmann – Goalkeeper – Orlando, Florida – West Orange High – Played for Orlando City U-18 Academy. Played for Region 3 ODP team. All-Orange County. All-Metro. Played for U-18 Florida Rush.