Kissimmee Osceola running back Stafon McCray, Central Florida's second leading rusher this past season has committed to USF, joining teammate CB Hassan Childs with the Bulls.
"It feels great. I'm going somewhere that fits what type of guy I am, what type of running back ... the running game is going to be great and they're changing the offense around," McCray said Sunday. "Coach T [new head coach Willie Taggart] has a goal, as far running backs. He's had every running back he's coached get at least 1,500 yards-plus a year and I feel like I'm that type of guy and he's a great coach."
Taggart was head coach at Western Kentucky for the past three years, but before that he was running backs coach under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-2009. While there he coached Heisman Trophy finalist Toby Gerhart.
McCray (6-foot-, 205 pounds), who rushed for 1,881 yards and 22 touchdowns during his senior season, is the first running back committed to the Bulls recruiting Class of 2013. It's quite possible Taggart could land another Central Florida star if the Bulls can coax DeLand's JoJo Kemp into recommitting to his original pledge for the Bulls from this past summer.
Both McCray and Kemp were on official visits to USF this weekend.
For now, McCray fills a huge need for the Bulls, who virtually have no running backs returning from what was a dismal 2012 season that saw head coach Skip Holtz fired at the end of a dismal 3-9 season.
USF loses its top two running backs in seniors Demetris Murray (665 yards) and Lindsey Lamar (475), who combined to rush for only 1,140 yards and nine touchdowns. Third leading rusher, quarterback B.J. Daniels, has also used up his eligibility. He added 434 yards and five TDs on the ground.
The top returning runner is senior-to-be Marcus Shaw (5-9, 189), who had 248 yards on 51 carries last season. but then the experience drops off in a big way. Redshirt-freshman Willie Davis is next in line and he only had seven carries last season. Also on the roster is former Orlando Agape Christian RB Michael Pierre, who redshirted as a junior this past season after transferring in from Golden West College in California.
McCray, a big back with good speed will be a welcome addition to this squad. He can run the power game or also get around the end on sweeps. He wasn't asked to catch the ball much at Osceola, but he has shown solid receiving skills.
"I feel if I go out there and get bigger and stronger it will be hard for whoever is the starter at that position. I'm going out there expecting to play right away," McCray said. "They changed the whole offensive style to favor the run game and they’ll sign three running backs. They offered three this weekend and I was only one who committed."
McCray said it will be great, also, to be able to have a teammate join him in Tampa.
"Yeah, I'm fired up. It will make things kind of easier for both of us," McCray said. "If we went to different places ... people get homesick, but if you have someone familiar around, someone who's like family, we can relate to things and do things together.
"I don't plan on coming home a lot, though. I've been here 18 years. No need to do that."
Prior to USF coming on strong the past few weeks with its recruiting pitch, McCray thought he would be committing to Kentucky as early as even last week. Obviously, things changed.
"I ain't gonna lie, my first choice was Kentucky coming into all these visits," he said. "But after it got closer to making a decision and after I took a visit to Utah State and saw that great program they have out there, I fell in love with it ... but it was just so far away.
"When Kentucky came through here, it gave me a better feeling for things and it's a great program in the SEC and so you would be going up against the best, and USF didn't really come into the picture."
The late push, however, was what sold him on the Bulls.
"They came in and talked about the program and how they're changing the offense now and it's going to be great," McCray said. "They're going to be using a lot of two tight ends and I formation-type stuff. I like that. It's really great for me.
"It just feels real, real good right now."
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times