When LB Sam Barrington and CB Kayvon Webster signed with the University of South Florida football program in 2009, they expected to be leaving with a Big East Conference championship.
That didn't work out.
Barrington and Webster, coming off a 3-9 senior season, have turned their attention to the National Football League. They are competing in Saturday afternoon's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, a showcase for college players hoping to catch the eyes of NFL scouts.
"I just want to come out here, show I can compete, show I belong with these guys,'' Barrington said. "It's good to get back on the field after a month and compete against some of the better players in the country. I'm grateful for this opportunity.''
Houston Texans scout Mike Martin said Barrington "can really run'' and Webster has impressed with his "coverage and tackling skills, plus his ability to be really physical.'' Next week, DT Cory Grissom competes in the Senior Bowl at Mobile, Ala., so the Bulls have a decent shot at getting someone drafted after being shut out last year.
Although their focus is on the future, Barrington and Webster plan on being part of USF football.
"I'll be around,'' Barrington said. "I'm definitely excited for what (new coach) Willie Taggart brings to the table. I think USF is coming back strong. And I'm happy for the opportunity that Skip Holtz received (as Louisiana Tech's head coach).''
"I feel it was bad that coach Holtz had to leave, because he's such a nice guy and he treated me really well,'' Webster said. "I do think things are headed in the right direction. You can't help but be impressed with coach Taggart. He wants to involve us. He wants the alumni to come back. I think he's going to get it going pretty quickly.''
BACK TO THE RAC: The 8,000-seat Rutgers Athletic Center, site of tonight's men's basketball game between USF and Rutgers, isn't one of the Big East's most plush arenas. But with fans on top of the action — and more noise than you'll find almost anywhere — it's an intimidating venue for opponents.
"It's a different place,'' Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "It's more of a gym feeling. The students and fans are right on you. Eighteen times out of the year, I think it's one of the best places in the country. Our guys feel comfortable there. They enjoy the intensity.''
Tonight figures to be a prime opportunity for the Bulls to get a Big East win. Then again, nothing comes easy at the RAC.
BULLS BITS: Taggart's staff is beefing up last season's weak spot — the secondary. The Bulls got a commitment Tuesday from junior-college star CB Howard Wilder, who played at Pierce College in Los Angeles. Already enrolled is CB Torrel Saffold of Butler (Kan.) Community College. … Todd Fitch, Holtz's offensive coordinator the past three seasons at USF, was hired as receivers coach on Steve Addazio's staff at Boston College. … Given his close ties to the Harbaugh family, Taggart undoubtedly is rooting for the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens to reach the Super Bowl. The NFC championship game features a USF connection either way. Either 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt, patriarch of USF's program, or Atlanta Falcons LB and former Bull Stephen Nicholas will earn a Super Bowl trip.