Running back Ricky Ponton and safety Danny Verpaele have been declared ineligible for the 2007 season, and Ponton has been granted his release to transfer to another university. Verpaele will remain enrolled at USF, head coach Jim Leavitt said Friday.
Leavitt also said placekicker Mike Benzer will no longer play football, but plans to focus on his academics while remaining enrolled at USF. Redshirt freshman linebacker LeBrandon Glover also plans to transfer.
Ponton becomes the final of the three players suspended prior to last season to now leave the program permanently - joining receiver Jackie Chambers and defensive end Josh Julmiste. All three were suspended for the first six games of the 2006 campaign.
Ponton looked to be the eventual heir apparent to Andre Hall when he rushed for 373 yards and two touchdowns in a reserve role to Hall in 2005.
He returned from his suspension in fine fashion last season, collecting his first career 100-yard game with 101 yards on 17 carries at North Carolina. Ponton, however, was used sparingly over the final six games and finished the season with 73 rushing attempts and 306 yards. He also had seven receptions for 50 yards.
Verpaele was a true freshman standout for the Bulls in 2004. He started seven games and finished fourth on the team with 57 total tackles. He added six tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
After sitting out the 2005 season as a medical redshirt with a broken foot, he returned to the lineup last season and played in all 13 games, collecting 39 tackles (27 solo), six pass breakups and an interception. Verpaele also forced a fumble on the goal line by West Virginia RB Steve Slaton that turned out to be a key play in USF's huge victory.
Benzer won the starting place-kicking job as a true freshman in 2005, but missed his first three field goal attempts and one of three PAT tries before going to the bench. He again worked his way into the starting lineup last season, but was just 2-for-6 on field goals with a long of 30 yards before relinquishing the job to freshman Delbert Alvarado.
Glover was one of the highest rated prospects in the Bulls' 2006 recruiting class and redshirted last season. He originally committed to Mississippi State before signing with USF and was also pursued by Illinois.