When the schedule for fall practice came out last week and it showed the early camp sessions would be held from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m., most of the TDS staff laughed at how many of those practices would be rained out, because ya know, Florida. But at least for day one, new head coach Charlie Strong got a reprieve from the typical afternoon showers.
Like they did last year, the Bulls held their opening practice at the Sycamore Fields to pay homage to the humble beginnings of USF football 20 years ago.
The offense looked good at times during the two-hour practice, according to Strong, but he acknowledged the defense has a lot of work to do before August 26 at San Jose State.
“Defensively, we know that’s gotta be our biggest improvement. We have to improve on defense,” Strong said. “We have to get better. There’s no reason for us not to, we have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. It’s about guys believing in themselves and guys holding one another accountable... guys coming together and playing as a complete team.”
In a bit of a shock, Strong said that defensive end is “probably the strength of our defense.” There is talent there with Birmingham Bowl hero Mike Love, Kirk Livingstone, Vincent Jackson, and Juwuan Brown all returning. It could be as simple as a coaching change to turn these guys into a competent group.
Then there’s the linebackers.
“The linebacker position is where we need to find some depth,” Strong said.
Outside of Sanchez, no other linebacker on the roster has started a game for the Bulls. Sophomore Nico Sawtelle still looks to be the guy to replace the departed Nigel Harris at weakside linebacker with junior Danny Thomas sliding over from the Mike spot. (Now would you look at that, junior Jimmy Bayes is listed as Sanchez’s backup at Mike linebacker. For how long is a different story, with redshirt freshman Andre Polk nipping at his heels.)
“I’m really looking forward to working with Nico,” Sanchez said. “I think Nico is gonna be a heckuva player here. He is young but that’s my job to help him grow and be a better player.”
Good news, bad news
Some good news: Everyone that was supposed to report to camp reported, including the freshman class.
Some bad news: Redshirt freshman safety Craig Watts was seen walking gingerly off the practice field and took a cart back to the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center. No word on the extent of the injury but YOU KNOW I’ll ask tomorrow.
In other injury related news
- Senior linebacker Auggie Sanchez returned to practice after missing all of spring recovering from surgery. He said he felt rusty but that’s to be expected. Mental reps from the sideline only get you so far when learning a new scheme.
- Senior left guard Jeremi Hall also returned to practice after missing spring practice with a knee injury.
- Junior wide receiver Tyre McCants came back after missing all of spring too.
I may have missed some injuries/returns but it’s fall practice for me, too, so BACK OFF.
Offensive line starting five
From all accounts the starting five will be LT Eric Mayes, LG Hall, C Cam Ruff, RG Michael Wiggs and RT Marcus Norman.
Yeah, that’s former defensive tackle Eric Mayes listed as the starting left tackle. There’s 24 more practices before San Jose State to see if Mayes can handle the position or whether Virginia transfer Grant Polk can overtake him. William Atterbury is listed as the backup RT.
We didn’t see any team drills, so it’s really hard to say who is starting with the first and second teams, but the media will have access to the entire practice on Saturday. We’ll know more then.
Jet sweeps still go?
Quarterback Quinton Flowers was intentionally very vague when I asked him if they ran any jet sweeps today. My gut says they didn’t. But my gut also thinks the crab at Subway is good.