In a bit of a surprise, USF football opened the last hour of Thursday’s practice to the media. It was the first real taste of practice we had been able to see since the spring. So instead of picking up my car from the auto shop, I took my girlfriend’s car and raced to practice so I could report to the masses what I saw. You’re welcome.
- First-team offensive linemen: LT Grant Polk, LG Jeremi Hall, C Cameron Ruff, RG Mitchell Wiggs, and RT Marcus Norman.
It took the Virginia transfer all of two practices to unseat junior Eric Mayes at left tackle. It’s probably for the best. Sophomore William Atterbury is training at guard now, but he could still be a tackle if the need arises. Without pads (which get put on Saturday) it’s difficult to really see how the offensive line and defensive line are doing. I will say this, though: it was a pretty good day for the defensive line.
- First-team skill positions: Wide receivers were senior Marquez Valdes-Scantling, sophomore Darnell Salomon, and senior Chris Barr (slot). Tight end was Elkanah Dillon. Running back was D’Ernest Johnson.
Rice grad transfer Temi Alaka, senior Ryeshene Bronson, and redshirt freshman DeVontres Dukes and Deangelo Antoine all cycled in with the first team. Junior Tyre McCants looks to be moving back inside to the slot, which makes sense given his size and because this system doesn’t need his excellent downfield blocking on the outside. He made a couple of nice catches during the open practice session on the sideline and over the middle.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers had an up-and-down day. He threw some nice passes down the field, but struggled to hit the shorter passes, badly missing an out route. There were also a couple of miscommunications with his receivers. Salomon dropped a perfect deep ball down the left sideline. It looked like he jumped too early; otherwise it would have been a huge gain for the offense.
- Redshirt freshman Craig Watts worked quite a bit at cornerback. Watts has the TDS Stamp of Approval as the next great Bulls defender. He showed off some great coverage skills during the 11-on-11 session. I’m told junior Mazzi Wilkins had a heck of a day during 7-on-7 drills with at least four pass breakups. Freshman CB Bentlee Sanders had a good day as well, breaking up a few passes.
The first-team defense employed a 3-3-5 to begin the 11-on-11 session. It was an interesting look to say the least. Junior Kevin Bronson was one end, and junior Kirk Livingstone was the other, with senior Bruce Hector anchoring the middle. The linebackers were senior Auggie Sanchez, sophomore Nico Sawtelle, and sophomore Greg Reaves.
The defense is going to be very fluid in their alignment, with five defensive backs being the only constant. The defense won the 11-on-11 drills with the offense getting shut out on every drive. Reserve linebacker Jimmy Bayes got dusted on an out route by running back Darius Tice, who looks just as explosive and powerful as before he broke his ankle against Florida State last year.
- Special teams are still solid.
Senior kicker Emilio Nadelman hit five of six field goals. He missed a 40-yarder, but made it on the second try. Large Adult Punter Jonathan Hernandez continued to boom punt after punt downfield with excellent hang time. D’Ernest Johnson and senior safety Tajee Fullwood are the most likely candidates to return punts this year. Freshman athlete Chauncey Smart continues to have difficulty catching punts — he’s muffed at least two in the first three days of practice.
- Head coach Charlie Strong is headed to Bristol.
Strong will do the ESPN “Car Wash” tomorrow starting with an appearance on Mike and
Mike Trey at 9 a.m. He’ll be on SportsCenter three times (9:30 a.m.,11:30 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.), First Take at 10:40 a.m., Stephen A. Smith’s radio show at 2 p.m., Paooowwwllll Finebaum at 2:15, The Ryen Russillo Show at 2:30, Championship Drive Podcast at 2:45, The Right Time with Bomani Jones at 3:45, and finally College Football Live at 5 p.m.
The Bulls are off Friday before strapping on the pads for the first time on Saturday morning. That practice is open to the media in its entirety, and I’ll be out there roasting in the sun for you guys. Again, you’re welcome.