With summer classes over and fall classes not starting until August 21, the USF football team will get to “relax” and just concentrate on football for the next couple of weeks. Because there aren’t any classes to work around, the Bulls will practice in the mornings at the Frank Morsani Football Complex.
Senior running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice have the unenviable task of replacing the best running back in school history, but these two have brought their “A” game during fall camp.
“For them it’s a new opportunity,” running back coach Shaun King said. “Even though they’re familiar names for the Bull fan base, they’ve never been in the role of key guys. They’re excited to showcase to America their talent [and] abilities."
Johnson will be the primary back in the offense. Johnson will likely return punts (11.8 yards per return) and kickoffs (28.9 yards) as well.
SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly points out in his USF preview that Johnson was slighty more efficient than Mack with his carries. 44% of them went for at least five yards, compared to 40% for Mack. That’s not to say the team won’t miss Mack’s speed, but in a power-run based offense, Johnson can do well.
The coaching staff has done a great job of limiting the times he gets exposed to hits during 11-on-11 substituting him and Tice liberally with the first team.
Behind those two, there’s a fierce battle for the third and fourth running back position between sophomore Trevon Sands, redshirt freshman Elijah Mack and newcomer Duran Bell. King wants all of the backs to be involved on special teams.
“We need some go-to guys on special teams that are gonna be our bell cows. When you get to that third and fourth back spot, the guys who are most involved in special teams will travel and be a part of the [running back] rotation,” King said.
- Sophomore wide receiver Deangelo Antoine continues to shine out of the slot position. He scored a touchdown in red zone drills on a post route from the slot. It would be surprising if he isn’t named a starter on August 26.
- First team offensive line remained the same as yesterday: LT Eric Mayes, LG Jeremi Hall, C Cameron Ruff, RG Michael Wiggs and RT Marcus Norman. Virginia transfer Grant Polk worked with the second team.
- Tice looks so much quicker than last year.
- Freshman DB Naytron Culpepper got some run with the first team defense today.
- Special teams took up a large chunk of practice time that was open to the media as they worked on field goals (Emilio Nadelman is still good), punts (Large. Adult. Punter. y’all). They took about 15 minutes working on hitting their spots when attempting to block punts. The coaches harped on hitting the ball with the correct hand and keeping their hand low and not swatting at the ball.
"It’s tough," King said about going undefeated. "You’re preparation has to stay at such a high level. And you look at some of the stuff we did last year [like] scoring touchdowns late, running up the score sometimes. People don’t forget that stuff so we’re gonna get their best shot so our guys gotta approach it like ‘all right, we’re gonna be ready.’"
- DE’s Frank Johnson, Josh Black, Kirk Livingston and Vincent Jackson Jr were all held out and working on the side during the open portion of practice. Jackson did not have the walking boot on.
- Safety Tajee Fullwood was also held out and had his left foot in a boot after injuring it in practice yesterday.
- WRs Stanley Clerveaux, Temi Alaka and Marquez Valdes-Scanting were also not practicing. MVS and Alaka did help out during the punt block session and were seen running so that’s a positive sign. Darnell Salomon returned to practice after missing yesterday.
- CB Ronnie Hoggins was held out today as well. He just can’t seem to shake the injury bug. If he can’t go, senior CB Mazzi Wilkins will likely step in for him. Wilkins is another guy that has had a great camp.
- QB Chris Oladokun (illness) was spotted but not suited up.