If you missed the beginning of our spring practice preview series check them out here:
Spring practice begins next week so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team. Except for quarterback because #BattleHive.
Key Losses: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (53 catches, 879 yards, six TD on 100 targets); Temi Alaka (16 catches, 241 yards, two TD on 30 targets)
Key Returners: Tyre McCants (36 catches, 686 yards, seven TD on 56 targets); Darnell Salomon (32 catches, 512 yards, five TD on 54 targets); Deangelo Antoine (11 catches, 168 yards, one TD on 15 targets); Stanley Clerveaux (two catches, 12 yards on eight targets); DeVontres Dukes (three catches, 32 yards on four targets); Jernard Phillips (one catch, 12 yards on two targets); Ryeshene Bronson (DNP-Redshirt/Shoulder injury)
We’ve finally hit one of the deepest positions on the roster. The Bulls lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling (headed to the NFL Combine) and Temi Alaka to graduation, but return Tyre “DDDRRRAAAAGGGG EMMMM” McCants, and Darnell Salomon plus a bevy of other receivers with quality playing time in their USF careers.
Salomon’s spot is locked up. The former four-star prospect from Miami became a favorite target of former quarterback Quinton Flowers late in the season. He caught at least four passes in four of the last five games, including a five catch, 139 yard performance against C. on Black Friday, capped by the 83-yard catch and run to help tie things up at 42-42 late in the game (and that’s when the game ended). Salomon recorded a touchdown in each of the last three games of the season.
McCants is the interesting player of the group. He clearly has the capability to play on the outside opposite Salomon or in the slot. He is the best non-offensive lineman blocker on the team and he has soft hands and tons of brute strength to bully any linebacker and the speed to keep any cornerback honest. I’d love to see what he could do with 15 to 20 more targets on the outside.
He had a career night against C. racking up a school record 227 yards on nine catches. Most of the damage was done as the outside receiver because MVS was battling a back injury. He showed in the game alone his impressive speed, strength, footwork, and hands to make him a go-to receiver. McCants capped off his season by scoring two touchdowns, including the game winner over the glorified flag football team from Lubbock in the Birmingham Bowl.
If Salomon and McCants are the starting “X” and “Z” receivers, the guys behind them are no slouches either.
Bronson was in line to get significant playing time until a Deatrick Nichols hit in fall camp dislocated his shoulder and forced him to miss the entire season. He’ll always be remembered for catching the pass that turned it all around versus Syracuse in 2015, but he’ll need to show he can be a reliable receiver to see the field.
DeVontres Dukes is another big receiver at 6’4” that could factor in as well. He saw action in 11 games with spot duty at wide receiver and on special teams. Oft-injured and all-around good guy Stanley Clerveaux will also see action at some point. He had so much talent, but his knees betrayed him. You just feel for a guy like that.
Early enrollee and the second best recruit in the 2018 class, Zion Roland, will also compete for a role in the offense. Ten different wide receivers were targeted in 2017 and three are no longer on the team so there will be plenty of opportunity for newcomers like Roland to get playing time.
Now to the slot.
With McCants on the outside, Deangelo Antoine looks to be the primary slot receiver for the Bulls. He has great speed and was able to use it in multiple ways as a receiver and a runner. He averaged over 15 yards-per-catch and 12 yards-per-carry in 2017. He missed five games due to an ankle injury. All signs point to him being healthy for spring practice.
Redshirt freshman Jernard Phillips looked good in spring practice last season as an early enrollee, I’d expect him to cycle in with reps as well in the slot. Senior WR Chris Barr is still hanging around. He had zero catches on five targets in 2017 and doesn’t seem to have a role on offense anymore. There needs to be a 30 For 30 documentary about the disappearance of him from the offense after his fairly impressive freshman season in 2015 where he had 20 receptions for 200 yards and a touchdown.
“X”- Salomon then Dukes
“Z”- McCants then Bronson
Slot- Antoine then Phillips
Mixed in-Clerveaux, Roland, Barr
All of this won’t matter if Brett Kean or Chris Oladokun can’t get these guys the ball. We’ll get to QB’s soon, I promise.