USF football got back into the swing of things after having last week off due to spring break and by all accounts, yesterday’s practice was much crisper than Tuesday’s practice, which was to be expected for the first practice after the break. The pads were clapping and the defense was rocking throughout the open portion of practice open to the media at the Frank Morsani Football Complex.
“Tuesday wasn’t very good and you expect that after having a week off,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “To come back out today and compete as well as they did was really good.”
The Bulls lost CB Deatrick Nichols, and saf(e)ties Devin Abraham and Tajee Fullwood so they are experimenting with players in different positions this spring.
Sophomore CB Naytron Culpepper has seen extensive time at both safety positions in the spring. He said he feels comfortable at either spot as well as corner, where he started the final two games of the 2017 season. Defensive backs coach Blue Adams said of Culpepper that he saw the Miami native as a safety even when he was playing corner.
“I like to play both so that I can be versatile on defense so if anyone goes down like Jaymon (Thomas) did, I can just take his spot,” Culpepper said.
Taking over Nichols’ spot in the nickel position has been senior Ronnie Hoggins and he’s taken to the position well. He played some snaps in 2017 as the nickel corner and proved he could do it. He finished fifth on the team in tackles—which improved drastically from 2016— with 53, just one behind linebacker Nico Sawtelle.
“He’s so smart and quick, he’s definitely making plays there,” senior CB Mazzi Wilkins said of Hoggins.
Wilkins had a breakout year in 2017, but by his own admission fared worse in the second half of the season than he did in the first half, eventually getting jumped by Culpepper. He said he needs to work on his consistency snap to snap and get better everyday. Strong mentioned that he needs to gain some weight (listed at 176 lbs.) and Wilkins said he is working on his nutrition.
CB Mike Hampton has playing getting plenty of reps opposite Wilkins this spring and looks in shape to see a lot more playing time in 2018, unless someone makes “the leap” like Wilkins did.
Converted WR Chris Barr had a good day today, putting a nice hit on tight end Nick Munura and breaking up a pass late in practice.
The Bulls will have Friday off before holding a “scrimmage” of sorts on Saturday morning.
- Former QB/GOAT Quinton Flowers, wide receivers Andre Davis, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and RB D’Ernest Johnson were at practice today and stayed after to work on the fields as they gear up for USF’s Pro Day on Monday.
- Safety Jaymon Thomas “twisted his ankle” per Strong and was held out. He was seen with a walking boot on his right foot today.
- TE Mitchell Wilcox was held out of practice due to a hit he took on Tuesday. Strong hopes to know more about his availability on Saturday.