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2021 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Linebackers

The Grier and Boyles show returns to lead the linebacker corps into the spring.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at South Florida Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins today 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.

Linebackers

Position Coach: Ernie Sims (1st season)

Key Losses: Devin Gil (2020 opt-out)

Key Returners: Tony Grier, (59 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, three sacks), Dwayne Boyles (44 tackles, five TFLs, one INT), Andrew Mims (38 tackles, four TFLs, one sack), Demaurez Bellamy (27 tackles, 2.5 TFLs)

Key Additions: Davon Hicks (HS/early enrollee), CJ Ross (HS/early enrollee)

Continuity is the theme for the USF linebacker corps heading into spring ball with most of last year’s crew set to patrol the middle of the field for the 2021 season.

The biggest change in the offseason came at the top with quality control assistant Ernie Sims being promoted to LB coach just over a month ago. The former Florida State All-American takes over for defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, who has shifted his position coach responsibilities to safeties with the departure of Wes Neighbors to Louisiana.

Personnel-wise, the USF defense will benefit tremendously from having two of the unit’s impact stars leading the way once again as Tony Grier and Dwayne Boyles both return as senior veterans. Grier was the lone Bull to bring home conference honors last fall, earning Second Team All-AAC status for his performance in 2020 while Boyles made his presence felt in just six games of the abbreviated season. If you recall, the Miami Central product played out of his mind and came up with a crucial second half pick in last year’s War on I-4.

Adding further upperclassmen depth to the group are Andrew Mims and Demaurez Bellamy, both of whom got plenty of burn last fall by making five starts each. Fellow upperclassmen Randal Copeland and Brian Norris provide extra depth to the room as well as junior Keyon Helton, who has been converted from DB to linebacker according to the online roster. One would image him serving as a hybrid between an OLB/”Star” safety in the 4-2-5.

The only piece of attrition from the group was Michigan transfer Devin Gil, who entered the transfer portal back in December. After transferring from Ann Arbor last offseason, Gil decided to opt out of the 2020 campaign and never played a single snap for the Bulls. Further depth, however, was added with 2021 linebacker signees CJ Ross and Davon Hicks both enrolling early and arriving to campus in January.