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USF veteran TE Mitch Wilcox no longer haunted by UCF game

By Joey Knight
USF redshirt junior tight end Mitch Wilcox (89) has 29 career receptions. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)

Veteran TE Mitch Wilcox says he entered USF's spring drills about five pounds lighter. But when considering the anvil of unfounded guilt he says he has shed from his psyche, that number's closer to 500.

"I've made peace with my demons," the redshirt junior from Tarpon Springs said. "And I'll make sure nothing like that ever happens again."

Wilcox emerged from the UCF game as the Bulls' most sympathetic figure or most convenient target, depending on one's perspective. His fumble on the Bulls' final offensive play preserved the Knights' 49-42 triumph. Only four plays earlier, USF's special teams surrendered a 95-yard touchdown on a Mike Hughes kick return.

While some social-media vitriol followed, Wilcox said he was flooded with support. The best advice he says he received: Don't let one play define you.

"I mean, there are always gonna be haters regardless if you do something bad or good," Wilcox said. "But in that moment there was a lot of good support."

He enters the 2018 season as one of the team's most experienced offensive weapons (29 career catches, 436 yards, four TDs) with a role almost certain to expand. With Kano Dillon announcing his plans to transfer last month, Wilcox is the only tight end on the current roster to catch a pass in a college game.

Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, a target for critics who felt Wilcox was confined to an edge-blocker last season (though he had 17 catches), said Wednesday he "absolutely" sees Wilcox's role increasing.

"I feel very capable to catch a few more passes," Wilcox said. "But I'm still gonna be nasty on the edge and get out on blocks and stuff like that."

AUGGIE HONORED: Former MLB Auggie Sanchez, who exited as the program's career tackles leader (388), was named the American Athletic Conference's Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.

Sanchez, a Northeast High alumnus set to graduate in May with a master's degree in arts and physical education, holds a 3.96 GPA in his graduate course studies. He earned his undergraduate degree in communications in 2016 with a 3.5 GPA.

A four-time AAC all-academic team selection, he's the first Bull to earn the football scholar-athlete honor.

ODDS AND ENDS: Nico Sawtelle, the starting outside linebacker last season, was lining up in the middle with the first team during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to reporters. Converted S Khalid McGee, moved into the box late last season, was the starting outside linebacker. The No. 2 group featured MLB Jimmy Bayes and early enrollee Antonio Grier. … The first-team defensive line appeared to be Kevin Kegler and Kevin Bronson on the inside, with Josh Black and Kirk Livingstone on the edge. … Walk-on QB Kyle Trina is getting a look as the new holder now that P Jonathan Hernandez has departed.

AUDIBLE: "There's no time frame on it. With those guys and the situation, you want as much reps for all those guys as possible," Gilbert, when asked if he'd like to emerge from spring practice with a clear No. 1 quarterback