USF’s Nichols, Senat draw praise from Shrine coach

USF defensive back Deatrick Nichols (3) estimates he has spoken to representatives from 20 NFL clubs during this week's preparation for the East-West Shrine Game. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
USF defensive back Deatrick Nichols (3) estimates he has spoken to representatives from 20 NFL clubs during this week's preparation for the East-West Shrine Game. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published January 17

Following Wednesday morning's practice in preparation for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game, East coach Jonathan Hayes was asked which players have impressed him the most to this point.

Of the seven he mentioned, two – DT Deadrin Senat and DB Deatrick Nichols – were from USF.

"The young man from Northern Iowa, the receiver (Daurice Fountain), the center from Michigan State (Brian Allen), I think (Ohio State QB) J.T. (Barrett) has done an excellent job," said Hayes, the Bengals' tight ends coach the past 15 seasons.

"The nose tackle from South Florida (Senat) has done an excellent job. I think the linebacker from Penn State, No. 40 (Jason Cabinda) has done an excellent job. The corner from South Florida (Nichols) has done a nice job. There's a lot of guys in my mind.

"The kid from Tennessee (TE Ethan Wolf) has done some good things. It's just fun to watch them progress and grow."

The team is practicing daily before dozens of NFL and CFL scouts, and several agents. Nichols, who estimates he has spoken to 20 NFL clubs so far this week, is lining up at cornerback, though he played mostly at nickel his senior season. He said he has been told he could play either spot at the next level.

The general feedback he has received: "Just basically a great player, I run to the ball, I love the game," Nichols said. "That's great to hear, that they understand I love the game, so I appreciate that."

A BULL RUSH: Counting the coaches in attendance, USF had seven representatives at Wednesday morning's practice.

The four players – Nichols, Senat, QB Quinton Flowers and RB D'Ernest Johnson – are the most USF ever has had in one Shrine Game in program history. Watching them work out Wednesday were Coach Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary and running backs coach Shaun King.

"It means a lot just knowing … me and my teammates did something to improve ourselves and improve the University of South Florida," Flowers said. "So it's a great feeling just to know you have three of your other brothers on your team with you."

ODDS AND ENDS: Flowers tossed a 35-yard TD to Fountain during seven-on-seven work at Wednesday morning's East practice, a full-pads workout. Afterward, Flowers was seen speaking with a Falcons representative. … As expected, Johnson returned kicks during special-teams work. Johnson owns USF's career all-purpose yardage record (4,186). … UCF LT Aaron Evans, who was chosen for the Shrine Game but remains sidelined while recovering from back surgery, was seen talking to an Eagles representative after practice.

AUDIBLE: "They ask everything that happened in your life, no matter what it was." – Nichols, regarding the questions he's being asked by NFL scouts

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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