Assessing the latest USF depth chart
Five days before they emerge from the southwest tunnel of Raymond James Stadium, the Bulls already have pulled off some nifty misdirection.
Courtesy of their game-week depth chart.
Presumed starting RT Billy Atterbury now a backup left tackle? Onetime projected starting striker Nate Godwin possibly a third-teamer? Four-star freshman WR Darnell Salomon nowhere to be found on the two-deep roster? D'Ernest Johnson -- not Tajee Fullwood -- the starting punt returner?
Presumably, Coach Willie Taggart will fill us in on the reasoning behind some of these personnel decisions at his normal weekly press conference Tuesday. Until then, we'll do our best to make head or tail of them here.
* The unexpected move of Atterbury, who exited spring practice as the starting right tackle and seemed to have the job locked up as recently as a couple of weeks ago, might be a promotion in the long run. Arguably no position up front is more critical than left tackle, and starter Kofi Amichia is a senior. If Atterbury develops and gets a few quality game reps in 2016, he shapes up as the starting left tackle the next three seasons.
* Godwin said Saturday the hamstring that previously had nagged him is fine now, but clearly it hindered him in the spring and -- presumably -- part of the summer. As a result, sophomore Khalid McGee maximized his opportunity, plain and simple. That said, the striker depth chart clearly lists McGee "OR" Sickles High alumnus Nate Ferguson "OR" Godwin, in that order. Translation: The starter hasn't formally been determined yet.
* Fifth-year senior Alex Mut, who might rank among the team leaders in resilience, currently is listed as Marquez Valdes-Scantling's backup at the X-receiver spot. Either Mut leapfrogged some pretty talented dudes with his preseason effort, or coaches are rewarding him for persevering through injuries and general anonymity the past four years. Regardless, Mut's next collegiate reception will be his first. We just can't see him holding off the likes of Salomon and rangy redshirt sophomore Stanley Clerveaux all season.
* We can see Tajee Fullwood being edged by Devin Abraham for the starting free safety job, and there's no doubt both will play -- a lot. But Fullwood not returning punts initially? The Tampa Bay Tech alumnus ranked 26th nationally last season with 10.4 yards per return. Is it outrageous to suggest he simply might have been beaten out for the job? Of course not. Last we checked, new first-teamer D'Ernest Johnson has the ability to make a play or two.
* Anyone notice three of last year's Division I transfers -- FS Austin Hudson, MLB Cecil Cherry and QB Asiantii Woulard -- aren't on the two-deep roster? That's a testament to USF's vastly improved depth, plain and simple. (but of those three, we predict Cherry will get on the field first).
* The depth chart doesn't specify nose or three-technique, but Bruce Hector and Deadrin Senat are the starting defensive tackles, and Kevin Bronson is Hector's backup. We're presuming Senat's the nose, making Hector and Bronson arguably the best three-technique tandem in the American Athletic Conference.