Bulls replacing key players on special teams
We've gotten behind in these position breakdown features, but want to start getting caught up with the rest, starting with special teams coach Stu Holt. USF hasn't had a full-time assistant devoted solely to special teams since John Hendrick in 2009 -- Vernon Hargreaves handled it under Skip Holtz, but also worked with the defensive ends.
-- USF lost its starting kicker (Maikon Bonani) and punter (Justin Brockhaus-Kann) to graduation, so there are multi-year starters to be replaced in both key areas.
"We're looking for that guy that's going to be the most consistent," Holt said. "When we start camp, it's an open competition. We have guys that are pushing at all three positions. We're looking for a real competitive camp."
-- At kicker, junior Marvin Kloss is the favorite -- the former walk-on has handled USF's kickoffs for the past two years and was put on scholarship last fall by Holtz. His top challenger is true freshman Emilio Nadelman, who joined the team as an early enrollee in January.
-- At punter, sophomore walk-on Mattias Ciabatti is the guy to beat -- he's had a shot each of the last two years, only to see JBK hold onto the job. His best challenger might be senior transfer walk-on Aaron Munoz, who started for two years at Louisiana-Monroe and got a look this spring as a quarterback.
-- Kloss could handle field goals, extra points and kickoffs -- Nadelman has a redshirt available, and the coaches don't mind Kloss handling both roles if he's the best option for both.
-- Coverage units? Expect lots of starters from the defense working on coverage and blocking units on the kicking teams.
"We're going to play our best guys," Holt said. "You're going to see DeDe Lattimore covering kicks, Reshard Cliett. He can really run. You're going to see Zack Bullock, Tashon Whitehurst. Tashon had a play last year against Florida State where he blocked a punt, one of the best collegiate plays I've ever seen."
-- The Bulls have a returning starter at long-snapper in walk-on David Burdetsky, with two other walk-on snappers on roster in Alex Salvato and true freshman Elliot Jacobs. "He's a guy we're certainly counting on," Holt said.
-- Holder? The guy who worked as holder on Burdetsky's snaps in Monday's practice was Ciabatti. The other two who held on kicks were Munoz and receiver Alex Mut.
-- Returns? You don't even remember what a non-factor USF's return game was in 2012. Kickoff returns? Amazingly, the Bulls didn't have a single kickoff return longer than 29 yards -- not one -- until the season finale against Pittsburgh, where the long was 48. Punt returns? USF had a 39-yard punt return against I-AA Chattanooga in the opener, then the rest of the year, didn't have a single return longer than 12 yards -- only 15 total returns in 11 games against I-A opponents, with a 10-yarder and 12-yarder as the best of the bunch.
So there's plenty of room for improvement. USF will have two players deep on kickoffs -- you saw all kinds of guys fielding kicks Monday: Chris Bivins, Fidel Montgomery, Mike Pierre, Mark Joyce, D'vario Montgomery, Marcus Shaw, Ruben Gonzalez, Deonte Welch. Watch for Derrick Hopkins, Kenneth Durden and Marcus Shaw and even Jalen Spencer as well.