Bulls shift McKenzie back to strongside
USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said Saturday that the Bulls have tweaked their lineup in the first week of fall practice, returning senior Tyrone McKenzie from the middle to strongside linebacker, where he recorded a USF-record 121 tackles last season.
By moving McKenzie back outside, the Bulls are showing confidence in junior Kion Wilson, a junior college transfer who joined the Bulls in January and will be the starting middle linebacker.
"We're trying to bring Kion along and get him ready faster," Burnham said. "I like the combination if we can get Kion. He's had great effort, so it's just learning the terminology and the checks. He's hard-nosed, he's smart, and I like him."
Burnham also said Saturday that "most of the time" this season, USF's defense will be in a nickel package with five defensive backs, allowing senior safeties Carlton Williams and Danny Verpaele to both be on the field. With the extra defensive back, USF would use two linebackers, McKenzie and starting weakside linebacker Brouce Mompremier.
FAN FEST: USF's annual Fan Fest will be today at Raymond James Stadium from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with coach Jim Leavitt and players available for autographs and pictures. Admission and parking are free, though fans are limited to two outside items to be autographed.
NEW KICKER: Leavitt was frustrated enough during kickoff drills that he took over kicking duties himself, dropping a handful of short pooch kicks to each side of the field. Asked if he'd kicked in his playing days, Leavitt had stories to share, going back to his time at Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg.
"I did barefoot, straight on, until I broke my toe," Leavitt said. "I've got a big right toe that's broken. I'd love to show it to you right now."
Leavitt said he also kicked in the Canadian-American Bowl, which was played at Tampa Stadium in January 1978, pitting American college football players against players from Canadian schools.
"I kicked off in the second half of the Canadian-American game," he said. "On national TV, I slipped and fell on a guy. The coach thought I did it on purpose. He was mad. I said 'Are you kidding me? You think I want to do that on purpose on national TV?"
After some intense Googling, I can report that the Americans won 22-7 in that game, with 11,000 fans in attendance. And if one account is correct, the punter on that American team was ... the Bucs' Bruce Allen, then a recent graduate of the University of Richmond.
SCRIMMAGE: Burnham was pleased with the results of the team's first scrimmage Saturday morning, noting that the first-team defense didn't give up any points and the No. 2 defense only allowed a Delbert Alvarado field goal. Redshirt freshman cornerback Tyson Butler, a converted running back, had an interception.
MORE PRAISE: One day after Leavitt had high praise for freshman defensive tackle Cory Grissom, Burnham said he's been the most promising of USF's newcomers
"He's going to be a player one of these days. He's got a lot of moxie," Burnham said. "He's not ready yet, but hopefully maybe by the first conference game, he might be ready to play some. I'm not saying he's not going to play before then. He's been real impressive."
THIS AND THAT: Sophomore linebacker Lucas Darr, a regular contributor on special teams, injured his right ankle Saturday morning and wore a boot on the foot as he watched the afternoon practice. Leavitt didn't know the severity of the injury. ... Andre Hall had a team-high 43 rushing yards on five carries for Denver on Saturday night against Houston, which got two tackles from rookie linebacker Ben Moffitt.