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Coach says safety Joyce is most improved DB



Lots of good notes after talking with USF defensive backs coach Rick Smith, who might be the most candid of the Bulls' assistants in terms of talking about his players and their strengths and weaknesses. "If we can get everybody well and keep them well, I think we can be good," he said.  ...


-- Asked which defensive back had made the most progress since the end of the season, Smith didn't hesitate in naming rising sophomore safety Mark Joyce, who played well as a true freshman and has continued to impress this spring.

"Mark Joyce has great work ethic. He only knows one speed," he said. "You watch him do a drill, it's 100 percent, even if nobody's watching. If he's on the field, it's 100 percent."

-- We know that Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster would be the starting corners and that Jerrell Young and Jon Lejiste would be the starting safeties, but what about USF's nickel package? Smith said when USF goes with five DBs right now, Webster would be the nickel, with George Baker stepping in at cornerback; safety JaQuez Jenkins is also in contention for the nickel spot and could see action in that role in some scenarios as well.

-- Jenkins will undergo hernia surgery next week, though it's not that serious, as he's practiced all spring with the injury. Smith said he'd considered scheduling the surgery before spring, but remembered that Jenkins was limited last spring with a knee injury and didn't want him to miss the important practice time. He'll be sidelined a few weeks after surgery but will be back in time for summer voluntary workouts.

-- We haven't heard much on Spencer Boyd, who transferred in from Notre Dame last summer and moved from receiver to cornerback in December. Smith said he's made a remarkable turnaround in the classroom, going from failing multiple classes and missing classes to earning As and Bs this spring. It's the same kind of progress Ricardo Dixon made a year ago, and Smith is encouraged. He's come out of his shell a little since getting back on defense, and while slowed by a hamstring, has made a good impression this spring. "He got to defense, our kids embraced him and he's just been a surprise," Smith said.

-- More high praise for walk-on corner Ernie Tabuteau, with Smith saying that he and fellow walk-on Patrice Pierre are good enough they could earn scholarships down the road. "(Tabuteau) is going to help us," Smith said. More back story on Tabuteau -- former strength coach Ronnie McKeefery discovered him, as Tabuteau was dating a USF track athlete and hung out around the weight room. McKeefery worked him out, checked his 40 time, vertical leap, etc. "I talked to the kid, got his highlight tape off Youtube, watched it," Smith said. "I tried to get him in the program that day. Coach (Holtz) wouldn't let me do that. He went through all the process. He's really going to be good." Smith said Tabuteau was only about 150 pounds coming out of high school three years ago, but now he's up to 181. "One thing he'll do now, he'll light you up," Smith said. "He'll knock you out if he can."

-- Smith is thrilled about the athleticism of cornerback Kenneth Durden, who will be a freshman this fall. "He triple-jumped 50 (feet) the other day," he said. "He won the state in the triple jump last year. He's a hurdler, runs the 4x100. And he starts on the basketball team. He's a heck of an athlete. He's not real thick, only 170. We'll get him here and probably redshirt him, unless he comes in and in those 29 practices, he's in the top five. I'll put him to the field, where all he has to do is cover." (USF's school record in the triple, by the way, is 51 feet, 3.5 inches.)

[Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 9:20am]


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