First day of spring, notes overfloweth
Ah, spring. With practice completely open to the media (for now), there's lots to see and lots to blog about. First thing that struck me Tuesday was the four new assistants, all trying to set the tone with their players.
-- Defensive line coach Dan McCarney may have more energy than Leavitt. He and o-line coach Mike Simmonds are the raspy-voiced drill sargeants of the new group. McCarney put the d-line through a new drill early -- attacking the sled from their knees, exploding forward and landing on their bellies. The easy thing to do is catch your fall with your hands, but he didn't want that and got after the kids slower to pick up the drill. Lots of fire. Simmonds is a hands-on guy, getting right into stance with the players, with tight ends coach Larry Scott working alongside. Mike Canales is a well-liked coach -- I was talking with Marquel Blackwell as he watched practice, and realized that Canales was with the Jets when Blackwell had his brief stint there. Said Canales totally recruited him to sign with New York. With Matt Grothe limited with a leg injury and Anthony Severino out two weeks recovering from shoulder surgery, I asked Leavitt if he'd add any new quarterbacks, and he said Canales is next in line, remembering how Canales had to ice his shoulder after throwing so much that first season in 1996. Hearing this, Blackwell asked Canales how his old pea-shooter was doing. Canales is a genuinely nonstop glass-half-full guy, lots of positive reinforcement in his practices.
-- There is a new QB in walk-on J.B. Bailey. We blogged on him last fall when he was a DB -- even a pic in here as I recall -- and he wound up jumping to a junior college at the last minute. The former Leto and Tennessee Tech passer is a long shot to make the fall roster unless Alton Voss doesn't make grades and/or Carlton Hill doesn't make it (the latest model on Hill is to keep him at QB and make use of his redshirt year), but for now, Bailey's one of two quarterbacks at full strength for taking hits.
-- Lots of new walk-ons, at least 10, but the position coaches don't even know names for the most part. Problem is, there's a ton back from last year's team and 25-plus kids coming in, so the new kids this spring face long odds to stick on the fall roster. There's five new walk-ons at running back alone. The tactful thing to say is that there probably isn't an Ean Randolph in the group, but I'll keep the readers here posted on who shows something in the next few weeks.
-- Leavitt, running through all the possibilities of his returning running backs, mentioned that if all of them work out (if Plancher gets healthy, if Ponton gets focused, if Ford keeps his grades up, if Ben Williams continues to improve, etc.) ... then some of the incoming freshmen could be helping USF at other positions. Leavitt mentioned giving Boca Ciega's Josh Bellamy (who still has to post necessary test scores) a look at corner, and Fort Myers' Tyson Butler could get a look at receiver or corner. Another Fort Myers standout Quenton Washington, shined at defensive back in high school but could be a receiver at USF. Leavitt also said he might tweak some positions after a week of spring drills ... St. Pete's Jerrell Young, a 2006 signee who didn't qualify, watched practice and is still hopeful of landing a qualifying test score and enrolling in fall. He takes the test again next month. ...
Football questions? Send 'em in. Tuesday was largely a dry news day on the basketball coach-search front, though I don't believe Doug Woolard was at the athletic facility at any point while I was there from noon until after 6 p.m. ... Of course, don't forget to tip your local reporter -- any information, good, bad or Pat Knight-related, is always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just kidding on Knight -- got a tip on him back before Woolard made his announcement on Robert McCullum, but I don't think there was anything to the head coach designate at Texas Tech coming to Tampa.