First look: Bulls begin practice ...
Football season is here. USF is about halfway through its first practice -- the Bulls started about 20 minutes early, so the half-hour window of media access got extended a bit. Ten things I saw, typed superfast so I can get back over for the post-practice interviews ...
-- Former Bulls star J.R. Reed, still hopeful of getting a shot in an NFL training camp, was in a gray USF T-shirt, helping coach Troy Douglas work with the defensive backs. At this point, looks like he's here on an informal, short-term basis, but the players were happy to see USF's all-time interceptions leader.
-- Freshman Jamar Taylor, wearing a green No. 33 jersey, was one of 11 running backs working out, starting with the basics. One at a time, each back would carry a football in each hand and run through a gantlet (look it up) of fellow backs, all trying to pry the balls from his hands. Coach Carl Franks put the backs through a handoff drill, showing proper form, with one arm across the chest, thumb down, and the other across the waist, hand up, closing together.
-- Carlton Hill, wearing a white No. 1 jersey, had his first day as a defensive back, making a tough catch in a quick-throw turn-and-react drill. Hill has imposing size on the field, but will have to learn a lot in a short amount of time to contribute on defense this season.
-- My evil nemesis, random number changes, will not defeat me. Tight end Shane McElwain goes from 40 to 86, receiver A.J. Love goes from 86 to 5, and receiver Jason Sherman goes from 23 to 4. I'm pretty sure we will see a day when all the Bulls have numbers between 1 and 10. Road public-address announcers, have fun this fall.
-- The biggest position to watch will be the outside linebackers, and at least to start this month, Leavitt is going with seniority. Junior Brouce Mompremier lined up with the first-team defense (with Ben Moffitt and Chris Robinson) but he'll face tough challenges from transfers Tyrone McKenzie and Donte Spires.
-- Very few players are out with injury -- offensive lineman Matt Huners is watching drills but not in uniform, said to be making excellent progress recovering from knee surgery. Receiver Taurus Johnson had the first injury scare of the season, going down and clutching his left knee in pain. Trainers attended to him for a moment, but he was up walking it off shortly thereafter.
-- Might be reading too much into this, but as Leavitt coached first-year players on getting out of the blocks fast on punt-team coverage, three players lined up 40 yards downfield, as they would to field punts: Marcus Edwards, Amarri Jackson and Jessie Hester.
-- We'd introduced walk-on Kenneth Luberice as a linebacker last week. He's a defensive tackle, 6 foot and 255 pounds. Just part of a continuing crusade for accuracy at all levels. Carry on.
-- Just to give some perspective on Demetris Murray, the Georgia running back who is USF's seventh commitment: Scout.com has him as a two-star recruit, while Rivals.com has him with zero stars, though that's always subject to sudden change. Rivals still has him at 5-8, 192 pounds, so they haven't updated him in a while. One comment I got today was that his academics are as impressive as his speed -- and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown last season on special teams for a state regional champion.
-- I don't know that I have 10 things to fill out this list, so I'll share that USF's men's soccer team was picked to finish third in the eight-team Big East Red Division in a preseason poll of league coaches. The Bulls got three first-place votes, impressive until you realize that five of the eight Red teams got a first-place vote. Tells you the division is pretty wide-open, with St. John's as the team to beat. For the record, there are 16 teams, and yet 17 first-place ballots were cast in the Blue Division (Connecticut got 10 of 'em). And zero (0) USF players were named to the all-conference preseason team. For some reason, DePaul is announcing these things before the league or USF does. Not sure why.