Four freshmen will play; what about T-Rex?
Lots of news and notes to share from USF's first media luncheon of the season -- little different format this year with no player access, but we were able to talk with assistants and Skip Holtz, with players available after tonight's practice.
First up, the ever-changing list of true freshmen expected to play got another tweak, as Holtz said that four freshmen are now locks to play -- running back Marcus Shaw, safety Mark Joyce, and two walk-ons: quarterback Bobby Eveld and receiver Stephen Bravo-Brown. It's curious that cornerback Terrence "T-Rex" Mitchell, who I'd have thought was most likely to take the field, is among four players Holtz said were "on the bubble," along with receiver Deonte Welch, tackle Quinterrius Eatmon and quarterback Jamius Gunsby.
The Mitchell deal could be entirely motivational -- if the Bulls were somehow able to redshirt him, it would say a lot about their confidence in the depth of the secondary, but I really think you'll see him on the field Saturday, if not on the opening kickoff.
-- Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said he expects his starting secondary to be Mistral Raymond and Kayvon Webster and cornerback, with Jerrell Young and Jon Lejiste at safety, meaning that Quenton Washington is the odd man out in the base defense. When the Bulls go to a nickel defense, Raymond would become the nickel defensive back, with Webster and Washington as the cornerbacks. Asked for who made the biggest pushes in fall camp, Snyder pointed to cornerback George Baker and linebacker DeDe Lattimore, who aren't likely starting to open the season but are pushing for significant playing time.
-- Holtz said the kicking battle between Maikon Bonani and Eric Schwartz remains too close to call, but that right now, with three practices to go, he would lean toward Schwartz getting the field-goal and extra-point job with Bonani handling kickoffs. And asked about his logjam at running back, where Mo Plancher's shoulder injury has made for a more competitive backfield, Holtz said if he was playing today, redshirt freshman Bradley Battles would get the start. I'll be impressed/surprised if Plancher doesn't get the nod as a sixth-year senior.
-- Defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves said his two senior starters, Craig Marshall and David Bedford, have separated themselves from the young challengers behind them, but he expects to play five or six ends Saturday. Remember that this defense has two distinct outside d-line positions -- the "end," generally the bigger, stronger of the two, will be Marshall and Julius Forte, while the "rush" position, generally the quicker, more athletic of the two, will be Bedford, Ryne Giddins and Claude Davis, with Patrick Hampton able to swing between the two positions.
-- Holtz said again that he's likely to put one more walk-on on scholarship between now and Saturday -- it makes sense that it would be Schwartz if he's won the kicking job, though he also said that he's already seen enough from Eveld and Bravo-Brown that they could be promoted to scholarship status at some point down the road. Schwartz is the most obvious of the returning walk-ons, but there's no telling who could become a significant contributor in the next month or so ...