Freshman Lejiste working as starting nickel
Redshirt freshman Jon Lejiste has shown enough in the first two weeks of spring practice that he would be part of the starting defense when USF is in its nickel package, coach Jim Leavitt said.
"Jon has been very good," Leavitt said after Thursday's practice.
Lejiste is working as the top backup to sophomore Jerrell Young at strong safety, with Young working as the top backup to senior Nate Allen at free safety. "Right now, those are the only three that I trust, that would play," said Leavitt, though the only other scholarship safety is Charlton Sinclair. Lejiste is ahead of sophomore cornerback Tyson Butler for the nickel defensive back position.
Leavitt said true freshman Kayvon Webster will come competing with Quenton Washington and Butler for the starting cornerback job opposite Jerome Murphy.
-- Senior defensive tackle Aaron Harris, currently the starter at the "three technique" tackle, is getting work at defensive end and pushing Craig Marshall for the starting job opposite George Selvie. Redshirt freshman Cory Grissom and sophomore Keith McCaskill are pushing junior Terrell McClain at nose tackle as well. Leavitt called out Marshall a little bit today: "Craig Marshall needs to get a little bit better. He's a great guy, and I love him, but he's got to understand there's urgency involved here or he's going to miss out." Speaking of calling guys out: "Terrell McClain, when he wants to play, can be dominating."
-- I'm going to take his word for it, but Leavitt said this week marked the first time since USF's first season in 1997 that the Bulls have practiced four days in a row in the spring. "We had 28 practices (instead of the standard 15). The NCAA allowed us to have more. We went two times in the summer, full pads," he said.
-- Leavitt said USF will go "about 97 snaps" in Saturday's scrimmage, which is completely closed to the media. "We're keeping it closed, just because we're going to do some things out there that are very different than what we've done before."
-- Leavitt on redshirt freshman George Baker, currently working on the second-team defense: "George has all the ability in the world, and he's gotten a lot better. He's not there yet. He's not ready yet. But he's gotten much better. Last fall, I didn't know if he'd ever be able to play here. Now I think he has a chance." Here's the interesting part: "He's the fastest guy on this team. They told me he beats (receiver Carlton) Mitchell."
-- Running back turned receiver Aston Samuels got some work Thursday at running back, and Leavitt said he looked good as he recovers from a year lost to a serious shoulder injury. Leavitt also said receiver Colby Erskin had a good day: "His first time in probably two years."
-- From the I'm Going To Take The Under Department, Leavitt said as many as 18 newcomers could step in and play this fall. He named Webster, linebackers Sam Barrington, DeDe Lattimore and Jaquian Williams; defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte, defensive tackle Leslie Stirrups, offensive linemen Carlos Savala and Jamar Bass, running back Lindsay Lamar, receiver Sterling Griffin and quarterback/tight end Victor Marc. "We counted it up and it's as many as 18 guys, newcomers that really have a shot," Leavitt said. "We've always had two or three. ... There will be an influx of players this summer like we've never seen."