Goalie Proia joins USF football as walk-on kicker
Freshman Renato Proia, one of the three soccer goalkeepers who worked out for USF coach Jim Leavitt last week, has joined the Bulls as a walk-on and will compete for kickoff duties.
"He's the one guy of the three that came out that has a chance," Leavitt said. "It doesn't look like he'll kick this year, but he's got a decent leg. He's been preparing for soccer all summer and hasn't done a lot of (football) kicking. But he's got a very strong leg and I could see him maybe helping us this year on kickoffs, maybe, if we could get that down."
Leavitt is seeking a kickoff specialist so senior Delbert Alvarado doesn't have to handle more than punting, field goals and extra points. Walk-on Eric Schwartz is another possibility on kickoffs, and Leavitt said the team continues to talk with other unsigned kickers about joining the program this fall. He's kept one scholarship available in case an elite kicker can be found.
Proia, from Cape Coral, was a football and soccer standout at Mariner High, averaging 46 yards per punt last fall and booming one punt a school-record 73 yards. Mariner coach Chad O'Brien said USF had looked at him this spring as a preferred walk-on, but he chose to take a similar offer from USF's soccer program.
"They called after they'd had an injury and said 'Is the kid still available?" O'Brien said. "I said, 'He's more than available. He's on your campus at soccer practice right now.'"
O'Brien said Proia was a team captain who also played at offensive guard and tight end, booming 28 kickoffs for touchbacks last season. While he had 16 career shutouts at Mariner, he wasn't likely to contribute this fall to USF's soccer team, which returns starting goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and backup Brad Sienkiewicz, along with freshman Alex Spock.
Proia is a strong student who came to USF as a Bright Futures scholar. Leavitt was impressed that Proia was in attendance for soccer's season-opening 4-1 exhibition win against Tampa on Monday night, then made it out for an early-morning football practice Tuesday.
More notes from Tuesday's practice ...
-- As we've previously reported, walk-on Faron Hornes, a junior college receiver most likely to help on punt returns, has officially joined the program.
-- Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was a visitor at Tuesday's practice -- Leavitt said Monday he wants to have him around the team to get acclimated as he waits to be formally accepted into USF. He has finished his junior college classes and could join the team by the end of the week.
-- More praise for freshman receiver Sterling Griffin, who has impressed coaches after missing the first week of drills with a hamstring injury. "Griffin is tearing it up right now," Leavitt said. "Right now, I'd say Griffin is going to play this year. He's made it clear he's going to challenge for the rotation right now."
-- Freshman safety Victor Marc had two interceptions Tuesday, giving Leavitt more thought to whether Marc could play as a true freshman. "I don't know whether we'll redshirt him or play him," he said. "It depends on how much we can trust him and how ready he'll be. I don't want to lose a year on him, but if he can help us on special teams and do some things, we'll play him."
-- USF will not have any more two-a-day workouts, as Wednesday's morning session has been changed to just a walk-through and the Bulls will just scrimmage Wednesday night, about 60-70 snaps. The Bulls will likely have single practices on Thursday and Friday, Leavitt said, then will have their final preseason scrimmage Saturday before the fall semester starts Monday. Leavitt said key veterans such as defensive end George Selvie won't likely scrimmage much, if at all.
-- Another player who's technically a true freshman is defensive tackle Anthony Hill, who joined the program in January but has a redshirt year available. He'd been slowed by a hamstring early in camp but is healthy now. "He did some good things on goal line yesterday," Leavitt said. "He's got a big body, 6-4, 295, and plays low. He's got a chance to help us, but he's got to get out and practice. ... He wants to (play) but he's got to prove to us we can trust him."
-- More freshman updates: Defensive end Ryne Giddins "kind of hit a wall, which is normal for a freshman," Leavitt said. "His legs, you can tell he's kind of beat up and sore. Does Giddins have the ability? Oh, yeah, he does. He's got a lot of talent." ... Receiver Derrick Hopkins, the speedy sprinter from Miami Pace, isn't as far along as Griffin, Leavitt said. "Will we use Hopkins this year or not? I don't know yet," Leavitt said.
-- It appears that redshirt freshman George Baker is now ahead of Tyson Butler and competing with Jerome Murphy, Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster in the top rotation of cornerbacks. "Murphy and Baker would be the starting corners if we started today, but Kayvon and Q are really pushing them," Leavitt said.
-- For you roster-number junkies -- running back Richard Kelly has traded in his No. 39 for No. 43, which opened up when linebacker Sabbath Joseph moved to No. 11.
-- Just a reminder that you can follow this blog on Twitter.com for more notes and links to updates here.
-- At the end of practice, Leavitt hadn't gotten the results of a scheduled MRI exam on the injured right knee of running back Jamar Taylor. We'll update that as soon as we hear more ...