Hawkins' injury opens door for freshman Turner
It's been a quiet summer for USF football, with little news to speak of since the end of spring drills, but I had the chance to sit down with Skip Holtz for about 40 minutes today and covered a lot of topics we'll be writing about in the six weeks (!) between now and the opener at Notre Dame.
Holtz spoke about Wednesday's news that junior tight end Jeff Hawkins will miss the 2011 season with a torn ACL -- it's a cruel break for a player who had worked hard to get himself back from a torn ACL in his other knee in December. Here's what Holtz had to say about Hawkins' injury and how it creates an opportunity for true freshman Tye Turner to step up as one of USF's top three tight ends this fall:
"It's unfortunate, because just like (receiver Sterling Griffin's ankle injury) a year ago, it's on air. It's a non-contact injury. You hate those. Being a contact sport, the knees, ankles, elbows weren't made for this sport. You're going to have some injuries as you go through it. But I hate it for him as a young man that did it during bowl prep again running a route on air. Just turned and it gave way. He's worked so hard to get back. He's capitalized on the time he was rehabbing, not just sitting here waiting for it to rehab. He's gotten stronger, gotten bigger, and probably he was more looking forward to this season after having missed the bowl game, spring practice. He's such a competitive young man, he's been doing so many good things, so I hate it for him, for knowing how hard he's worked. Your heart just breaks.
"I hate it for this team because obviously you just lost (Kevin) Gidrey and (Andrew) Ketchel and (fullback Richard) Kelly, just lost three of your fullback/tight end bodies. I was really looking forward to getting him back. With him going out, it leaves you with guys like (Andreas) Shields and (Isaac) Virgin who have very little experience. They've played a little bit, but haven't really played that role. I was really hoping his leadership and being an upperclassmen and the work habits he brought in would really help the position.
"(on Shields and Virgin being primarily pass-catching TEs) If you were to say strengths and weaknesses, Hawkins was probably a better blocker than those two, with those two being more the route-running type of guys. But Hawkins has to continue to develop as a receiver, where Shields and Virgin need to continue to develop as blockers. We'll have to look at what our options are on this football team if there's anybody else that could go there and help us. At this point in time, I haven't made any decisions. We've got to look at what our other options are to get a bigger body, a blocking tight end, but a lot of that is predicated upon how much those guys develop, how much they've changed their bodies this summer.
"(more likely that Turner plays as a true freshman) Yes, because of the opportunity that's given to him. I say that all the time when people go 'Which freshmen will play?' Who's got the best opportunity? If you're sitting there with 12 offensive linemen. Quinterrius Eatmon could have played as a true freshmen, but if Jake Sims and Mark Popek and Jamar Bass are all healthy, let's not just burn a year. A guy like Tye Turner is probably more ready, more physically prepared to play than maybe some other guys in the freshman class. I don't know exactly what his weight is, but he's probably about a 245-pound, 250-pound tight end. It's not like he's a guy you sign at 210 and say 'Boy, three years from now when he gets big, he's going to be able to help us.' He's a guy physically who may have an opportunity to help us now."
"(other options) We'll look at maybe some of the undersized linemen, some of the defensive ends, some of the linebackers. I don't know yet who that's going to be, because you've got to find out who's going to be in the mix at those positions. Right now, most of the (OL) guys we signed are the 290-pound. The only guy that's not is a guy like Darrell Williams, and I don't know how ready he's going to be able to play, whether he can help us in that role. Once we get to camp, I'll make those decisions. With where we are right now, we'll go into it with Shields, Virgin and Turner as those three at the tight end position."