Intriguing new options for USF on returns
Good morning from USF's third practice, where coach Jim Leavitt has made good on a promise Monday to open up his options for handling punt and kickoff returns.
There were two new faces among the four players lined up deep to return punts at the start of practice: junior safety Nate Allen and true freshman receiver Daniel Bryant. Allen showed a knack for making plays in his first season as a starter last season, and Bryant is just one of the speedy newcomers Leavitt will try to integrate into this year's team. Last year's primary returner, senior receiver Marcus Edwards, was also fielding punts, as was redshirt freshman receiver Patrick Richardson.
USF had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Mike Jenkins last season and has its top returner back in junior corner Jerome Murphy, but there are new names that could line up opposite Murphy. Redshirt freshman safety Jerrell Young was fielding kickoffs Wednesday, as was Murphy, sure-handed receivers Taurus Johnson and Dontavia Bogan and speedy cornerback Tyson Butler. Again, these guys are just getting looks, but there are some significant names among the possibilities.
This might not mean anything at all, but when USF lined up as a first-team offense, there was a wrinkle in the starting offensive line, with senior center Jake Griffin watching from the sidelines. Griffin looked fine, and this could be coaches tinkering with combinations, but the five on the field were tackles Marc Dile and Jake Sims, as expected, with guard Ryan Schmidt lined up at center and Zach Hermann and Matt Huners lined up as guards.
This is a time of year where I'm trying to memorize 100-plus jersey numbers so they come to me easy, so any number-changes make me far more curious than I need to be. I can report that long-snappers Eric Setser and Darryl Dudding, previously wearing 67 and 58, respectively, are now wearing 45 and 48. Can't tell what if anything that means, but I'll check on it. Defensive line coach John Hendrick, recovering from a heart attack last month, has not yet rejoined the team, though defensive ends coach Kevin Patrick seems to be doing well handling the whole front four.
One roster note: There's been a lot of talk about former Armwood fullback Kalvin Bailey joining the Bulls as a walk-on this fall. There's solid interest on both sides, but it's not going to happen for this season. Bailey's taken classes at several different schools and doesn't have the credits he needs to be eligible at USF. He could still join the program in January, but would have only one year of eligibility. Except for rare exceptions like Ean Randolph and Devin Gordon, you don't hear much about walk-ons making an impact with a single year to contribute. ...
And while it's no fun without a picture, the mohawks are starting to creep into practice, with Ryan Schmidt and Tyller Roberts now sporting them. Schmidt has a thick head of hair -- unlike myself -- so his is a little more visible than Roberts. And freshman kicker Maikon Bonani has enough hair that I'm amazed he hasn't gone through the head-shaving treatment yet. As friendly rookie initiations go, you can't seem more vulnerable than a freshman kicker ...