Notes: Tabuteau enters camp as No. 3 cornerback
It's been a great two days for gleaning insights into the 2011 USF football team, getting head coach Skip Holtz on Thursday, then a two-hour run through seven of USF's nine assistant coaches, getting a lot of information for position preview stories we'll start rolling out next week.
I'm taking a long weekend with relatives, but want to give you a few quick hits of notes and nuggets to preview what we'll have next week. USF is keeping the fall roster quiet until next week, though there aren't expected to be many surprises on the 105 players that will go to Vero Beach. We'll get lots of posts rolling starting Tuesday, making the most of the final week before the Big East media day in Rhode Island on Aug. 2.
-- A bunch of you have posted comments asking about former Blake and Florida tight end Mike McFarland, who is considering USF as he seeks to transfer after redshirting his only season in Gainesville. There's a mutual interest between McFarland and the Bulls, but it's still early -- USF needs to find out if it has any scholarships available to offer, and if McFarland can get into school academically. McFarland said Thursday that he's considering several options among both I-A and I-AA schools -- the latter would allow him to play immediately with a full four years of eligibility, while a I-A program like USF would require him to sit out a year, then have three years to play. There's an interest in staying at home, and you could see a situation like last summer with transfer Dontae Aycock, who came in as a walk-on, proved himself and was placed on scholarship this spring.
-- USF will be bustling with local recruits this weekend, with more than 50 schools entering teams in the second (and larger) Sling 'n' Shoot 7-on-7 tournament. Three USF commitments will be busy in Orlando at the ESPN Rise "Gridiron Kings" event -- safety Rayshawn Jenkins of St. Petersburg, cornerback Chris Bivins of Gainesville and tight end Sean Price of North Marion. All three are strong coups for the Bulls -- much of their success in this recruiting class will hinge on being able to keep those three on board for 2012 while surrounding them with talent.
-- We tweeted this earlier in the week, but Holtz will have seniors Quenton Washington and Jeremiah Warren representing the Bulls in Newport for Big East media days. Two veteran leaders at key positions where the Bulls have question marks -- we'll have lots more on them between now and Rhode Island. Rick Smith had strong things to say about the progress Washington has made over the past year to put himself in position to be the next Bulls cornerback in the NFL Draft with a solid senior season.
-- Now those nuggets from the coaches: Defensive backs coach Rick Smith continues to be high on walk-on Ernie Tabuteau, who impressed this spring and will enter fall drills as USF's No. 3 cornerback behind starters Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster. Speedy George Baker would be the fourth, with Spencer Boyd (hamstring) and Ricardo Dixon (back) having to show they're healthy to challenge for spots on the depth chart. We knew that corner Kenneth Durden would have a strong chance to play as a true freshman, and another defensive back who could play immediately is Tallahassee safety Chris Garye, who is turning heads in the weight room and could be USF's No. 5 safety behind four top returners from last season.
-- Speaking of those safeties, Smith said his best safety this spring was sophomore Mark Joyce, but he'll enter the fall as a backup because veterans Jon Lejiste and Jerrell Young were limited by injuries this spring. Those three and sophomore JaQuez Jenkins are now healthy and give the Bulls perhaps their best depth at any position -- linebacker is probably the closest to what USF has in its top four at safety.
-- High praise for defensive end Julius Forte as having a great summer, and he'll go into the fall as a top backup to starters Ryne Giddins and Patrick Hampton. Ends coach Vernon Hargreaves mentioned that freshman Clavion Nelson has already put on 15 pounds since arriving on campus -- speaking of big gains, tight ends coach Larry Scott said freshman Tye Turner, in good position to play this fall after the injury to Jeff Hawkins, is at 260 pounds, though he'll likely shed some of that through two-a-days. The biggest weight change has to be Scott himself -- we wrote in May about Skip Holtz dropping 30 pounds in the offseason, but Scott said he has dropped 56 pounds (!) since February, just by eating better and mixing in 90 minutes of cardio work each day. The former Bulls offensive lineman, now 15 years removed from his first year on campus, is in great shape and barely recognizable.
-- Promising words from all the coaches from Holtz on down to receivers coach Phil McGeoghan about sixth-year senior A.J. Love, who is stepping up as a veteran leader with Evan Landi and is in position to make a solid recovery after two major knee surgeries. Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said Love is "a wild card" in USF's offense as one of the most experienced players in a deep, mostly young group of receivers.
-- Again, we'll have a lot more coming back on this next week. If you have questions, please post them in the comments over the weekend and we'll get answers when we're back.