Position breakdown: Offensive line
With everyone back from the offensive line USF finished the season with in wins against West Virginia and East Carolina, the biggest change for the Bulls is on the coaching end, with former Jefferson coach and USF grad assistant Mike Simmonds becoming a full-time assistant coach for the first time. Simmonds has seven players with starting experience, and to simply things as we preview the line, we'll run through things position by position ...
CENTER: Senior Nick Capogna is entrenched as starter after being the only lineman to start all 13 games in the same position last season. Capogna already has remarked at the benefits of the continuity of the line, of knowing where his tackles are going to be when he can't see them. Juniors Jake Griffin and Ryan Schmidt could step in if something happened to Capogna, but they're more likely to play at guard. Redshirt freshman walk-on Jacob Sims, primarily a tackle in his first year on campus, is now getting a look as a backup center, showing good footwork at a position he played in high school.
GUARDS: Losing junior Matt Huners, who started 11 games last season, to a knee injury in the spring game hurt the line, though he's making good progress and is expected to return healthy at some point during the season. Before Huners was injured, redshirt freshman Zach Hermann already had established himself as the starting right guard. That leaves Schmidt and Griffin as the top candidates battling for the left guard job, with Griffin ahead early in the preseason.
TACKLES: USF has a strong pair of experienced tackles in junior Marc Dile and senior Walter Walker, who enter preseason drills as entrenched as Capogna. Dile, who will protect Matt Grothe's blindside as the left tackle, may be the line's most versatile player, and Walker, with 22 starts in the last two years, looks to have fully recovered from injuries that kept him out of spring ball. The top backups are senior Jared Carnes, a starter early last season, and sophomore Danny Tolley, who battled a groin injury all last season but has also made a full recovery and will compete at either guard or tackle spot.
FRESHMEN: Barring injuries, it's unlikely USF will play any of its true freshmen on the o-line, if only because of the returning depth. Simmonds first mentioned Sampson Genus, who will begin as a guard but could compete for the center job in 2008. Jeremiah Warren, who joined the team in January and is likely the biggest player on the line, has worked at both guard positions, while Kevin McCaskill, another January addition, is working at center. Joining Genus as new additions this fall are guard Mike McGowan, a converted tight end, and tackle Thomas Edenfield, who missed much of his senior year with a knee injury. The walk-ons on roster are Joe Herzhauser, who last played in 2001, spending two years in the Air Force and two years at St. Pete College, and true freshman Chaz Hine, who turned down I-AA offers to play for the Bulls.
So the tackles and center seem set for the Bulls, with the guard positions providing the intrigue this month. Thoughts? Questions? Keep 'em coming, and we'll get to receivers sometime Thursday. ...