Practice notes: First USF scrimmage Friday
Much of the talk after Wednesday's USF spring football practice was an overall excitement about Friday morning's first scrimmage of spring, which will be (pleasantly) open to the media, giving us a great look at who is in position to make plays as Skip Holtz works toward his first spring depth chart.
-- Senior Jon Lejiste, a returning starter at safety, got his first action in full pads on Wednesday after being limited much of the last two weeks with a lingering wrist injury. The Bulls are in good position at safety, with Lejiste and Mark Joyce looking like starters and JaQuez Jenkins next in line, ready to rotate in and play nickel when necessary. After those three, the next two right now look to be a pair of walk-ons in Ernie Tabuteau and Trevon Griffin, the Navy transfer who sat out last season.
-- Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch had high praise for junior Marcus Shaw, who has an opportunity to become the No. 2 running back (behind senior Demetris Murray) with a solid showing this spring. "Marcus played a lot of special teams last year for us, and his name's been thrown around, but nobody's really seen him play a lot of tailback," Fitch said. "I think he has a ton of ability. I think he has a chance, if he continues on the path he's going, to be a really good football player for us."
-- The battle for the cornerback job opposite Kayvon Webster may be the best competition of spring, with January junior college transfers Fidel Montgomery and Josh Brown vying with redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden. Montgomery was again with the first-team defense going through drills Wednesday, but Friday will have a big impact on the placements for Holtz's initial depth chart.
-- Curiously, the player consistently lining up as the second-team middle linebacker is sophomore walk-on Ruben Garcia, who had three tackles in limited action last season. "Ruben Garcia's doing a nice job in there," defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. "He's battling. He's a worker. He's a smart kid, great student, likes the game. He's what college football is all about."
If something were to happen to Mike Lanaris in a game, the Bulls would likely shift Sam Barrington back inside, moving up one of the backup outside linebackers, Mike Jeune or Reshard Cliett. We haven't heard much about the three talented young linebackers that redshirted this past fall -- Zack Bullock, Edsel Caprice and Corian Hamilton. Cosh mentioned Caprice today, saying he had shown something in the last two practices.
-- With right guard Danous Estenor out with a sprained ankle, offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said he's shifted another junior college transfer, Lawrence Martin, and redshirt freshman Brynjar Gudmundsson, over to compete for the opening on the first line, which leaves senior Damien Edwards as the likely starter at left guard until Estenor is healthy. "Talent-wise, he's one of our better players," Fitch said of Martin. "This will be a big key for him to get comfortable (learning the system) because we think he's talented enough to be a contributor for us."
-- We asked Fitch what skill-position players that weren't known commodities entering the spring had impressed him, and his answer was speedy-but-5-foot-5 receiver Derrick Hopkins, who had his only four catches last season in the Florida A&M game. "Now that I'm more with the quarterbacks and receivers, I've really got a new appreciation for that guy," Fitch said. "He works hard. He's a great route-runner. He is small, but we've got to find a way to incorporate him in these scrimmages and see how he does. He's always been there, we've always talked about him, but we never got to him. I've been really impressed with his work ethic."
-- One more walk-on backstory: Receiver Willie Cyrus, who is now wearing No. 22 in practice, was once a sprinter at Bethune-Cookman. He's tiny (5-9, 165) but quick. He was sharp enough at Bethune to earn the MEAC Commissioner's All-Academic award. ... Former Bucs special-teams coach Rich Bisaccia, now with the Chargers, was back at practice Wednesday, at least the second time he's watched the Bulls this spring. ... Tight end Mike McFarland said he expects to have another 10 pounds on his frame this fall, playing between 245 and 250. ... Junior Luke Sager, who had 10 tackles in a backup role last season, continues to work with the first team at defensive tackle, though he's getting pushed by sophomore Elkino Watson.