QB Grothe, backups latest to draw praise
With practice closed to the media, the daily "news" from USF football can sometimes amount to which players coach Jim Leavitt chooses to lob praise at on a given day. And with no less than 30 players getting compliments Friday, a writer is left to choose what to lead with -- the most surprising recipient of Leavitt's choice words? the most consistent? We'll start today with the most prominent, entering a closed scrimmage on Saturday morning: quarterbacks Matt Grothe and backups B.J .Daniels and Evan Landi.
"I want to tell you something: Matt's had an outstanding camp," Leavitt said. "I have never seen him like this, and I always thought he was a good player. But I haven't seen him like this. His demeanor, his focus, I have not seen. Matt, he's different, very different than I've ever seen."
Leavitt's natural counterbalance to praising a given athlete is to also praise the players most closely competing with that player, so as to maintain a steady level of motivation throughout.
"B.J. Daniels is having an extraordinary camp," Leavitt said. "That young man ... you feel bad for Evan in some ways. I don't feel that bad, because he's going to be playing a lot of plays ... Landi is doing so many things, and he's running so much at receiver and at quarterback. It'll be an interesting battle next spring. Of course, that's way down the road, between B.J. and Evan and anybody else that might come in. I've got to include that, though I can't say any names. You know that."
-- USF's freshmen walked out of practice with an assortment of nearly random hairstyles, an annual rite of preseason college football. Walk-on Cody Durakovic had a full-fledged Mohawk, while others like defensive end Luke Sager and new long-snapper Cory Schomp had tufts of hair interspersed among an otherwise shaved head. The best might be defensive end Ryne Giddins, who had "#95" shaved into one side of his head, a nod to senior George Selvie.
"Checkerboards and I don't even know what you call them, flying saucers," Leavitt said. "What we do is there's some freshmen that get some new haircuts, but if any of the freshmen don't want that, we don't touch them. They do it for fun."
-- Leavitt said that freshman defensive end Julius Forte worked briefly with the first-team defense Friday, so he remains a possibility to play this fall at end, along with Giddins.
-- Which true freshmen might play this fall? As expected, you can likely eliminate two more in offensive linemen Steve Jacques and John McGhin. Leavitt said both are playing well, but barring injuries will redshirt, simply because of the number of more experienced players ahead of them as they learn their positions.