Quick USF practice observations ...
USF coach Skip Holtz says his coaches won't formulate a true depth chart until after the Bulls' first scrimmage on Aug. 14 in Vero Beach, but you can still read something from how the Bulls are lining up as they go through drills in practice.
-- Best battles? A few stand out, both down the middle of USF's defense. Sam Barrington and Mike Lanaris continue to rotate in at the top spot at middle linebacker, with Keith McCaskill and Cory Grissom sharing a starting role at defensive tackle as well. All three linebacker spots have good competition, with redshirt freshman DeDe Lattimore pushing senior Sabbath Joseph at weakside and Donte Spires pushing fellow senior Jacquian Williams on the strongside.
-- I had thought USF's starting offensive line was fairly set, but I've seen at least three different looks for the starting five. Center Sampson Genus and guard Chaz Hine seem to have their jobs locked down, but the other three spots are more fluid. The logical line going in had Jamar Bass at left tackle, Jeremiah Warren at left guard and Jake Sims at right tackle, with Mark Popek as the top sub; on Saturday, I saw Popek at left tackle, Sims at left guard, Warren at right tackle and Bass working with the second line. Coach Steve Shankweiler said he'd like to have definitive backups at both tackle spots, rather than just one swing tackle backing up both jobs. Kevin McCaskill seems set as the backup center, with John McGhin and Steve Jacques usually lined up as second-team guards and Damien Edwards as the other second-team tackle.
-- Receiver might be the most fluid position, with so little established beyond senior Dontavia Bogan. On Saturday, the first three receivers going through drills were Bogan, Evan Landi and Lindsey Lamar, with the second group comprised of T.J. Knowles, Faron Hornes and Victor Marc. (Marc is listed as a running back, but I've only seen him at receiver so far.) The third line was Deonte Welch, Isaac Virgin and walk-on Bermanley Augustin, who Holtz has mentioned has a chance at a scholarship this fall. I've also seen Derrick Hopkins (who now wears No. 87) on the second line, with walk-on Tyler Stowell on the third line at times.
-- How much can we read into where the newcomers line up? We've seen freshman cornerback Terrence Mitchell working with the second group of defensive backs -- the first unit, almost invariably, has been Quenton Washington and Kayvon Webster at corner and Mistral Raymond and Jerrell Young at safety. The second safeties have generally been Jon Lejiste and JaQuez Jenkins (who looked to have a nice field-goal block Saturday), with Mitchell, George Baker and Daniel Bryant getting looks as the second corners. Tyson Butler is still recovering from his knee injury, so I've generally seen him on the third line, with the freshman safeties Mark Joyce and Reshard Cliett.
-- Defensive line may be the deepest position on the team, with promising players lining up on the third line. Seniors Craig Marshall and David Bedford have consistently lined up as the first-team ends, with Terrell McClain anchored into one interior spot and McCaskill and Grissom rotating on the other. I've seen Ryne Giddins and Patrick Hampton as the second ends, with Claude Davis and Julius Forte on the third unit -- expect to see a lot of rotation at this position. Luke Sager seems solid as the fourth tackle, and in general, I've seen Anthony Hill and Demi Thompson working ahead of talented freshman Todd Chandler, but that could be experience dictating things early in the first week.
-- Running back seems to be fairly set, with senior Mo Plancher solid at starter and sophomore Demetris Murray looking like his top backup. You can see how thick transfers Darrell Scott and Dontae Aycock are -- Scott, listed at 239 pounds, looks like a power runner, and Skip Holtz smiles when he says "I like big backs." Bradley Battles and Joel Miller are vying for the third spot this fall, with true freshman Marcus Shaw next in line -- I'm curious to see whether he could see playing time as a No. 4 running back, or if he has to show something more to break out of a redshirt this fall. Holtz has made it clear he prefers to redshirt as many as possible and doesn't want to waste a year on anyone.
-- Punter might have been the most glaring concern in the summer, with Holtz mentioning the position consistently, along with depth at receiver and quarterback. But both candidates have looked good this week, with sophomore Justin Brockhaus-Kann showing consistency and true freshman Chris Veron making it clear he has a strong leg. We've mentioned that linebacker Mike Lanaris is getting a look as the No. 2 long-snapper, though walk-ons Corey Schomp and Nick Pisasik are expected to join the competition when they're added to the roster when school starts on Aug. 23.
-- With Papa John's ending their sponsorship in Birmingham, that means that of USF's last four bowl games, three have changed sponsors since the Bulls played and the fourth (in Toronto) no longer exists. ...
-- USF has a 1:30 practice Sunday afternoon, then is off to Vero Beach. We'll follow them across the state Monday morning and should have practice reports -- and video -- to offer from the former Dodgertown. ...