RB Battles turns heads; focus on 5 freshmen
Sixth-year senior Mo Plancher went into fall camp as the clear front-runner at running back, but a strong showing in Saturday's second scrimmage has redshirt freshman Bradley Battles turning heads and making a case for carries early in the season.
"I thought he played the best of all the backs on Saturday," coach Skip Holtz said. "It's the first time I saw him do all of the little things right. He has probably the most speed and explosiveness of all the backs. What you saw on Saturday was him competing, being physical, running hard, picking up pass protection, knowing his assignments, all those things. I think he's earned his way into that rotation."
Battles, 5-foot-8 and 201 pounds, scored 40 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Marianna High, rushing for 2,100 yards as a junior. He struggled as a true freshman last fall, enough so that he got a short look at safety, but he's shown enough this fall to be pushing Plancher and sophomore Demetris Murray for playing time.
"I think we have three tailbacks, and if we played tomorrow, they'd all three play," Holtz said.
FOCUSED ON FIVE: Holtz hasn't made final decisions, but he said his staff is focusing on five true freshmen who have a chance to play this fall: cornerback Terrence Mitchell, safety Mark Joyce, tackle Quinterrious Eatmon, receiver Deonte Welch and walk-on quarterback Bobby Eveld. All five are competing for positions on the two-deep depth chart.
"I don't want to waste their year -- if we use a freshman, I want to make sure they play 15 to 20 plays a game," Holtz said. "If they can do that, they've played 200 plays, they've come a long way in terms of earning the right to play. ... I don't think any of those five are ready to play today, but what you've got to look at is five weeks into the season, when you're getting into conference play, can those guys get into the rotation and really help you? I believe those five can."
FIRST DAY: Tuesday was USF's first practice since fall classes started Monday, and Holtz said that always makes for a difficult first practice as players adjust to juggling more things in an already busy day.
"(I told the staff) it's going to be like pushing a rope today at practice," Holtz said. "It's a grind on the first day of school. It always is, always has been, everywhere I've been."
THIS AND THAT: Holtz said two lingering injuries -- linebacker Sabbath Joseph remains out after a concussion and quarterback Jamius Gunsby has a pulled groin -- aren't serious and he expects both back in the next day or two. "Three or four days of work is huge for a freshman quarterback," Holtz said of Gunsby's absence. .... Holtz said the team will elect captains this weekend. The team will hold a final scrimmage Friday night, then open regular game-week preparations with Sunday's practice. Unlike in past seasons, the Bulls will practice on Sundays after games, with Monday as the standard off-day from practice.