Reggie's gone, and a practice report!
I'll get back to Reggie Kohn leaving in a few page-downs, but first, I have exciting news: the first real USF football practice report in months! Yes, for all the fuss made about Jim Leavitt closing practice to the media and cutting off assistants from interviews, the first hour and a half of Monday's practice -- the first since Leavitt quietly lifted his information embargo -- was attended by all of one media member.
I'm supposed to be taking this week off (and yes, I'll be there for USF-Richmond in all its splendor Tuesday night), but I thought it would be weak for Leavitt to finally open practice and nobody to take advantage of it, so I went by practice, just to get caught up on the nuts and bolts of the team. One of my regular-maintenance tricks on the beat is to jot down all the uniform numbers by position (like QB: 3, 8, 12, 15) and then go through a practice until I've checked off everyone there. Again, this is something I haven't been able to do since before the season started.
First things first: linebacker Patrick St. Louis, who missed most of USF's upset of West Virginia with a sprained ankle, did not practice, and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham told Times corro Mike Camunas (see, assistants, talking to the media!) that St. Louis won't likely practice until the week of the game. Freshman Chris Robinson -- soon to be named to the Big East all-freshman team, I imagine -- displaced him in the starting lineup.
The most interesting thing about the practices leading up to last year's bowl game were the tweaking and experimenting with position changes, like George Selvie spending time at center (How good a call was it to keep him at defensive end?) Anyway, the first such experiment this year looks to be redshirt freshman linebacker Marvin Peoples, the transfer from Maryland who played only on special teams and, best I can tell, was not on the current two-deep. Peoples got his first look at fullback, where his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame could maybe help out. (And for what it's worth, Maryland listed him last year at 6-foot, 240 pounds, so I think somebody's cheating a bit somewhere). Peoples only saw a few reps, but I think you'll see a move towards integrating bigger backs into USF's offense next season -- we've written about the commitment from South Sumter's 6-foot, 240-pound Richard Kelly.
Another recruit who watched Monday's practice was Brooksville Central's DuJuan Harris, a senior who rushed for 363 (not a typo) yards and five touchdowns in a win against Crystal River this year. Harris likes USF -- to talk to him, I think he'd commit on the spot if he had an offer -- but I think his size (listed at 5-9, 190) is making colleges hesitant. He topped 2,000 rushing yards this season and said he wanted to make sure coaches were aware of his interest in the Bulls. USF has picked up two solid commitments from other local backs in the past week, but this is a good name to squirrel away. If there's anybody helping the case of smaller running backs, you could point to a 5-foot-9, 195-pound back who had a decent season in the Big East: Rutgers' Ray Rice.
Onto the walk-on minutiae: I count four guys who are listed on the current roster but are no longer on the team, some for months, apparently. Defensive tackle Nick Schuyler, who had drawn praise from coaches in the preseason, didn't last much longer than that, it would seem, and the same goes for offensive lineman Larry Lindsey, who has come and gone at least twice since I've been on the beat. Shawn Cannon, the junior college running back who was a late addition to the roster and dressed for a few early games, is no longer on the team, nor is former Hernando and Pasco defensive lineman Bryan Hall. Three players -- safety Carlton Williams, corner Courtney Denson and receiver Amp Hill -- missed Monday's practice due to exams. And while it's likely just a short-term experiment, walk-on offensive tackle Joe Herzhauser -- 6-4, 250 pounds -- worked out with the tight ends on Monday.
To get a sense of who the Bulls will want to contain against East Carolina, just look at the scout-team jerseys. USF had two freshman receivers -- Edner Alcin and Carlton Mitchell -- wearing No. 2 jerseys (at first, I thought they had jumped on Jackie Chambers' recently vacated number). That means they'll be simulating Aundrae Allison, the Pirates' top receiver, who like Andre Hall (another No. 2) once attended Georgia Military Academy. You'd expect somebody from Kannapolis, N.C., to have some speed, right? He had 59 catches for 684 yards -- that's 25 more receptions and 200 yards more than his closest teammate. Another impersonator of note: freshman tight end Andrew Ketchel, who I hear good things about for next season, is wearing the No. 3 that belongs to ECU's Davon Drew, a 6-4 target who has three touchdown catches.
Fun link to the Boston Globe, which analyzed the graduation rates of all the teams that received votes in the final regular-season AP top 25. USF, impressively, is ranked 11th out of the 35 or so teams. The Bulls' 66 percent score (no idea how they calculate that, but we'll let that go) is higher than West Virginia (63), Rutgers (58) and Louisville, whose graduation rate of 53 percent was deemed "barely passing" by the Globe. Good stuff, and congrats to Navy (98 percent) and Boston College (96) for taking the top two spots.
Finally, on Reggie Kohn, I have no idea what led to his decision to abruptly resign Sunday night, but the most logical answer -- if I were to speculate -- would be that Kohn missed the active X's and O's aspect of coaching he enjoyed so much at Lake Howell High School. Kohn's position is "director of basketball operations," and while he does get to wear a suit on the bench at courtside, the position doesn't include a lot of coaching interaction, or recruiting for that matter, focusing more on game preparation, some of the administrative aspects of coaching. It's not paid on nearly the same level as the three true assistant coaches, though I believe Kohn's salary was $42,000, considerably more than Scott Thompson had made in the same position under McCullum. I think Kohn has already accomplished a huge amount as a coach at just 26 years of age, having taken Lake Howell to three state final fours in three years, but to keep the job in perspective: Kohn was hired from a high school job, and Thompson is now a high school boys basketball coach in Hillsborough County. Kohn is a huge fan favorite, and hiring him was a smart and popular move by McCullum, who will probably take some backlash for this, even though we have no idea what led to Kohn's resignation.
By the way, I hear there's a campout planned at the Sun Dome after Tuesday night's game, so students can get in line for Wednesday morning, when each student can get one of the 500 free tickets USF purchased to encourage a stronger student presence in Birmingham for the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 23. (The outgoing Tom Veit, I must say, is running through the finish line, calling Monday to offer a photo opportunity, since he was ordering lunch for his hard-working staffers manning the ticket-order phone lines. Yes, Papa John's. I gave him the courtesy of asking an editor, but wasn't shocked that we passed on the photo op.) Anyway, since Krzyzewskiville is already taken, I'm coining the Bulls tent village Leavitt-town. Any Billy Joel fans here? Any of my fellow eastern Pennsylvanians?
OK. I'm taking a few days off, so if the blog goes without an update for a few days, you'll know why. I'll probably manage to get in an update, one way or another. ...