Senior CB Washington's starting role in jeopardy
USF defensive backs coach Rick Smith said Sunday that he's been disappointed by the play of senior cornerback Quenton Washington over the last two games, enough so that he may turn to backups JaQuez Jenkins or George Baker to start Saturday against UTEP.
"Right now, I would probably start JaQuez or George, with the understanding that if Quenton has a great week, he might go in second series," Smith said. "George Baker has graded out a winner two weeks in a row; Quenton hasn't."
Washington, one of four team co-captains, was beaten for a touchdown pass against Florida A&M, going for an interception and missing, allowing receiver Edmond Baker to score on a 32-yard score down the sideline.
"Quenton's not playing well," Smith said. "Partly because of his mental frame right now, mental makeup; partly the knee he's been nursing since Vero Beach. Probably should have given him less reps sooner so it could get well. I know that he will come back."
Smith said he benched Washington after he gave up the touchdown, sitting him the rest of the half with Baker taking his place. Washington came back after halftime and played well in one series in the second half, Smith said.
"I yanked him," he said. "I told him I knew he was a great player but he's not playing great. He's got to get his stinger back. He said "Yes, sir.' He's not pouting. I know he'll come back and he'll come back this week. ... He's got to play better for us to get better, and he will."
Smith said he's looking for more from his entire secondary -- the unit has been better at forcing turnovers, but still has room for improvement with the Big East opener against Pittsburgh now less than two weeks away.
"I really don't feel like they're playing real well," Smith said. "I don't think we're sharp, technique-wise. I don't think we're breaking on the ball like I want them to break on the ball. We've got to get a lot better, or we're going to be in for a surprise when we play next week. UTEP's pretty good."
Smith said he talked with his defensive backs Sunday night, telling all of them they can and need to improve their play as the level of competition increases from USF's last two opponents in Ball State and Florida A&M.
"Jerrell Young can play better. (Jon) Lejiste can play better. Mark Joyce is playing real well. (Tyson) Butler has gotten better as my backup safety. Spencer Boyd, who we moved to safety, has gotten a lot better," he said. "Corner, Kayvon is playing extremely well. George Baker has just came out of nowhere. ... I'm very, very pleased with them. (Walk-on) Ernie Tabuteau is like a freshman. ... He made some progress this week. Still sometimes I wonder. One of the plays, I put a question mark: 'What are you doing? We don't have that technique.' He couldn't answer me. Brainlocked."