Six defensive starters held out with injuries
No. 13 USF began preparations for Saturday's game at N.C. State with more than half its defensive starters held out with lingering soreness and injuries.
Only one -- linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who is out indefinitely as he recovers from a neck injury -- is definitely out for Saturday, and USF coach Jim Leavitt said he'll know Wednesday about the rest: defensive end George Selvie, defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Aaron Harris, cornerback Tyller Roberts and safety Carlton Williams.
"We usually wait until about Wednesday's practice," Leavitt said. "If they're really hobbling Wednesday ... then probably normally if they don't practice Wednesday, 80 percent they don't (play). We're going to prepare everybody else as if these guys aren't playing, and then we'll see."
With Mompremier out, USF has shifted strongside linebacker Tyrone McKenzie to the weak side, and junior Chris Robinson will step in as the starter at strongside, according to defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. USF has worked primarily in a nickel package with five defensive backs and only two linebackers, and junior Kion Wilson, the starter at middle linebacker, was lined up next to McKenzie on the first unit in 7-on-7 drills Monday.
"Last game, we had five starters out on defense the entire fourth quarter, and a lot of the third," said Leavitt, whose team gave up nine points in the final three minutes of a 17-9 win against FIU. "That's why I was really proud of the defense, what they did hanging in there."
With reserve Alonzo McQueen sidelined with a boot on his left foot, the Bulls have just four healthy linebackers they'll use Saturday, with sophomore Sabbath Joseph backing up all three positions.
Who else would step up if the starters can't go? Quenton Washington was working with the first defense at cornerback, and senior Louis Gachette had Williams' spot at safety -- both of those have played significantly in USF's first four games. Defensive line is anyone's guess, as the top reserve at defensive tackle, Sampson Genus, was also held out of drills with an ankle injury that kept him out against FIU.
-- USF's coaches shed a little more light on Mompremier, saying team doctors likely won't evaluate his neck for another week or two, deciding then when or if he would return to the team.
"We're going to wait a week, two weeks," Leavitt said. "Does the Lord heal him tomorrow? I don't know. We're going to take it day by day, take time, see how he is, how the neck feels, and we'll go from there. There's no real answers. None."
Burnham said he spoke with Mompremier and his spirits were good, but it's too early to start thinking about his future on the football field.
"He's doing good, thank God," Burnham said. "He doesn't know what the future holds for him right now. That part of it is so far removed from what he's going through, I don't know that he's thought about it. ... People have had these kinds of injuries and come back, but you don't know how severe it is."
-- Walk-on linebacker Houston Hess, USF's top special-teams tackler for the past two seasons, is no longer with the team, Leavitt said.
Leavitt said he took Hess off USF's kickoff coverage team after the Bulls gave up a 91-yard touchdown to UCF's Joe Burnett three weeks ago. Hess, who had 24 career tackles, including four in USF's first two games, would have still played on USF's punt and kickoff return units.
"He's never come to see me," Leavitt said. "I took him off kickoff team, and that's the last I saw of him. He didn't show up for practice, so I assume that he didn't want to play football anymore."