Smith looking for toughness from USF secondary
TAMPA -- USF defensive backs coach Rick Smith was candid even by his own standards in talking about the Bulls defensive backs Monday, saying he likes the depth he's developing at cornerback but is looking for more toughness from key players.
"At safety, I have one guy I can depend on," Smith said. "(JaQuez) Jenkins will have a good day, then he's hurt. Just like today, he goes down and we don't get anything out of him today. That's his history: durability, there is none. Toughness, there is none. He's just a real good athlete that I can't depend on to be on the field. The one I can depend on to be on the field is (Mark) Joyce. Joyce would be on the field, I believe, if his throat was called. That's just how tough he is. He's just a tough mother and that's what you need. I've got one of them."
USF coach Skip Holtz had been pleased Saturday with Jenkins, who had an interception in the scrimmage. Smith said he is trying to get more from senior walk-on Ernie Tabuteau, who he said would be a starter right now based on his play.
"Today, they went down like flies," Smith said. "A little bit hot. We're just not very tough. I'm tough. I didn't go down, but I didn't have to hit anybody. You're born with it maybe, or it's instilled in you the way you were raised."
Smith said he has been pleased with the progress of junior Fidel Montgomery, a January enrollee and converted safety who is battling for the starting job opposite senior Kayvon Webster. Another January newcomer, cornerback Josh Brown, needs to show more toughness, he said.
"They've got a long way to go, but at least there's talent there," Smith said. "Fidel's never played corner but he's getting better. Josh has a lot of talent, but Josh is just not very tough, mentally. He has a long way to go. Just toughness, wherein Fidel is very tough mentally. Doesn't have as much talent, a little bit stiff in the hips. Josh has great flexibility, but one's tough and one's not. With those two guys, we have some depth."
Smith said redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden showed great focus and had his best practice, grading out as a winner, and he continues to challenge Montgomery for the starting role. He said senior George Baker has not shown the consistency needed to gain trust from his coaches.
"I tried to explain to him, 'We don't trust you right now,'" Smith said. "We put you in a game last year when it counted, and you got us burned, lost the dang Louisville game. He has a great (scrimmage), goes out there today and gives up two deep ones. I looked at him and said 'You think the head coach still is going to trust you?' He's never going to a starter until we can trust him. If he wants to keep giving up touchdowns, he'll eventually be third team."