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Spring game: Ten things to watch for ...

12

April

USF's spring football game is tonight at Raymond James Stadium, and we'll have plenty of notes and observations after. It does not look like I'll be able to blog live from the game, as USF isn't opening the press box for the small media contingent covering the game. Again, we'll have plenty afterwards, so just check back late tonight and Sunday morning. Until then, 10 notes going into the game ...

-- Injured players: I count 10 players who won't suit up because of injuries this spring, so don't bother looking for the following: running backs Mo Plancher (elbow), Aston Samuels (shoulder) and Richard Kelly (hand), receiver Colby Erskin (knee), defensive lineman David Fonua (knee), offensive lineman Matt Huners (precautionary, knee), safety Danny Verpaele (ankle) and linebacker Kion Wilson (ankle), as well as walk-ons Lucas Darr (unknown) and David Cozzo (shoulder).

-- Depth concerns. There are only 30 defensive players rostered for two teams -- including seven walk-ons -- which means only four subs on each bench. (There are a combined 41 offensive players, by comparison.) As a result, I expect a much higher scoring game than the last few, which have been pitchers' duels. If you think about how much is back at receiver and how little experience there is at cornerback, this could be a big passing day for starting quarterbacks Matt Grothe and Grant Gregory.

-- I guarantee Alton Voss will be on the winning squad. Of course, the freshman quarterback will line up for both teams. He's scheduled to help Grothe's Green squad in the first half and Gregory with the White squad in the second half. It's the first chance for fans to see him throw the ball, and with B.J. Daniels coming in this fall, it's an important time for him to establish himself as a capable backup.

-- How do the young corners look? With Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams gone, no position takes a bigger hit in 2008 than cornerback. Jerome Murphy is a lock for one starting job, with Tyller Roberts as the most experienced option for the other job entering the fall. With Dylan Douglas gone, a pair of redshirt freshmen will enter fall drills as top backups: Quenton Washington and Tyson Butler. Both have outstanding speed and great hands, but Butler especially needs time at the position. Jim Leavitt has been talking up the three incoming corners: Theo Wilson, George Baker and Jon Lejiste, though Lejiste could wind up being a weakside linebacker. No position will have more to prove in August. ...

-- Who's the middle linebacker to take over for Ben Moffitt? You can tell Leavitt really misses the leadership and toughness of Moffitt. Asked about the rash of broken hands this spring, Leavitt recalled how Moffitt once broke his hand in a morning drill, had it set and cast and was back out for that afternoon's practice without missing a step. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham gave Alonzo McQueen and Kion Wilson the first crack at the middle job, but by midspring, he was bringing senior outside linebackers Tyrone McKenzie and Brouce Mompremier in for looks. They'll both be in the middle for their squads tonight -- each team has only three linebackers, so there are no backups tonight. Look for McKenzie to enter fall drills as the starting middle, with Chris Robinson -- who shined at the end of 2006, but was limited by an ankle injury last season -- to open the season as the strongside linebacker.

-- Check out Sampson Genus at defensive tackle. Leavitt suggested Genus' success in shifting over from offensive line might be one of the biggest stories of the spring, as he's solidified himself as a second-teamer behind starters Aaron Harris and Terrell McClain. Genus is one of the strongest players on the team, and he goes up against a Green offensive line that's appropriately named: the only projected starters are sophomores Zach Hermann and Jake Sims, with redshirt freshman Kevin McCaskill as the only center. You could hear a lot of whistles protecting Grothe tonight ...

-- Meet the redshirting freshmen. Tonight's a coming-out party for some talented first-year Bulls who redshirted last fall. The young defensive backs -- Washington, Butler and Jerrell Young -- leap to mind, along with receiver Pat Richardson and defensive linemen Darren Powe, Patrick Hampton and Keith McCaskill. Don't forget two January additions in safety Charlton Sinclair and tight end Trent Pupello, who also introduce themselves to Bulls fans today ...

-- New walk-ons to watch: The two names we've heard the most about are running back Joel Miller, who had a scrimmage touchdown and has shown good footwork, and receiver Jeffrey "Pookie" Wilson, who joins an already-deep receiving corps. Running back Dominique Rocker, back at his natural position after brief looks at defensive end and tight end, was a prolific runner in high school. Watch out for kicker Jamie Clark, though it'd take a huge day for him to make the fall roster. One more position tweak: Leavitt said he's considering moving lanky walk-on tight end Quincy Okolie to defensive end for the fall.

-- Who will emerge at running back? Last spring was the debut of Mike Ford, who scored a late touchdown, only to be one-upped by Grothe in the final minute. With several injuries at running back, you could see a lot of Ford, whose only competition for carries on the White team is from walk-ons Shawn Cannon, Joel Miller and Mike Padilla. The Green team has Ben Williams, Jamar Taylor and Rocker, so expect that team to have its load split more evenly. What I'm curious to see is if the backs can break loose for big runs, since the defensive speed is diluted by the split squads.

-- One last thought: Don't expect to see too much George Selvie. USF's coaches certainly know what he can do, and they don't want to risk any injury, so I'll be surprised if you see significant action from the returning All-American. His Green roster only has two defensive ends (walk-on Matt Aycox the other) but I think you might see some young defensive linemen changing jerseys, especially in the second half. I don't know that Leavitt will use a running clock in the second half, but there's a definite desire to keep things moving quickly during what can be a drawn-out game with limited numbers of players.

There you go -- as comprehensive a spring game preview as you'll find. If you have questions or thoughts, both before and after the game, offer them up here and I'll do my best to answer them all ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:20pm]

    

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