Starting right tackle: Just call him Jake
The big news of the first day of spring football is two young guards moving to new positions, but we'll start by introducing you to the sophomore walk-on listed as USF's starting right tackle: Jacob Sims.
From here out, we're calling him Jake, since he said it's what he prefers, noting that his parents named him that after "Big Jake" -- the 1971 John Wayne film. He's 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, and he's not your standard walk-on, having turned down scholarship offers from Cincinnati and Navy as a senior at Winter Park High to instead walk on with the Bulls.
"That means a lot to me. Jake's a special guy who will play a lot of football here. This is his year," said coach Jim Leavitt, noting that coaches will also work this fall to get true freshman Mark Popek of Plant City ready to play immediately.
On Wednesday, Sims lost one challenger for the starting job -- redshirt freshman Thomas Edenfield will be held out of spring drills due to academic problems -- but picked up another, as guard Jeremiah Warren, a 329-pound redshirt freshman, will now work at right tackle, lining up initially with the second team.
"I'm just trying to shore up my spot. I've got to prove I can be there," Sims said. "I've got to have the coaches trust me, so that's what I'm working on. I want 100 percent effort every day, and that's a big goal for me. I want the coaches to trust me 100 percent, like I'm a veteran."
Sims said he has learned a lot from right guard Zach Hermann, who he has worked alongside since both redshirted together in 2006. Warren projects longterm as a guard, but coaches are recognizing they need depth at tackle, which is where he's most likely to make it onto the field this fall.
The biggest position change for spring has guard Sampson Genus moving to nose tackle, putting one of the team's strongest young players at a key position. Genus will wear No. 96 this spring.
"We're excited about that. He's got a chance," Leavitt said. "He's going to play for us, either at nose or at guard. He's too good a player (not to). ... We might let him play both ways. You know how they do it with receivers and DBs? We could do it with Sampson. He'd be tired."
Burnham said Genus is big enough and strong enough to hold his own at nose, and he'll know after seven or eight practices whether he'll stick on defense. Burnham said he's most concerned about the middle of his defense, with linebacker Ben Moffitt gone and two key defensive tackles, Richard Clebert and Allen Cray, lost to graduation. He said the strength of the defense is still the secondary, and the plan is to have Danny Verpaele at strong safety and Carlton Williams as the nickel, giving them a pair of fifth-year seniors who know the defense well.
One more position change: Tight-end-turned-defensive-end-turned-tight-end Shane McElwain has moved ... to defensive end. The former junior hockey standout has yet to find a position he can make an impact at, but as Leavitt says, "he helps us on special teams."
Very promising news on the recruiting front, as Dunedin running back Adaris Bellamy, sure to be one of the most coveted recruits in Pinellas County next fall, stopped by to watch practice with a teammate and some coaches. Read more about Bellamy here -- you'll be hearing more about him here, for sure.
Another new walk-on! The latest addition is safety Lonnie Oxendine, a freshman from Palatka. He was a 6-foot-2, 180-pound receiver in an option offense at Palatka, an excellent blocker who was not recruited by any major schools, according to his high school coach. The Bulls have a handful of other walk-ons at practice in street clothes, but none of them have been rostered yet ...