Ten belated thoughts from USF spring game
Meant to post something late Saturday, but Easter was calling, then a camping trip with the family at Fort DeSoto, so I've just now returned to put the post in postgame observations after USF's spring scrimmage. I'll cap myself at 10 thoughts, for your benefit and mine ...
-- Defensive leaders: I seem to always overlook these because I don't tally defensive stats during the game, but there certainly were some standouts: Aaron Harris had three sacks, David Bedford had two as part of a seven-tackle game, and freshman Mike Lanaris matched the seven tackles on a busy day. Quenton Washington did a great job of reading B.J. Daniels' eyes on his 95-yard interception return for a touchdown -- great move at midfield to make Daniels and Dontavia Bogan miss. Biggest hitter? Easily Jerrell Young, who had two loud stops, including one on Carlton Mitchell on the game's final drive. Kion Wilson also was physical, with a big welcome-aboard hit on Evan Landi on his first play as quarterback.
-- So Jim Leavitt puts Matt Grothe in a non-contact jersey so he won't get hurt while getting tackled, and it's trademark Grothe that on the opening drive, he's diving downfield, laying out a block on a run by Mike Ford. Leavitt went across the field to make sure Grothe knew his next series would be his last. "I got Matt out after I saw him throw a block," Leavitt said. "That was it. I was upset about that. I crossed the field and said 'We need to get Matt Grothe out."
-- Maikon Bonani sat out the game with a hip flexor, but it stood out that USF needs a capable backup to him for field goals and extra points. Walk-on Eric Schwartz missed his 34-yard attempt, and Delbert Alvarado (who would step in right now for Bonani) was badly wide right on his 43-yard attempt. "I know John Hendrick is probably mad at me for sending out Alvarado, because he wasn't prepared to kick a field goal," Leavitt said. "I wanted to see Delbert kick because he's our backup kicker. Delbert's got to do some more kicking and get back into it if we have to use him."
-- Thought the receivers, without leaders A.J. Love and Jessie Hester, had a great game, with two long catches for Dontavia Bogan, and nice low grab by Colby Erskin on the last touchdown, and a nifty sideline move by Jeffrey "Pookie" Wilson (laugh, but it's what everybody calls him) on his touchdown. Ed Alcin had eight catches, including three on the final drive, withstanding some tough hits.
-- Chris Robinson has been listed as the starting strongside linebacker, and he came up with two big plays Saturday, intercepting a trick-play pass from Theo Wilson and breaking up a fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter. Leavitt, on Robinson's runback after his pick: "I thought Chris was awful with his maneuvers with the ball, but he did make a good catch." Robinson did get beat on the touchdown as time expired, but Joe Tresey said this: "That play for the touchdown, that's the only place they could have thrown the ball. He was in position, but they threw it so low, he couldn't make the play." If Robinson holds onto the starting job, Leavitt put it this way: "If he comes on and has a great year, that will be one of those great stories we have to have," he said. Watch out for newcomers Jaquian Williams and Sam Barrington, who will push Robinson hard in August ...
-- Two most impressive things to me? B.J. Daniels' ridiculous elusiveness and Evan Landi's poise on that final drive. Spring or not, going 88 yards in 2:13 for a potential game-tying touchdown is strong -- Landi converted a fourth down at midfield, then with 22 seconds left from the 23, scrambled and cut inside to get to the 6-yard line with 10 seconds left. Leavitt called the drive "outstanding." The challenge for Mike Canales: Find creative ways to get contributions from Daniels and Landi this fall in some fashion ...
-- Talked to Tyrone McKenzie on the sidelines, and he's been busy working out for teams in preparation for the NFL Draft, now just 12 days away. He's worked out for or is working out for the Patriots, Giants, Eagles and Saints, and was to work out with the Bucs today (Monday), along with Taurus Johnson and Ben Williams.
-- The game's exciting ending might not have mattered had officials not called a fumble on running back Moise Plancher in the red zone with maybe six minutes to play. Plancher's knee looked clearly down before the fumble on video replays -- I was maybe 10 feet from Leavitt on the sidelines and he thought it wasn't a fumble. Punch it in there, and Landi doesn't have a chance for his wild drive at the finish.
-- A lot of the game's big stars will be redshirt freshmen this fall -- Landi, Daniels, Lanaris, Bryant, among others -- and Lanaris mentioned how amazing it was to get back in a game after redshirting last fall. "Most of us freshmen haven't played a game since 2007, fall, so it felt great to get out there and be out there with the team and have fun again," he said. "I definitely got (beaten in coverage) a couple of times, but the more reps, the better, the more opportunities you get to make plays."
-- We've said it all spring: Joe Tresey's defenses thrive on turnovers, and it doesn't better for him than points scored off a turnover when your opponent was in the red zone (Washington's INT). "How about that? You take it from the red zone. That's a huge play in football," Tresey said. "Any turnover is big, but a turnover in the red zone is especially big. That was a great play."