Ten leftover thoughts from Fan Fest ...

11

August

Here's an idea of how much transcribing and listening to old interviews I have to do: My old digital recorder used to hold 90 minutes of interviews, so I'd be constantly purging old stuff to make room for new stuff. At Christmas, I got a new one with like 21 hours of memory ... and I'm down to 12 hours just in the last month or so. Lots to write in the next week or two, getting ready for our college football preview section. Leftover thoughts from Fan Fest on Sunday ...

10. On Saturday, Wally Burnham told me that Tyson Butler had an interception in USF's first scrimmage, and since those are off limits to the media, we have to take the coaches' word for it. Well, defensive backs coach Troy Douglas tells me Sunday it was Quenton Washington who had the pick. Butler, of course, is wearing Mike Jenkins' No. 4 jersey, which brings with it high expectations and nicknames like "Lil' Jenk," but he said there's not anything more to that than going back to his number at Cypress Lake High in Fort Myers. "I had it in high school, so it's no big deal to me," he said. "They all make fun of me, but I get used to it."

9. I continue to hear a lot about the offensive line slimming down -- we'd told you about Ryan Schmidt and Jake Griffin dropping a combined 51 pounds, and Leavitt said Sunday that guard Zach Hermann has dropped 25 pounds to his current 315. The idea is to have a line that can move downfield for power running, and one with better conditioning, since the Bulls aren't likely to use more than seven or so linemen this season -- Jeremiah Warren and Jake Sims would probably be the backups most likely to step in, presuming USF sticks with Schmidt at left tackle. When Leavitt went through the o-line Sunday, guard Matt Huners was the first name he mentioned, so I'd expect him in the starting five ...

8. Leavitt mentioned that running back Moise Plancher looks the healthiest he's been since starting the 2006 opener, and Greg Gregory also had praise for the junior. "I'm just trying to go out and work as hard as I can every day, hopefully get a couple of reps in a game," Plancher said. "It'd be nice." While Plancher's back, I've yet to see running back Aston Samuels in the first week of practice. Gregory said he's working out on his own, focusing on his ball-catching skills, and the question is where he'll line up once he's healthy: slot receiver or running back. "That was a brutal injury, one of the worst I've ever seen," Gregory said of Samuels, who literally broke his shoulder socket.

7. We'll write more on this later, but quarterback Matt Grothe said he took up golf this summer, getting quickly obsessed with the sport and golfing as much as five or six times a week. Said his best round was an 83 at The Claw, giving himself a mulligan on each nine. He tried to tweak his swing and has drifted back up into the 90s (yeah, tough times all over) ... Asked if he had a mulligan last season, which throw he'd like to take back, he chose the end-zone pick against Cincinnati: "Definitely. We had two end routes and a corner route. I still watch that to this day. The end route .. he would have walked into the end zone. We win that game, we win the Big East."

6. We always pick a breakout player for the preview section, and after a week of practice, I've pretty much decided it'll be receiver A.J. Love. "He's having the best camp of all the guys. He's really stepped up," receivers coach Mike Canales said. "His mentality has changed, his whole demeanor. He's brought a more physical presence to his play. He's probably the best route-runner we have right now. When you work hard, spend time in the film room all summer, do extra weightlifting and work, there's a confidence he's gained, and it's showing on the field."

5. Nobody's had tougher luck than offensive lineman Danny Tolley, who made it all the way back from a pelvic injury last year, only to tear his ACL at the end of spring. He's now four months removed from surgery and is targeting a mid-October return, hoping to be able to contribute for the last six games.

4. I like Fan Fest because so many players are just milling about on the field, so I have a chance to meet walk-ons I don't normally interview. Receiver Jeffrey Wilson, on his nickname Pookie, given to him by tight ends coach Larry Scott, a reference to the Chris Rock character from "New Jack City": "It's not the best nickname, but all my teammates call me that now." Wilson made the team out of open tryouts this spring, his hope when he chose USF on a Bright Futures academic scholarship out of Miramar. On being a part of the team: "It's a dream come true. I thank God every day, because a lot of people don't get this opportunity in life. It's a blessing to be here. I enjoy it as much as I can."

3. My favorite juxtaposition of Sunday's event was the poor folks trying to sell bottled water for $4 (and 20-ounce Cokes for $4.50!) when there was free iced tea 20 yards downfield. Points to the water folks for pointing people in the right direction when they flinched at the airport-terminal pricing ...

2. Good to meet lots of you at the Fan Fest, and thanks to all for the kind words. And since a few of you asked there: You will not see a word of difference in our coverage of USF now that the Times is no longer the "official paper" of USF athletics. Didn't change things when we were, and honestly won't change things when we're not. I'm excited about not having to explain every few weeks how completely inconsequential that marketing relationship is in the tone or extent of our coverage of the Bulls. As always, shoot me an e-mail at auman@sptimes.com if you have any questions or comments.

1. Off topic, but I'm absolutely kicking myself for crashing early and missing the 4x100 men's free relay final in Beijing last night. Even watching this morning, knowing the outcome, that last half-lap is the most exciting finish I can remember in any sport in a long time, even better than Tiger's putt to force a playoff at the U.S. Open. To see how far back the Americans were at the last turn, to hear the announcers say they're trying to hang on for the silver, then see and hear the last 15 seconds ... Wow. Just captivating. And a great, great call: "Unbelievable!" If the Olympics don't get better than that the rest of the way, I won't feel slighted.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? We'll start rolling out the position breakdowns Tuesday if all goes as planned ...

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:41pm]

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