USF preview: Grissom, Giddins lead new d-line
We're going out of a traditional order a bit, but we'll continue our positional previews for USF football with the defensive line, a position that has three starters from last season now competing in NFL camps.
Replacing defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who was drafted by the Panthers, as well as ends Craig Marshall and David Bedford, now signed as undrafted rookies with the Giants and Colts, won't be an easy task, but the Bulls have promising reserves who will move into larger roles in 2011.
We'll start at end, where senior Patrick Hampton and sophomore Ryne Giddins project as starters after earning three and two starts, respectively, last season filling in when Marshall and Bedford were injured. For part-time players, their numbers weren't bad -- Hampton totaled 7 tackles for loss including 2.5 sacks, and Giddins had 6 TFLs including 3.5 sacks. Giddins, a Parade All-American at Armwood who chose the Bulls over Florida barely a week after the Gators' second national championship, is seen as someone poised for a breakout season.
"I think this year, Ryne's going to explode," cornerback Quenton Washington said this week, asked who has impressed him this summer. "This is going to be his year."
Another sophomore, St. Petersburg's Julius Forte, is also likely to be in the rotation after getting 10 tackles (one sack) as a freshman. Finding at least a fourth end to rotate with those three will be a priority in August -- tackle Anthony Hill switched out to end at the end of spring drills, and freshman Clavion Nelson is a possibility -- USF listed him at 6-4, 230 pounds on signing day, and ends coach Vernon Hargreaves said last week that he's put on 15 pounds since getting to campus in June. Senior Claude Davis, who played well in the spring game, and redshirt freshman Brandon Wilkinson are other options.
Inside at tackle, there's again two obvious starters going in, with junior Cory Grissom back after starting every game last year alongside McClain. Senior Keith McCaskill, the top backup last season, steps in as a starter, and tackles coach Kevin Patrick is excited about the group he has, starting with those two.
"We're all extremely excited -- I think our guys are in great shape," Patrick said. "I see them walking in the hallways, and they're good-looking guys. Our strength staff has done a phenomenal job with those guys. It makes you excited."
Grissom had 16 total tackles, three for losses, and McCaskill had 14, with four for losses, but Patrick likes the maturation he's seen from the two in the past year. "Keith McCaskill has played a lot of ball for us," he said. "This is my fourth season back and I've had most of these guys for a while. Grissom is an extremely good player and we're looking for a lot from those two guys, not only in production but in leadership as well."
The depth beyond those two will be almost entirely new to meaningful college football -- sophomore Luke Sager had one tackle last season, and another sophomore, Demi Thompson, had two. Battling those two will be redshirt freshman Todd Chandler, as well as a true freshman, Elkino Watson, who chose the Bulls over hometown Miami on Signing Day and is expected to make a splash.
"I'm extremely excited ... to see how he's going to take this transition," Patrick said.