Walk-ons Kloss, Ciabatti competing for kicking jobs
With the season opener just 10 days off, USF still has five kickers in contention for the Bulls' three kicking jobs, including freshman walk-ons Marvin Kloss and Mattias Ciabatti.
Junior Maikon Bonani, coming off the most accurate season of field goals in USF history, seems a lock for the main kicking job, but Skip Holtz has been hesitant to say the position is his after an inconsistent preseason camp. The spring punting battle between returning starter Justin Brockhaus-Kann and redshirt freshman Chris Veron has not only continued but added a compelling third candidate in Ciabatti, the true freshman walk-on from Hillsborough, who has posted the best averages in practice so far. Another redshirt freshman, Kloss, could claim the kickoff duties to allow Bonani to focus on field goals and extra points.
"The young kid (Ciabatti) kind of took the lead, and then today, Brockhaus goes out there and he's hitting howitzers," special-teams coach Vernon Hargreaves said Thursday. "I don't know what's going to happen. We've still got another week. You've got young guys, and who knows how they're going to react in that type of situation."
Punting is a very statistical decision for Holtz, who charts the punters daily based on hang time, get-off time and punting distance. "Punting is all about charting," said Veron, who has about 10 punts charted each practice.
"The freshman (Ciabatti), I give him props -- he's doing really good. He's the best right now," Veron said Wednesday. "He has better numbers than me and Brock. ... I'm not giving up at all. I'm still working hard, since we're all about the same."
Veron said the punting competition was wiped clean and started anew with Wednesday's practice, so he's hoping to put up strong numbers in the next week before a decision is made for Notre Dame. On the kickoff unit, another unsung kicker has a chance to handle those duties.
"Kloss has put himself in good position," Hargreaves said of the kickoff competition. "Bonani has done a better job, but now it's just a matter of at the end of this week and going into next week, who's doing the best. I don't know how many guys we're going to put on the plane. Hopefully we've got a big one and can take them all."
As for returns, Hargreaves said he expects to go with last year's successful combo of Terrence Mitchell on punts and Lindsey Lamar on kickoffs -- Mitchell was a Freshman All-America on punt returns and Lamar was Big East Special Teams Player of the Year after returning two kicks for touchdowns.
Asked who would be next if those two couldn't return kicks, Hargreaves mentioned receiver Deonte Welch and Evan Landi ("He might not take it to the house, but he'll possess the ball for us pretty good") on punts, and running backs Marcus Shaw and Darrell Scott ("How about that? Wouldn't that be good?") on kickoffs.