Walk-ons Raymond, Spires grateful for scholarships
TAMPA -- USF football has a tradition of rewarding walk-ons with scholarships, and Skip Holtz has continued that this fall by giving scholarships to two key seniors in safety Mistral Raymond and linebacker Donte Spires.
Raymond, who ranks third among returning players with 40 tackles last season, is expected to start at free safety, and Spires, playing for the Bulls for the first time since 2007, is battling for the starting job at strongside linebacker.
"I'm very appreciative of him coming in and doing that for me," Raymond said after USF's third fall practice. "I attribute that to my teammates for all the time they stuck with me. Now it's business as usual."
Spires had to leave the team after the 2007 season to attend to family issues, returned to the team in spring 2009 but was unable to play last fall, then rejoined the team for good this spring.
Holtz said he announced their promotions in front of the entire team, to remind other walk-ons of what can happen if they establish themselves as being in position to be regular contributors on the field. Holtz has two scholarships available and said he might use them on additional walk-ons in the next month.
"Both of them have (earned it). They paid their way, worked extremely hard, earned valuable spots on this team," Holtz said. "There may be more coming. There are a lot of guys who are walk-ons, and that's one of the parts of this program I'm going to have to continue to develop. The only way to get guys who will eventually get scholarships is to have a reward at the end for those guys that do come in and make significant contributions."
THIS AND THAT: Senior receiver Colby Erskin, who earned a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and was attempting to return from a third knee surgery for a torn ACL last fall, injured his knee in practice Saturday. Holtz said he didn't know the severity of the injury. "He walked off the field, but we'll get it tested when we get inside," Holtz said. "It was unfortunate, just a collision out in space." ... Reserve guard Josh Garvin has missed practice the last two days, and Holtz said he excused him to attend to personal matters. Holtz did not know when he would return to the team. ... Tight end Andreas Shields, who had surgery on both ankles this spring, was held out of practice Friday after working the first two days.