Yes, finally, spring football notes
You've been clamoring for weeks for a good spring football update, and though an afternoon monsoon scuttled Tuesday's practice, I was able to catch up with coach Jim Leavitt, who seems pleased with spring drills as he prepares for Saturday night's spring game at Ray-Jay. I'm reining myself in, Letterman style, and by that, I don't mean 90 minutes, but just the old list of 10 and so on ...
10. Sharpiegate! Intrepid correspondent Mike Camunas reported Saturday about receiver Amp Hill doing an awkward Terrell Owens impersonation, pulling out a Sharpie from his sock after catching a touchdown pass in Saturday's scrimmage. The celebration isn't sitting well with Leavitt, who said Tuesday that he'll hold Hill out of the rest of spring drills, including Saturday's game.
"Wasn't the right thing to do," Leavitt said. "He's not going to practice anymore this spring. We're going to let him focus on school. He will not (play). It was inappropriate, and I want to be very clear how inappropriate it was. ... It's uncharacteristic of our program."
It will seem odd that Mike Jenkins and Carlton Williams, just a few weeks from their late-night arrests, are playing Saturday and Hill isn't, but Leavitt said there are other things that led to his decision.
9. A challenge for you diehards out there, and I'll even give you three guesses: who has moved into the starting right guard spot this spring? I'll ramble on here for a line or two, just adding words so the answer isn't right here to spoil things immediately, and now that you've had a chance to really think ... it's freshman Zach Herrmann from East Lake. Lots of competition inside, with Ryan Schmidt and Jake Griffin getting a look at center. Center Kevin McCaskill hurt his ankle Saturday and will likely miss the spring game, but Leavitt said it's not a lock that he and fellow freshman Jeremiah Warren will redshirt this fall.
8. Freshman Nate Allen is the starting free safety right now, with veterans Danny Verpaele, Williams and Louis Gachette battling for the strong safety and nickel defensive back spots. Tyller Roberts is back at free safety, just because USF's top four cornerbacks are pretty set with Jenkins, Trae Williams, Jerome Murphy and Ryan Gilliam.
7. Leavitt said he's pleased with quarterbacks Matt Grothe and Grant Gregory, and said there's promise but no real separation at running back. Leavitt said four backs will definitely play this fall, and gave them in this order (read into that whatever you want): Aston Samuels, Ricky Ponton, Benjamin Williams and Mike Ford. I'd think one of the biggest answers to come from Saturday is which of those is able to make big plays when given the opportunity.
6. Guess who's back at quarterback: Courtney Denson, who started the season opener at Penn State two years ago and has since gone to receiver to corner to receiver and back now to quarterback. Leavitt also said that if Carlton Hill returns to the team this fall, he doesn't expect him to play this season, but rather to use his redshirt season, which would give him two years of eligibility left for 2008-09. We told you linebacker Houston Hess is now at receiver, though he'll be hard-pressed to do much there this fall. He'll be USF's top returning special-teams tackler, regardless of what position he's working at. Shane McElwain is back at tight end after spending last fall and some of this spring at defensive end.
5. Walk-on receiver Colby Erskin, who goes on scholarship this fall, continues to have a strong spring and was one of the first three names mentioned by Leavitt at receiver, after Taurus Johnson and Marcus Edwards. Next came Amarri Jackson and Carlton Mitchell, then Jessie Hester. Erskin went into spring as the team's fastest player, but he's been as impressive with sure-handed catches.
4. D-line update: Woody George is looking more like a defensive end, Leavitt said, while freshman Brandon Peguese is more likely to play inside at defensive tackle. George Selvie, Jarriett Buie and Josh Smiley would be in the top four outside, with Aaron Harris, Richard Clebert and Allen Cray in the rotation inside.
3. Walk-on update: cornerback Micah Morgan, a transfer from Missouri State, has a good shot of making the team, and I wouldn't be surprised if defensive back Lucas Darr, a Countryside grad who was a walk-on at N.C. State last fall, made it as well. Haven't been able to confirm it, but I was told Darr was the scout-team player of the year for the Wolfpack.
2. I really don't have 10 things, but then again, Letterman's mailing it in on at least two of them every night, right? I can report that the official window for applications for USF's men's basketball assistant coach positions ended Tuesday, a formality that will allow Stan Heath to announce his staff in the very near future. Don't be surprised if he carries over his assistants from Arkansas -- Dan Hipsher, Glynn Cyprien and Oronde Taliaferro -- though Frank Burnell, a well-liked assistant under Robert McCullum, was still at work in his old office when I was over there Tuesday afternoon. Burnell would be a smart pick to ease the transition from one staff to the next, should Heath not choose to bring in his staff intact.
1. Shameless plug: I'm doing a chat Thursday night at 8 at thebullspen.com, the watering hole of choice for all message-board discussions on USF athletics. So join me and ask poignant questions that I can answer with oh-so-much more immediacy than this antiquated, pony-express blog deal here. If you have USF-related questions that must be answered before Thursday night, well (a) seek some professional help and (b) drop off a comment here or fire off an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. G'nite ...