Day 2 practice report: Linebackers competing, adjusting
TAMPA -- Now that they've transformed their physiques, the Bulls are trying to do the same with their formations. At least on defense.
If spring drills and the first two days of preseason camp are any sign, USF will intersperse at least some 3-4 looks with their conventional four-man front. During Tuesday's 11-on-11 work, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan's unit frequently nudged two outside 'backers to the edges, giving the appearance of a five-man front.
The switch makes sense, based on recent attrition. USF lost its top four defensive ends from last season.
“I love it," MLB Auggie Sanchez said. "The traditional 4-3 is kind of basic; offenses can plan for you. But when you put this 3-4 in, we do a lot of slanting, either the (outside linebacker's) coming or the (strong side's) coming, and you can just confuse them with a bunch of disguises.”
What the linebackers lack in across-the-board experience, they atone for with potential. Senior Reshard Cliett (56 tackles in '13) and bulked-up sophomore Nigel Harris (6-foot, 220 pounds) are the lone returning starters, but Sanchez -- a converted fullback who emerged as a prime candidate for a starting inside job in the spring -- has continued to impress.
"For him to make a transition from offense to defense and in 15 days in the spring to come out as the starting mike linebacker, that's saying a lot," Woodie said. "He's a smart kid, he has attention to detail, he understands the other 10 people around him."
Additionally, senior Hans Louis (19 tackles, one sack) says he is "100 percent" following surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered at UCF. And the six freshman linebackers USF signed in February make their collegiate debut in pads Thursday.
"I tell you what, we've seen progression (from the rookies)," Woodie said. "Obviously the real assessment is when the pads come on. We have a lot of All-Americans running out there now, but when the pads come on, it's going to definitely show us what they can do. But at least they're lining up right, at least they understand the scheme."
OFF THE SHELF: Aside from some post-practice soreness, Louis said his surgically repaired right knee is at full strength. Louis recorded 19 tackles -- including four solos against Louisville -- in a backup role last season before being injured on a kickoff at UCF.
"I was getting double-teamed the whole game and they finally caught me," said Louis, who also suffered cartilage damage on the play. "The force of both of them actually forced my knee to bend all the way inside, and I heard like, three pops and I just knew it was torn."
Woodie indicated Tuesday that Louis, who has earned his communications degree, should contend for an inside 'backer spot.
"In the beginning, when he had his surgery, they have to progress to a certain level and all he could do was go straight," Woodie said. "But now you can see some movement laterally as well. I think he's really gonna be a contributor this year."
MOONLIGHTING: Woodie recently completed what may have been the coaching clinic of his life, spending roughly two weeks at One Buc Place as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. Much of his stint was spent with Bucs linebackers coach (and five-time Pro Bowler) Hardy Nickerson.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "Went on the chalkboard, talked the kids through film, so it was a very open-type deal. I felt really a part (of the franchise). ... Obviously this is my home, but I feel like I've got a home over there as well."
ODDS AND ENDS: For the second day in a row, early enrollee Devin Abraham logged extensive first-team reps at safety. ... Two former local prep standouts -- C Cameron Ruff (Jesuit) and RT Mak Djulbegovic (Carrollwood Day) are lining up regularly with the second-team defense. ... Former East Bay standout Kieran Pettus, getting a serious look as an edge rusher, had his upper right leg wrapped in ice at the end of Tuesday's practice. The injury didn't appear serious.
AUDIBLE: "You've always got the T-shirt-and-shorts All-Americans, and then those guys kind of go away. So it's always nice to put the pads on." -- Sanchez, when asked about Thursday's workout, the first in full pads