Freshmen making early impression on Taggart
TAMPA -- USF football has its newcomers practicing two hours earlier than veterans in the first three days of fall practice, allowing coaches more interaction with young players, and a handful are already making an impression on coach Willie Taggart.
"(Darius) Tice has shown some things at the running back position. (Fullback) Auggie Sanchez is a really smart kid, really pickiing it up quick for us," he said. "Mike White has made some plays, but you can tell he's still learning. When he knows what to do, he makes some really good throws in there. Steven Bench has done some really good things. He's very athletic. You can tell he's done it before, really poised in what he's doing. It's been good to see."
Taggart said he would shift some younger players to the veteran session, and by Tuesday, he'd already done so with freshman cornerback Lamar Robbins, who saw work as an option on returns and also worked with the No. 3 defense.
"He's tall, he's long, which you like as a corner, and very instinctive," Taggart said. "For all these freshmen, they're swimming, trying to learn all the things we're giving them. You watch them and they're probably a step or two slow, but you know it's because they're thinking. 'OK, what did Coach tell me to do on this play when they do this?' The more they get comfortable with that, then they can just play ball. You see the signs, see spurts here and there. Just in our freshman practice, watching (freshman) Hassan Childs make a break on the ball and get an interception ... that was great to see by the young guy."
PICKING THINGS UP: Taggart said he was pleased with the level of understanding and awareness in the opening practice, with a low number of things repeated as compared to what he might expect on a first day.
"What we saw from our guys is that they've been working this offseason. We didn't have a lot of do-overs because guys didn't know what to do," Taggart said. "We had a lot more guys making plays than we usually do on a first day. That was good to see. We're putting a lot in. Spring ball, we tried to bring them along slow. We're throwing it all at them right now, letting them soak it all in, then we'll do it all starting next week."
MEET FLEA: Senior receiver Derrick Hopkins is, at 5-foot-5, the shortest player on USF's roster, but he's also the fastest according to Taggart, who said he has to find ways to take advantage of Hopkins' speed.
"Man, that guy's small. My oldest son is taller than he is, and he's 11," said Taggart, asked for his first impression upon meeting Hopkins. "But when I saw him run, I thought 'Man, that guy's fast.' We have to be smart and find ways to get him the ball. He is the fastest player on our team, and we have to find different ways to get him involved."
Hopkins missed the final games last year with a knee injury, but still had 19 catches for 278 yards, both second on the team among returning receivers.
THIS AND THAT: Competition for USF's starting left guard spot should be strong this month -- sophomore Brynjar Gudmundsson had lined up with the first line Monday, but senior Steve Jacques was working there Tuesday. ... Defensive tackle Todd Chandler and guard Lawrence Martin, who missed much of spring with injuries, appear to have fully recovered and are practicing as normal. ... The Bulls had 103 players on their roster entering camp with room for 105, and one addition is walk-on defensive end Kieran Pettus of East Bay, a redshirt freshman.