Practice report: Eric Mayes switches to offense
In what represents a nod to their depth on the defensive interior and the need for it on the other side, the Bulls are converting former DT Eric Mayes to offensive right tackle this preseason.
Mayes (6-foot-4, 284 pounds), who never cracked the defensive rotation last season and didn't record a tackle, lined up with the second-team o-line Saturday next to RG Glen Bethel.
"We think he's very talented, we think he's very athletic to be 290 pounds and a guy that can run around," Coach Willie Taggart said following Saturday's 2 1/2-hour practice beneath gray skies.
"He has that defensive mentality on that side of the ball, which is pretty good. But we really think he can be pretty good at offensive tackle for us. We're gonna continue to work with him this training camp and see how much better he gets."
USF is trying to create depth up front in the wake of recent attrition. Stanford transfer Reilly Gibbons was forced to give up the game prior to spring practice due to a recurring right-knee injury, and redshirt freshman Cameron Campbell left the program due to what is believed to be a physical issue.
Allowing the switch are the Bulls' current numbers at defensive tackle. Robinson High alumnus Bruce Hector currently is starting at the nose alongside Kevin Bronson, but those two are being challenged by junior Deadrin Senat and sixth-year senior Daniel Awoleke, respectively.
"Those guys are the real deal," Taggart said. "We're really excited, especially with Awoleke as well. We feel like we have at least two deep where we're really, really solid in there. ... You can never have enough of them, but we feel really good about those guys."
BRAWNIER BACKS? While the bodily transformations of USF's triumvirate of backs appear subtle according to the scales, eyesight indicates they're far more profound.
Starter Marlon Mack, listed at 210 pounds entering camp, appears thicker around the core. So too does senior Darius Tice -- up nearly 10 pounds to around 201 -- and junior D'Ernest Johnson (5-foot-10, 208). Mack, 310 yards shy of breaking Andre Hall's school career rushing record (2,731 yards) said he squatted 505 pounds earlier this summer.
Position coach Donte Pimpleton said the group's offseason weight training under strength coach Irele Oderinde was designed to help it break tackles and finish runs better.
"Actually (Mack) hasn't really gained weight. He looks like it, but his body's changed," Pimpleton said. "All of them have, actually. They're all about the same weight...but their body composition changed. (Oderinde) did a good job with those guys in the offseason, so they look more bulky, but they're more put together."
ODDS AND ENDS: C Michael Galati, the first-teamer exiting spring drills, shared first-team reps Saturday with veteran Cameron Ruff, the projected starting left guard. Taggart said there's "nothing set in stone right now" at center. ... CB Ronnie Hoggins, who suffered a bruised knee at Friday's practice, sat out team drills Saturday but the injury isn't believed to be serious, Coach Willie Taggart said. ... Practice ended Saturday with QB Quinton Flowers breaking free on the right side for a 40-yard TD run. ... For all the perceived depth at receiver, Taggart said Biletnikoff Award candidate Rodney Adams (45 catches in 2015) is the only one who has solidified a job to this point. "He's the one that played a lot and he did something," Taggart said. "The rest of those guys have got to do something. We say we're deep, we've got a lot of guys at those positions." ... Johnson, Plant High alumnus Jordan Reed and redshirt freshman Deangelo Antoine took turns fielding punts Saturday.