Practice report: Gordon, Hernandez vying at punter
Arguably the Bulls' tightest preseason position battle continued during Thursday morning's searing full-pads practice, with sophomore Brent Gordon and FSU transfer Jonathan Hernandez vying to replace all-conference P Mattias Ciabatti.
Gordon averaged 39.6 yards on seven punts in the Miami Beach Bowl after Ciabatti was suspended from the game, and followed up with a solid spring. Hernandez punted once for the 'Noles last season, before the arrival of heralded freshmen Logan Tyler and Ricky Aguayo (younger brother of Bucs draftee Roberto Aguayo).
"Both of those guys are really kicking the ball well, and at this point nobody has established himself," first-year special teams coach Alonzo Hampton said. "I mean, it's nip-and-tuck. ... If you saw 'em here earlier today, they were booming the ball."
The return candidates remain diverse. Junior Tajee Fullwood ranked 26th nationally in punt-return average (10.4 yards), but redshirt freshman Deangelo Antoine and Plant High alumnus Jordan Reed also have taken reps. On kicks, Rodney Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling highlight a logjam of candidates.
In fact, Hampton said QB Quinton Flowers and RB Marlon Mack are the only two skill guys whom Coach Willie Taggart has deemed off-limits for return duty.
GOING GRAY: Redshirt freshman SS Jaymon Thomas and sophomore striker Khalid McGee were the latest defensive players to be awarded gray jerseys, which go to those defensive players who consistently display a high level of effort.
Thomas led the team in takeaways during spring drills -- he said he lost count of his total -- and said he remains the leader a week into the preseason.
"Every day I come out to practice, the only thing on my mind is to get a takeaway," Thomas said. "Every practice that's my goal."
Others with gray shirts are Fullwood, CB Deatrick Nichols, NT Bruce Hector, MLB Auggie Sanchez, WLB Nigel Harris and CB Ronnie Hoggins. Veterans Nate Godwin and Devin Abraham were injured most of spring drills, when the gray-shirt system first was implemented.
BULLS ADD SJSU TO SLATE: ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported Thursday afternoon the Bulls have added a home-and-home series with San Jose State beginning in 2017.
The Bulls head to California next year, followed by an SJSU visit to Raymond James Stadium in 2018. The Bulls' 2017 game at Northern Illinois moves to '25, according to the report.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls were set to practice again Thursday evening. ... First-year defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie said he established a "leadership committee," consisting of roughly 12 players, over the summer. "And I think that's been a really big contributor to what we're doing right now on defense, being able to let them get some input on how they want the direction of the defense," Woodie said Wednesday. "Everybody wants to be top 10 (nationally in defense) but do you know how to get there?" ... To acclimate themselves to all possible game conditions, the Bulls are interspersing morning practices with late-afternoon and even some night workouts this preseason. At least two closed workouts next week are set to start at 7:10 p.m.