Practice report: Hiller seeking o-line depth
Based on a spring, summer and two preseason practices, new Bulls offensive line coach Darren Hiller seems to have a solid idea of his starting five at this point.
But he wouldn't mind that lineup being subject to change. Whether it will depends on how August competition ensues on the unit with the most questions entering 2016.
"I feel good about where we'll be with putting the first five out there on the field," said Hiller, who must replace three starters from a quintet that started all 13 games last season.
"And I know we're gonna have some depth, but what we've got to do is we've got to get some of these younger guys...to step up and be able to provide some competition to fight for a job so we can create some depth."
As it stands, the starting five projects to be LT Kofi Amichia, LG Cameron Ruff, C Michael Galati, RG Dominique Threatt and RT Billy Atterbury. Among those Hiller mentioned as prospects to compete for jobs were junior Jeremi Hall, redshirt freshmen Marcus Norman and Brooks Larkin, and juco transfer Glen Bethel.
Physically, the current projected starting unit projects to closely resemble last season's group, which boasted an average weight of 304 pounds. At 298, Amichia said he has added roughly 25 pounds since the end of last season. Threatt is up roughly 15 pounds, to 335.
He squatted twice his body weight -- and then some -- earlier this summer when he tied Todd Chandler's program record with a 700-pound effort. Both Hiller and Coach Willie Taggart said the group's collective summer weight room work is noticeable.
"As a matter of fact, I bragged on 'em (Thursday) night in the meeting room because...taking the drill work to the team work, I can see we're stronger at the point of attack with our hands and things like that," Hiller said.
BEGINNER'S PLUCK: With nearly half the squad exiting Friday's practice early for final exams, freshman QB Chris Oladokun seized the opportunity for extra snaps, leading a TD drive in a late two-minute drill. The Sickles High alumnus converted at least twice on third down, and capped the drive with a 13-yard TD toss to RB Trevon Sands.
"(Thursday) he did some good things and I'm like, 'Wow, this kid's got a little more to him than I thought,'" Taggart said. "And then today, he added on to that. So my impression of Chris is, we got the right guy, we've just got to keep feeding him and...he's got to continue to get better. But the kid's got some talent."
Another rookie making an early impression is Andre Polk (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), who logged snaps Friday at weakside linebacker.
"He's a very athletic kid. The one thing I'm seeing now is, he's not out of position a lot," Taggart said.
"Usually, you get those young guys, if they're not sure what they're doing they just take off and run and get themselves out of position. But he's put himself in good position to make plays these last two days and again, I think that's only gonna improve as he continues to learn our defense."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls will hold their final public practice of the preseason today at 10 a.m. ... Look for Threatt to emerge as a possible team captain. Taggart said the senior, without being asked, has assumed a leadership role that includes wake-up calls to fellow linemen. ... WR Stanley Clerveaux, who missed the 2015 season recovering from left ACL surgery, had a handful of short catches in the early part of Friday's practice. "Stanley's a little impatient, he's ready to go, go, go," Taggart said. "We're trying to slow him...but he's coming around." ... CB Ronnie Hoggins exited practice early Friday with an apparent left foot injury.
AUDIBLE: "He definitely pays attention to a lot of detail. He ain't just in the meeting room trying to fall asleep. Not saying anybody else does, but Wiggs, he takes (detailed) notes. I feel like he's gonna be big-time in the long run." -- Amichia on 290-pound freshman OL Michael Wiggs, an honor student at Lake Gibson High and the son of USF alumni