Practice report (Oct. 23): Status of foursome still unclear
TAMPA -- Slightly more than 48 hours before USF and Louisville kick off, the status of the Bulls' four most prominent injured players remains unclear.
QB Steven Bench practiced again Wednesday, appearing to move well despite a cumbersome black brace on his right knee. TB Marcus Shaw (hamstring) practiced Tuesday but did not appear during the 15-minute portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.
Coach Willie Taggart, who didn't address reporters Wednesday, could update the status of both during his noon teleconference Thursday.
Defensively, linemen Tevin Mims (leg) and Elkino Watson (knee), both of whom missed the Oct. 12 win at Connecticut, are game-time decisions according to defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. Watson, who started the first five games, was suited up Wednesday.
"It's great to get them back on the practice field," Bresnahan said. "But again, the amount they contribute and the amount of play time they get will be based on how they feel that day and where the whole situation of the game is going."
FAB 14: Saturday's homecoming festivities will include on-field recognition of the 14 Bulls alumni who joined the football program when it began in 1996 (with no games that year) and stuck around through its first four seasons.
Those whose attendance has been confirmed are Ryan Benjamin, Otis Dixon, Edwin Greene, Steve Hatley, Shawn Hay, Charlie Jackson, Roy Manns, Vassay Marc, Leon Matthews, Corey Porter, Joe Sipp and Rafael Williams. Anthony Henry and Marshall Smith aren't expected, according to USF.
THE CB AND HIS COURT: Senior CB Brandon Salinas is among three candidates for USF's homecoming king, a title he hopes to use as a bridge between the athletes and conventional student body if he prevails.
"I notice there's a gap and I wanted to (thwart) a lot of stereotypes and show that we are friendly, we are pretty cool or whatever," Salinas said. "But the main focus is still football, it's just something else I was doing."
HYPED FOR RAINEY: Expect the USF coaches with Western Kentucky ties -- which is practically half the staff -- to at least take a gander or two at tonight's Bucs-Carolina Panthers game.
Former Hilltoppers RB Bobby Rainey (5-foot-8, 212 pounds), the program's alltime leading rusher (4,523 yards) was signed earlier this week by Tampa Bay, which will be without injured starter Doug Martin.
"You look at him and you're like, 'Man, he's too small,'" said Bulls offensive coordinator Walt Wells, Rainey's run-game coordinator at WKU.
"But as the game goes on, he just gets stronger and stronger and stronger. So hopefully they'll give him a shot and let him stick, but you couldn't ask for a better person."
AUDIBLE: "Wow, I didn't know that. Geez, you guys come up with all kinds of stats. I didn't even realize that. But it gives us something to shoot for." -- Taggart, when informed USF could be 3-0 in a conference for the first time ever if it defeats Louisville