Practice report: Shaw has 'great chance' of playing at Houston
TAMPA -- Coach Willie Taggart on Monday issued his most encouraging report on the status of top rusher Marcus Shaw since the sophomore went down with a hamstring injury against Cincinnati three weeks ago.
"He has a great chance," Taggart said when asked if Shaw will play Thursday night at Houston. "Marcus ran really well (at Sunday's practice). If there's not any setback, there's a great chance for him to play."
Shaw (86 carries, 552 yards) was seen running, cutting and accelerating during Monday's individual drills, which are regularly open to the media.
His return could jump-start a parched offense that has gone 12 consecutive quarters without a touchdown. By contrast, Houston (6-1, 3-0) is the only Division I program to score in every quarter it has played (28) this year.
"I don't want to take anything away from (Mike) Pierre or (Darius) Tice," Bulls LT Darrell Williams said. "But throughout the first four games you saw the production that Shaw was giving us."
DUAL THREATS? Taggart wasn't bluffing when he said immediately after Saturday's 34-3 loss to Louisville that he might employ some players both ways to provide a spark to his anemic offense.
On Monday, he reiterated the notion. "Yeah, there are some guys on (defense) that can do it," he said. "I'd prefer not to say which guys, but there are some guys on there that I know can do it."
FRESH(MAN) FACES: Thanks to fate, and the evolution of high school passing games universally, the prevailing story line of Thursday night's USF-Houston game is fresh out of Fort Lauderdale.
And almost fresh out of puberty.
The Cougars' John O'Korn (St. Thomas Aquinas) and USF's Mike White (University) -- both rangy true freshmen -- start for their teams before an ESPN audience. The matchup comes less than 11 months after both led their respective high school teams to state titles.
"I think the coaching and schemes in high school are so much more advanced than what they used to be, just like they are in college, just like they are in the NFL," USF offensive coordinator Walt Wells said.
"And I think there's been so much video and so much TV and so many camps and so many different things -- 7-on-7s -- that kids are exposed to, that I don't think it necessarily just blows them away."
O'Korn, summoned when Cougars starter David Piland sustained a concussion in Week Two, is 4-1 as a starter with 1,858 yards, 19 TDs and seven interceptions.
White, by contrast, made his debut (1-for-2, 5 yards) in the fourth quarter Saturday. His inaugural start comes on a short week, on the road against an opponent with a conference-best 16 interceptions.
"It's been a challenge for us throughout this entire year. I don't think just by going on the road and being a short week it's going to be that much more of a challenge," Taggart said.
"We're trying to find some offense and we're trying to find a way to spark it and hopefully Mike can help us with that. We feel we can go nowhere but up offensively."
ODDS AND ENDS: Wells said QB Steven Bench, replaced by White after his fourth-quarter pick-six against Louisville, remains in the Bulls' plans. With senior Bobby Eveld (high-ankle sprain) on crutches, Bench is the backup for now. ... Houston coach Tony Levine said he evaluated White, and made a small degree of contact with him, during White's senior year at University. "Very, very talented," Levine said. "Has got a big arm." ... Houston actually has scored in 35 consecutive quarters, dating to the end of 2012. ... Former Bulls special teams/defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves now coaches linebackers at Houston.