Preseason camp: 5 position battles to watch
When the 20th season of USF football formally commences Thursday morning, the current batch of Bulls will discover -- literally -- how far the program has come.
About 250 or 300 yards. Such is the approximate length of the walk from the team locker room to the intramural fields, site of the Bulls' first workout in 1996. In a tip of the hat to history, Willie Taggart will stage Thursday's practice on those same fields.
When that lengthy procession ends and practice begins, a few key position battles will ensue. Here are five we'll be watching.
Billy Atterbury vs. Glen Bethel
Atterbury, a redshirt freshman from Clearwater Central Catholic, exited his breakthrough spring camp atop the depth chart. Question now is whether can he hold off Bethel, a former juco behemoth (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) whom Bulls fans have longed to see on the field since he originally signed with USF two Februarys ago.
Brett Kean vs. Asiantii Woulard
After one spring practice, Woulard appeared poised to seriously challenge Quinton Flowers for the No. 1 job. From there, the 6-3 UCLA transfer struggled with his consistency while Kean -- who redshirted last year -- dazzled observers with his velocity and mobility. This could be the most-scrutinized competition in camp.
Kano Dillon vs. Mitch Wilcox
Perhaps the most glaring distinction between these two is that Dillon has proven he can perform in a game -- or at least one game. After a surreal debut (four catches, 126 yards, one TD) against FAMU last September, Dillon had only five catches the rest of the way. However, his physical upside (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) can't be argued. Wilcox (6-4, 243), perhaps one of the Bulls' most underrated athletes, redshirted in 2016 but took plenty of first-team snaps in the spring.
No unit is deeper, and we anticipate a handful of depth-chart duels. Coaches are excited about the speed element senior Nate Godwin brings to the striker (nickel back) position, but sophomore Khalid McGee (10 tackles in spring game) can't be ignored. Meantime, two 6-foot-3 ball hawks -- sophomore Jaymon Thomas and redshirt freshman Malik Dixon -- will compete at strong safety. And check out the free safety chart: Tajee Fullwood, Devin Abraham and Wisconsin transfer Austin Hudson.
Kirk Livingstone vs. Juwuan Brown vs. Mike Love
The wild card in this battle is Love, a fourth-year junior who has endured an injury-besieged career to this point but is healthy entering camp. Love, who missed most of spring drills (knee) has shown flashes of promise at times (ask former FSU QB Everett Golson) and can make inroads here with a solid preseason. Still, the odds-on favorite is Livingstone, a redshirt junior who capped a solid spring with a nice performance (three tackles, one for loss) in the Green-White game.