Spring football report: Hamilton back on defense
The Bulls defense spent its first full-pad spring practice in 11 days regaining some of its swagger, not to mention a veteran lineman.
Junior James Hamilton, who spent the first two weeks of spring drills on the offensive line, has returned to defensive tackle, Coach Willie Taggart announced after Wednesday's workout.
Hamilton played in all 12 games last season (starting three) and registered 17 tackles.
"Tried that out and moved him back over on the other side," Taggart said. "Luckily we did it in time enough to see if he could help us and he felt comfortable going back to defense, and I think that was probably the best thing. Watching him today was the best thing."
Hamilton wasn't the only defensive player to catch Taggart's attention Wednesday. Called out by coaches for being generally less crisp and physical than the offense in the first seven days of spring drills, the defense returned from spring break more intense.
"I thought our (defensive) guys came back with a lot of enthusiasm," Taggart said. "It was a lot of new learning going on on the defensive side of the ball and I thought they handled it very well.
"I thought offensively we were still on spring break a little bit. We didn't come back necessarily with the same intensity that we had in the first half of spring ball, but it will be interesting to see how our guys come back on Friday."
Friday's practice, open to the public, begins at 8 a.m. Saturday's public workout, expected to contain a heavy amount of scrimmaging, starts at 2:30.
TICE SIDELINED: Taggart announced sophomore RB Darius Tice underwent surgery to his left knee just before spring break, but will "be back and ready to roll for training camp." Tice, USF's top returning rusher (35 carries, 141 yards), wore a cumbersome black knee brace Wednesday.
FREE AGENCY PERIOD: In an effort to simulate another phase of the NFL (within NCAA guidelines), the Bulls have been staging a free-agency period leading up to their March 29 intrasquad game at Raymond James Stadium.
Assistants David Reaves (quarterbacks) and Telly Lockette (running backs) will coach the White and Green, respectively. Each has been allowed to court and sign two 'free agent' players (one offense, one defense) before holding a full-fledged draft Saturday evening.
"It's like our recruiting part of the season where our coaches had...about two weeks now to do anything within the NCAA rules to get our guys on their team," Taggart said. "The deadline is Thursday at 5 o'clock."
WR Andre Davis said he and DL Elkino Watson already have signed with the White team as free agents.
"They basically wine and dine you, make it sound good, tell you all this stuff, basically try to get you," Davis said. "Coach Reaves happened to be the coach on the White team, so that's who I ended up signing with."
ODDS AND ENDS: A flag-football contest featuring ex-Bulls players tentatively has been planned for the day of the spring game at Raymond James Stadium. ... Sophomore Alex Mut and senior Chris Dunkley had TD catches during red-zone work Wednesday; LB Tashon Whitehurst had an interception. ... When asked about the receivers who have stood out so far, Taggart mentioned Davis, Dunkley, Deonte Welch and Toledo transfer Rodney Adams. ... Sickles TB Ray Ray McCloud and Gaither DB Nate Ferguson were among the observers at Wednesday morning's practice. McCloud, who has totaled more than 3,000 rushing yards the last two seasons, has an offer from USF and no fewer than 30 other major programs.