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Spring football: Woulard makes strong opening statement

USF completed its first spring practice of 2016 Wednesday morning.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

USF completed its first spring practice of 2016 Wednesday morning.

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March

He began his inaugural USF spring practice with a deep sideline throw to Lakewood High alumnus Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and ended it with a 50-yard spiral that rangy receiver Evan Wilson snagged over single coverage for a touchdown.

Not a shabby start for non-starter Asiantii Woulard. "He made some plays, and he had some receivers make some really nice plays," Coach Willie Taggart said.

On a cloudless day devoid of pads or a serious pass rush, Woulard -- a 6-foot-3 UCLA transfer who shined on the Bulls' scout team last fall --  made a resounding opening statement. So too, did Taggart: He brought Woulard in to wrest the job from junior incumbent Quinton Flowers.

"My job is to recruit guys to come take other guys' jobs," said Taggart, who opened his 2016 spring camp Wednesday with far more competitive depth than in any of his previous three seasons.

"Quinton understands that. It's Quinton's job right now, and if he wants it he's got to keep it. And if Asiantii wants it he's gotta go take it. That's how it's gonna be here at the quarterback position, running back position, receiver, and it's made us a better football team by being that way."

While Woulard -- who never took a game snap in two full seasons at UCLA -- brandished crisp velocity mostly from the pocket, the 6-foot Flowers relied more consistently on check-down throws and improvisation with his legs. Those trademarks, of course, led to a school-record 22 TD passes and 3,287 total yards last season.

"Flowers is our starting quarterback," said new pass-game coordinator T.J. Weist, a veteran college coach who spent five years with Taggart on Western Kentucky's staff.

"He's proven that last year. He's got to come back, just like every other player, and prove it every single day. But we're gonna push every single guy on offense to beat out the next guy. Coach has done a great job of creating competition in everything we do. We're gonna push Asiantii to beat out Quinton every single snap."

Other veterans expected to get a strong push include MLB Auggie Sanchez, the 2015 tackles leader (117) who is being challenged by Texas transfer Cecil Cherry. Valdes-Scantling, an N.C. State transfer who spent '15 on the scout team, also could leapfrog an incumbent or two up the receiver depth chart.

At tight end, redshirt freshman Mitchell Wilcox lined up with the first team ahead of sophomore Kano Dillon, who played in 10 games (with nine catches) last season.

"When you get complacent and you don't think you have to work for something, I think that's when you fail," Sanchez said. "So definitely to bring people in and to push you along and to get you better, it's something that you don't necessarily like, but it's something that's needed, and that's for any position."

INJURY UPDATE: WR Ryeshene Bronson was sidelined Wednesday with what Taggart described as a nagging lower-body injury. "We're not sure exactly what it is, but it's just one of those nagging injuries that's keeping him from coming out and giving us 100 percent." ... Also rehabbing Wednesday were DE Josh Black (foot), WR Stanley Clerveaux (knee), S Hassan Childs (knee), WR Alex Mut (n/a) and DE Mike Love (foot).

ATTERBURY ON FIRST TEAM: Redshirt freshman Billy Atterbury, a Clearwater Central Catholic alumnus, lined up with the first-team offense Wednesday at right tackle. What significance does that carry in March? Very little, other than the possibility Atterbury impressed coaches with his January and February work.

"That's one thing I noticed, even from last year," returning LT Kofi Amichia said. "From when Billy first stepped on the field during (2015) camp, he definitely got a lot better."

The other o-line starters Wednesday: LG Cameron Ruff, C Michael Galati and returning RG Dominique Threatt. Weist indicated the unit -- which must replace three veteran starters for the second year in a row -- may represent the greatest concern on offense at this point.

"We've got a good first two, almost a first two groups of the offensive line, but we're pretty thin after that right now," he said. "We've got to get some guys healthy."

ODDS AND ENDS: Running backs D'Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice now are wearing jersey numbers 2 and 13, respectively, which they wore in high school. ... The first-team secondary in the Bulls' 4-2-5 alignment Wednesday appeared to be sophomore Ronnie Hoggins, junior Deatrick Nichols, senior Nate Godwin, junior Devin Abraham and junior Tajee Fullwood. ... The Bulls will practice in helmets again on Friday, wear shells (helmets and shoulder pads) on Saturday, then go in full pads for the first time Monday. All practices are open to the public.

[Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2016 1:16pm]

    

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