USF journal: Bulls seeking depth on defensive line
Though USF entered the preseason with a solid foursome of defensive tackles in Bruce Hector, Deadrin Senat, Marlon Gonzalez and Kevin Bronson, one minor dilemma remains.
The Bulls need that quartet to become a quintet.
"I need five guys," tackles coach Sean Cronin said Thursday.
The reasons for a five-player rotation are obvious and plenteous: Injuries occur. Fresh bodies are essential against the plethora of high-tempo offense the Bulls face. And of course, greater depth modifies the number of reps for each player, allowing them to max out each snap.
"I don't expect them to play like normal," Cronin said. "When you turn on the film, I don't want 'em to look like every d-lineman. I want them to look like they have exceptional effort. Well, you can't do that for an entire game. So you have to roll 'em and keep 'em fresh."
Just who will emerge as that fifth lineman remains uncertain. Cronin said freshmen Kelvin Pinkney (6-foot-3, 284 pounds) and Kevin Kegler (6-2, 280) have shined at times but struggled with consistency. Meantime, converted LB Mi'Cario Stanley (6-2, 274) is starting to catch on.
"It was new to him and he was really a fish out of water, and now he's starting to figure it out," Cronin said. "It's starting to slow down for him too, so he's starting to get better too."
Additionally, some Bulls -- such as Hector -- continue cross-training to add depth both inside and on the edge.
"Within those positions, the different stuff we ask them to do, they've got to be a pretty special guy to play d-line here," Cronin said.
TAKING A TOLL: The rigors of preseason -- Thursday was the Bulls' 13th practice -- has become evident in the growing number of players rehabbing off to the side.
Among those who appeared limited Thursday were at least a half-dozen defensive ends including former local prep standouts Mike Love (Countryside), Josh Black (Sickles), Vincent Jackson (Jesuit) and Juwuan Brown (Jefferson). All, however, were suited up (in shorts and shells).
"If you feel great on the defensive line, you're not playing defensive line the right way," Cronin said. "You're always gonna be hurting. So you have to know the difference between hurt and injured, and stay in that training room and be ready to come out and fight through some stuff."
A WARRIOR IN THE TRENCHES: Barring an injury late in camp, 175-pound freshman Zach Deitz -- a Steinbrenner High alumnus -- will be the Bulls' new long snapper. Deitz replaces reliable veteran Alex Salvato, who graduated.
Meantime, P Jonathan Hernandez has replaced QB Brett Kean as the holder on kicks. Speaking of Hernandez, he and PK Emilio Nadelman have looked especially sharp this preseason.
ODDS AND ENDS: Freshman RB Duran Bell Jr., who has caught the eye of coaches throughout the preseason, was wearing a sleeve on his left knee Thursdday and appeared to be walking gingerly. ... Third-year sophomore Billy Atterbury lined up at second-team right tackle Thursday as the Bulls continue to mix and match up front in search of the ideal lineup. The second-team line -- Atterbury, RG Jean Marcellus, C Jeremiah Stafford, LG Glen Bethel and LT Christion Gainer. Marcellus, Stafford and Gainer are freshmen. ... WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling suited up for Thursday's practice but didn't participate in any live work open to reporters.
AUDIBLE: "He's putting us in the fire, he's letting us know we've got to grind day-in and day-out. ... He wants us to be hurting, he wants us to embrace the grind. Like Coach (Willie Taggart) used to say, 'Embracke the suck.' He wants us to...just get it in now, so when game time comes it's gonna be easy." -- Senat on Coach Charlie Strong's preseason camp, which features six consecutive days of practice this week