USF RBs: Lockette ready for high expectations
One more position breakdown to wrap up the series, and we close with running backs coach Telly Lockette, who joined Willie Taggart's staff from prep powerhouse Miami Central after Larry Scott left to go to the University of Miami. Lockette will help the Bulls with strong recruiting ties in Miami, but he also has a good history at the position, having starred at running back at Miami Northwestern and cultivated college talents at that position throughout his high school coaching days.
Lockette has a tough act to follow in Taggart offenses -- every year going back to Taggart's Stanford days with Toby Gerhart, his leading rusher has gained at least 1,500 yards, including two seasons by Bobby Rainey at Western Kentucky and Antonio Andrews there last year. USF, on the other hand, hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Andre Hall in 2006, and none of the Bulls' current backs have experience as a go-to college runner.
"The expectation on the run game is going to be very high. It's what Coach Taggart has built his legacy on," Lockette said. "We're going to put a lot of emphasis on our guys that, as well as rushing the ball, they have to be able to protect the quarterback."
Senior Marcus Shaw is the most experienced of the group, and he went into spring as the guy to beat and has held onto that starting position into fall camp. USF has two returning challengers in junior Mike Pierre, who redshirted last year, and sophomore Willie Davis, who mustered 7 yards last season. Keep an eye on true freshmen Darius Tice and Sta'fon McCray, but for now, the job is Shaw's to lose.
"He's doing a tremendous job right now, academically, he's taking on a leadership role this summer," Lockette said. "He knows he has to put on a little more weight this summer to be a durable back in this offense. It's a challenge to him, a challenge to Mike Pierre and Willie Davis to step up and show what they can do. Before, it was more of a one-back kind of zone (read), so now you have a running back in front of you. They're getting used to having a fullback in front of you, getting a better read. I think Marcus Shaw is ready for the challenge."
-- As much as establishing a traditional running game is a priority, the asset that might most directly lead to playing time looks to be a firm understanding of the pass protection schemes, picking up blitzes and keeping the quarterback safe.
"The college game revolves so much around protecting the quarterback," Lockette said. "I always tell my guys, a couple years ago, when Oklahoma played Florida State and (Central grad) Davonta Freeman let a linebacker jump over him and sack the quarterback, I reiterate back to that. You've got to be able to know the protection. If you can't protect the quarterback, you probably will not play here. Protection is the big thing and you have to be mentally ready, knowing all your keys and making all your reads to protect the quarterback."
-- Pierre is the unknown in the group, having sat out last season behind Demetris Murray, Lindsey Lamar and Shaw. "He's shown a lot of toughness, a lot of great skill. He didn't play too much high school football, went the junior college route, did some good things," Lockette said. "He's got some growing to go, but he's responded real well. I think he can take it the distance, can run between the tackles, can do some great things."
-- Expect to see plenty of catches from running backs coming out of the backfield in motion -- Andrews caught 37 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns last year, and in 2011, Rainey caught 36 balls for 361 yards and four scores. (Murray led all USF backs with 20 catches for 134 yards last season).
-- Of the two freshmen, Lockette knows Tice very well -- he played at district rival Northwestern, so Lockette faced him twice last season, in the regular season and in the state playoffs. "Hard runner, great kid. I know him personally, know his family personally," Lockette said. In the first game, Tice went for about 160 yards, but second time "we were kind of ready for him ... held him to under 100 but he still was very explosive." McCray, he says, is another "big bruiser" who also comes from a good background.
Lockette has an open mind to August and finding which back has the first chance to carry the load. "We're going to find out who can be the workhorse for us," he said.
-- USF also has two true freshman fullbacks in Kennard Swanson and Auggie Sanchez, and given that there are limited fullbacks returning -- Tye Turner coming off a redshirt, walk-on Ryan Eppes transitionin from linebacker last year -- there's an opportunity to play right away for someone.
"Coming out of high school, (Swanson) was the No. 1 fullback in the country," Lockette said. "Auggie, from right over in St. Pete, has the ability to go in right away."