ST. PETERSBURG — His first look at Rutgers came at safety for much of the spring, and with two practices left, he moved to receiver. Now Mohamed Sanu is a little bit of everything for the Scarlet Knights.
Never was his versatility more on display than when the 6-foot-2 freshman took snaps in a wildcat formation that the Scarlet Knights used more and more as their season unfolded.
"It's grown a lot," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "At our place, we always talk about earning the right to touches. We think Mohamed earned that right. As a receiver, defenses can do things to take you out of the game if they want to. By putting him in the wildcat, we know he's getting the touch. He may hand off to somebody, but when we want him to keep it, he's keeping it.
"He's such a good athlete that we need the ball to be in his hands 15 to 20 times. If it's not, we're not using our personnel the best way we can."
Sanu, who was born near Rutgers' campus in New Jersey and spent some of his childhood in Sierra Leone in West Africa, has been prominent at receiver all season. He had 10 catches for 101 yards in his college debut against Cincinnati and has totaled 47 catches for 542 yards.
His wildcat presence has steadily grown — five carries in the first seven games, 13 in the next three, then 18 for 148 yards in a win against Louisville, and 13 for 47 yards in a loss to West Virginia. He has also thrown a 38-yard touchdown pass.
"When I looked at it, he's about 31 percent of their offense in the run game," said UCF coach George O'Leary, whose team faces Sanu and Rutgers in Saturday's St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field. "It's more than we've seen. I think it was 61 plays that we've charted that he's carrying the ball. That's a little bit more than most teams we've played."
There's still a little safety left in Sanu — go to Youtube.com and the first three highlight clips are of him decleating opponents with terrific blocks. Schiano can laugh now that one of his best offensive players spent most of his spring on the other side of the ball.
"There's my genius there," he said. "But let me tell you something: He is a big-time safety. He will split you now. He's a big hitter. Ball skills. Very good player. We felt we didn't have enough playmakers at the receiver position and we moved him over. … He just lit it up. In my mind, unless we came back to camp and he totally fell on his face, he was going to be a starter opposite (senior) Timmy (Brown). He showed enough in three practices that man, alive, we don't have other guys like him."
Sanu's emergence in the wildcat has taken some of the offensive burden off another true freshman, quarterback Tom Savage, who picked up on Sanu's versatility while visiting spring practice, trying to subtly convince him he'd have more fun on offense. And with Brown questionable for Saturday's game with an ankle injury, Sanu could also wind up being Savage's most reliable target.
"I never really realized how many times I touched the ball. I was just like, 'Wow, that's shocking to me,' " Sanu told Mycentraljersey.com this week. "But I was kind of used to it, because I kind of did the same thing in high school. The ball was always in my hands. It was just like second nature here."
TAMPA -- One thing absent from four days of updates on the allegations against USF coach Jim Leavitt has been any public comment from someone else in the locker room during halftime of the Bulls' Nov. 21 game against Louisville.
Leavitt is accused by sources in a story from AOL sports site Fanhouse.com of grabbing walk-on running back Joel Miller by the throat and hitting him twice in the face, an allegation that the coach and now the player have since said is not true.
Now, we can report another perspective on the incident, from USF sophomore safety Jerrell Young, who wrote about the allegations on his Twitter.com page Monday night, hours after the Fanhouse story first appeared.
"This is crazy this thing is being over blowen by the same person that say all of us(usf football players) were thugs a few years ago," Young wrote Monday night.
Later: "it was a motivation talk it was nothing personal. gotta take coaching," he wrote.
Another tweet: "and for this dude to say the players are turning on the coaches. naw i love my coach and all my coaches for that matter." And "they care for us and will go to bat for all of us in a time of need this is my second family and i take it personal when we get talk down."
Young's Twitter account is public, but had only nine followers Monday, including Times reporter Greg Auman. Monday's posts were Young's first on Twitter in more than three months. Young was reached by phone by the Times Wednesday night but declined to comment.
-- Leavitt reiterated his innocence after Thursday's practice, saying he'll wait for an appropriate time before saying more about the allegations against him.
"I came out strong with that, and that has not changed," said Leavitt, who said he will be "patient" as the university continues its investigation.
"I'm just trying to focus on the players and on practice," said Leavitt, who is preparing the Bulls for the International Bowl in Toronto against Northern Illinois on Jan. 2.
Miller, who told ESPN.com's Joe Schad Wednesday that Leavitt never hit him, could play on all of USF's special teams units against Northern Illinois, Leavitt said. He said Miller left Wednesday's practice early to have an MRI exam on his injured shoulder, and that test showed no significant damage.
-- Leavitt said juniors Jake Sims (concussion) and Zach Hermann (neck), USF's most experienced offensive linemen, aren't practicing and are doubtful for the International Bowl.
Sims did not play in USF's season finale against Connecticut on Dec. 5, while Hermann hasn't played since a win against West Virginia on Oct. 30.
Leavitt said senior linebacker Kion Wilson (ankle), who missed the UConn game, is going "real hard" in practice and should be fine to play in the bowl game.
Times correspondent Kerry Klecic contributed to this report.