TAMPA — Players officially report today for coach Skip Holtz's third season at USF, and while his football team doesn't have many starting jobs unclaimed, the biggest position battle is for the second cornerback job opposite senior Kayvon Webster.
"(It's) definitely one that's up in the air," Holtz said this week at the Big East's media day in Rhode Island. "I feel good about it, because we've got like six guys fighting for it that are good enough to play."
Junior Fidel Montgomery, who joined the Bulls in January, might be the player to beat, though defensive backs coach Rick Smith said he was impressed in spring by senior George Baker, who hasn't played consistently enough in game situations to earn the full trust of coaches. Another promising if unproven challenger is redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden.
Holtz's opening-week starter against I-AA Chattanooga is likely to be one of those three.
"I think there's a lot of talent there. It's just the unknown. That has not yet played out," said Holtz, who also wants to solidify the backup linebacker spots. "Other than that, I think we pretty much know who's where. There's still some competition battles going on, but it's (between) two really good players."
At left guard, junior Lawrence Martin, a January enrollee, will challenge senior Damien Edwards, who has played sparingly but came out of spring drills atop the depth chart.
The team reports today and will have two practices in shoulder pads Monday and Tuesday before leaving for Vero Beach, where it will spend 11 days training at the former Dodgertown practice complex. It will return for FanFest at 2 p.m. on Aug. 19 at Raymond James Stadium.
MOURNING A LOSS: Junior walk-on WR Jonny Sitton lost his older brother, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton, 26, who was killed last week while serving in Afghanistan. Holtz extended condolences Friday to the Sitton family and said Sitton — who played for the Bulls in 2010 and spent last season at NAIA Shorter University — can spend as much time as he needs with his family before reporting to camp.
ANOTHER OPTION: Webster said he enters camp as the team's No. 2 option on kick returns, a role he was held out of last season because of a lack of healthy cornerbacks. He had four kickoff returns in his first two seasons and said he'd like the chance to line up deep. Last year's primary returner, RB Lindsey Lamar, also is back.
"I'm definitely going to look into that," Webster said. "I don't mind playing special teams. I actually love special teams."
THIS AND THAT: Reserve CB Ricardo Dixon, limited by injuries the past two seasons, has transferred to I-AA Youngstown State, where he's reunited with former USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey. His position coach there, USF alum Glenn Davis, was a graduate assistant with the Bulls last year. … Five players graduated Saturday, including two juniors, DT Luke Sager and G John McGhin, who got their degrees in three years. … Walk-on Jordan Duval, arrested last month on a felony grand theft charge and accused of stealing a fellow student's iPhone, was not listed on the fall roster released to the media Tuesday.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3346. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf. Follow him on Twitter at @GregAuman.