Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Colleges

USF spring game stars: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Vince and Lenda Naimoli

TAMPA — A few takeaways from Saturday's USF spring game, which featured a hearty crowd (4,432), hefty donation (courtesy of Vince and Lenda Naimoli) and huge afternoon by Lakewood High alumnus Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven catches, 123 yards, two TDs).

A new offense

Even with fringe Heisman candidate Quinton Flowers limited to a cameo (two possessions) and starting tailback D'Ernest Johnson (tweaked ankle) held out, the Bulls reinforced their new offensive philosophy: establish a power run game and maximize their size advantage on the outside.

That vertical component produced the most exciting moments. It began with Sickles High alumnus Chris Oladokun recognizing single-high coverage and finding sophomore Darnell Salomon down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown.

Shortly thereafter, third-year sophomore Brett Kean — battling Oladokun for the backup job — connected with Valdes-Scantling for the winning score, a 51-yarder down the left sideline in the Green's 15-14 triumph.

"We drew 'em offside and it was a free play," Valdes-Scantling said. "Brett threw it up and he said, 'Go make a play,' and that's what I did."

Backups make case

Speaking of the backup quarterback derby, both candidates finished with similar numbers. Oladokun went 10-for-19 for 176 yards and one touchdown; Kean finished 15-for-28 for 151 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (by safety Jaymon Thomas).

They undoubtedly would've amassed more total yardage had plays not been whistled dead any time they were touched by a defensive player.

"I wish we had a little more freedom just because … how I can run the ball in open space," Oladokun said. "I feel like I could've made a couple more yards and a couple more extra plays. But I understand they don't want us to get hit and are trying to protect us and make us go through our progressions."

Short day for Flowers

Flowers had a touchdown (a 24-yarder to slot receiver Deangelo Antoine) and an interception (by East Lake alumnus Devin Abraham) in his only two possessions. Coach Charlie Strong knew better than to risk injury to his most precious offensive commodity.

Mack impressive

Redshirt freshman Elijah Mack did nothing to harm his quest to become USF's bell-cow back of the future. Mack led all rushers with 60 yards on 14 carries, though senior Darius Tice (seven carries, 59 yards) dashed for more than 40 yards on his first three handoffs.

Kicker's redemption

Veteran kicker Emilio Nadelman, who missed a pair of chip shots during a recent scrimmage, found redemption of sorts with a 44-yarder into the wind in the first half. The Bulls lined up to let Nadelman try a 50-yarder on the final play that would've given the White team a win, but Strong called it off.

"It was against the wind," Strong said. "And then Emilio's coming back off that (quad) injury (from last season), and I just felt like we didn't need to try to see how strong his leg was today."

Thanks to Naimolis

Rays founder Vince Naimoli, who has had a love-hate relationship with area baseball fans, endeared himself to the Bulls demographic Saturday. Naimoli, 79, and his wife, Lenda, were recognized at halftime for their $1 million gift that will support facility projects for the football and tennis teams, and the renovation of the Fishman Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center.

Limited exposure

If you're into spring-game scrutiny, be careful not to evaluate the team — or even the position groups — based on the scrimmage (which featured a second-half running clock). This was a split-squad event, meaning no one saw the starting offensive line or first-team linebacker group on the field at once. Heck, if you blinked, you missed the starting quarterback.

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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