TALLAHASSEE — The FSU depth chart is coming into focus at positions that have been contested throughout the preseason. First-year coach Jimbo Fisher said junior WR Taiwan Easterling would start opposite sophomore Willie Haulstead if the season began today.
Easterling would take the spot vacated by Jarmon Fortson, who was dismissed during preseason for violating team rules.
"Playing good ball," Fisher said of Easterling. "Can tell he's a veteran — been around, does everything. Can move him around to different spots, different positions. He's doing a solid job."
Easterling missed spring practice while playing baseball and last year was hampered somewhat after he ruptured an Achilles' tendon in February 2009.
Now, Fisher said, "He moves around a lot better."
this and that: RG David Spurlock, who has been held out for precautionary medical reasons, went through about three-quarters of practice. … Sophomore CB Greg Reid and freshman CB Lamarcus Joyner are likely to return kickoffs, Fisher said. … Fisher predicted that few freshmen would be redshirted.
USF: No UF thoughts
TAMPA — USF opens against I-AA Stony Brook on Sept. 4, with a trip to No. 4 Florida the next week, but coach Skip Holtz said he's not thinking about holding back to hide anything from the Gators.
"I want to win the first game. We'll play the second game the second game," he said. "I don't want to go in as a first-year coach and say, 'Okay, we're going to hold this and this and this,' and then you find yourself in the fourth quarter, fighting, kicking, scratching, biting, clawing, whatever you've got to do to win. We have to get this team ready to play a game."
praise for mitchell: Freshman Terrence Mitchell has a future as a cornerback, but the Hillsborough High grad could make his first impact on returns, where he's getting a long look on kickoffs and punts.
"He's a talent, and he could definitely help this team," Holtz said. "You have to start with a trust factor, with who you feel you can put back there to secure the ball. That's where it starts, and then once you find the guy that can secure it, you want to find the guy who can run it to the house. We might have one guy catch it and hand it to another guy if we can't get the best combination of both."
THIS AND THAT: In discussing true freshmen he expects to play this season, Holtz said he is also strongly considering walk-on Stephen Bravo-Brown, who has made a quick impression after working with former NFL star receiver Cris Carter at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale. … The team will hold its final scrimmage of the preseason tonight. Holtz said it will be more of a dress rehearsal than something to change the depth chart for the opener.
Greg Auman, Times staff writer
UF: 'We're all good'
GAINESVILLE — Gators coach Urban Meyer confirmed that freshmen DLs Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley missed part of a practice this week. Asked for further comment, Meyer repeatedly responded: "We're all good."
"Our freshman class is doing great," he said. "I keep hearing this, and I keep hearing that, and everything is in good shape."
Powell and Easley are members of a freshman class ranked No. 2 in the nation by Rivals.com. Meyer said Monday that he had been disappointed in Powell's performance in training camp.
Injuries: OLs Xavier Nixon and Matt Patchan will miss the opener Sept. 4 against Miami (Ohio), Meyer said.
Nixon, who started the final five games as a freshman last season, had surgery on his right knee. Patchan, a former Armwood High standout, had a pin put into his right wrist.
Mike Pouncey said this week he expected to shift from center to tackle in the opener because of the injuries, but Meyer said he is opposed to the move because he wants QB John Brantley to feel comfortable receiving snaps in his first career start.
"First game, I want the ball to hit the quarterback in the hands and not look like the Bad News Bears," Meyer said.
TE Jordan Reed is out indefinitely with a deep bruise on his right knee, an injury less severe than Meyer initially thought.
Tyler Jett, Times correspondent
UM: Byrd better
CORAL GABLES — Miami WR LaRon Byrd expects to be ready for Thursday's opener against Florida A&M.
Byrd missed a week of training camp with an undisclosed left-leg injury, originally fearing that it would be a season-ending issue. After tests revealed just a minor problem, Miami's second-leading receiver from last season returned to practice and said he was healthy.
Byrd says he's doing two cardio workouts daily.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior had 33 catches for 460 yards and a touchdown last season.
UCF: Words to win by
ORLANDO — UCF sophomore S Kemal Ishmael said it's great to be on a team with players who speak his language.
Ishmael is one of 21 Knights from the South Florida area.
"It's exciting because they talk how I talk," Ishmael said. "They understand what I'm saying. When you talk about helmets, you talk about what kind of face masks they have, and we have different names for them in Miami. One of them calls it a monster crab; I call it a lumberjack. It's pretty cool."
Ishmael said more people in South Florida are paying attention to UCF because of the influx of young Miami athletes.
"We're going to turn it into something big in a couple of years," he said.