Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

USF Bulls' offensive line has ever-changing cast early in season

TAMPA — Coach Skip Holtz said Tuesday that he wants more consistency in all phases of the game. But it's hard to be consistent while shuffling personnel every week — specifically on the offensive line. Through five games USF has seen four combinations of starting linemen.

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said he thinks the trial and error has paid off.

"We've got the best five playing," he said. "It took a little while to get that going, but this is the best five we've got right now."

Those five are LT Damien Edwards, LG Mark Popek, C Austin Reiter, RG Danous Estenor and RT Quinterrius Eatmon. But even this group has seen slight tweaks, with Edwards and Popek swapping positions twice this season.

UP IN THE AIR: After muffing punts in back-to-back games, WR Terrence Mitchell was relieved of his duties against Ball State by Evan Landi. Mitchell, from Hillsborough High, got his job back against Rutgers, but fumbled a punt return, and against Florida State he muffed another that was recovered by USF. The Seminoles' final punt was fair caught by WR Andre Davis. Holtz said Landi, Davis, and DB Kenneth Durden are possible replacements. The Bulls want a pair of sure hands against Temple P Brandon MacManus, who is fourth in the nation, averaging 47.1 yards per punt.

Joe Polito, Times correspondent

UF: Facing tough D

GAINESVILLE — The Gators are preparing to face one of their toughest challenges in No. 4 LSU. The Tigers are No. 4 nationally in total defense (217.8 yards per game), No. 6 in pass defense (134.8) and No. 9 in scoring defense (12.6 points).

"As you can tell, they're a pretty good defense, pretty stout on the defensive line and have some high motor guys that don't give up," TB Hunter Joyer said. "It's going to be a challenge blocking and moving the ball, but I think we can do it."

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease said it's imperative that the Gators figure out how to handle the Tigers' stellar four-man front.

"You can't let the good players beat you," Pease said. "They've got a lot of good players, so we've got to kind of pick our poison. … They roll with two different groups, so they're rolling seven, eight or nine guys at times, but their four-man rush really gets to you, so they don't have to do a lot of blitzing and scheme-wise, try to mix it up on you."

CORRECTING MISTAKES: One of LSU's major concerns is eliminating mistakes and penalties. LSU leads the SEC with 42 penalties. In Saturday's win over Towson, the Tigers had 10 penalties, five fumbles, four sacks and three turnovers. "Offensively, the uncharacteristic turnovers, I'm glad they are getting them out of the way early as much as I hate to see them, because we can't afford that as we go forward," coach Les Miles said. "On a team that we coach ball security aggressively, it will continue again (Monday), and Tuesday and Wednesday and right through (the week). I can't imagine that won't get addressed well and fixed."

Antonya English, Times staff writer

UCF: Murray healthy

ORLANDO — UCF senior RB Latavius Murray is slated to return Thursday against East Carolina. He missed three games with a shoulder injury; he was cleared to play last week against Missouri but wasn't inserted into the rotation.

Orlando Sentinel

UM: DT doutful

CORAL GABLES — Miami DT Olsen Pierre is doubtful for Saturday's game against Notre Dame in Chicago, coach Al Golden said. Pierre has missed two days of practice with an injury. Golden said LB Denzel Perryman looked good in practice after missing two games with a leg injury.

Sun Sentinel

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