Thursday, September 20, 2018
USF Bulls

Ten observations from 10 USF spring practices

Though Bulls coach Charlie Strong has limited what the media can observe this spring (typically the last 15-20 minutes of practice), we nonetheless have seen, heard and sensed enough to deduce a few things.

With that limited window in mind, here are 10 observations through 10 USF spring practices.

1. A starting quarterback won't be named any time soon. Even if the coaches know who the No. 1 guy will be (and we don't think they do), they're not going to announce it (Why should they?). During the portion of practice open to reporters, Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun typically split reps with the first-team offense. If the season began tomorrow, we'd probably give the nod to Kean, based simply on a couple of solid scrimmages (so we're told). But we wouldn't be stunned if a starter weren't announced until a few days before the season opener.

2. Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite is the odds-on — but not overwhelming — favorite to win the starting tailback job. For the second consecutive spring, redshirt freshman Elijah Mack has turned heads, busting loose for a 70-yard run during situational third-down scrimmage work Tuesday. Wouldn't shock us a bit to see a Cronkrite-Mack or Cronkrite-Trevon Sands rotation in 2018, with Hillsborough High alumnus Duran Bell providing a periodic change of pace as a scatback.

3. Coaches don't seem as worried about the d-line departures as one might presume. Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary believes he has "quality depth" at end (led by veterans Greg Reaves and Kirk Livingstone), while the interior is gradually developing it. Sophomore tackles Kelvin Pinkney and Kevin Kegler continue progressing after promising rookie seasons (26 combined tackles), redshirt sophomore Mi'Cario Stanley is coming along, and veteran Kevin Bronson has been un-blockable at times (functional phrase: at times). "(Bronson) has got all the talent in the world," Jean-Mary said. "We've just got to get it on a more consistent basis." To fortify inside depth, Jean-Mary recently slid redshirt freshman Darrien Grant from end to tackle.

4. Tyre McCants still is a beast.

5. So is fellow receiver Darnell Salomon.

6. Safety is the area of greatest concern. Senior FS Jaymon Thomas, the only returner from last season's two-deep chart, has missed most of the spring with a sprained ankle, leaving the bulk of the reps to rookies and even project players (i.e. converted WR DeVontres Dukes, converted CB Naytron Culpepper). On the flip side, the door is wide open for a youngster such as redshirt freshman Mekhi LaPointe (Armwood) to break out.

7. If safety is No. 1 in the concern category, kicker is 1A. No one has been especially consistent during the open portions of practice, though John Carroll University transfer Jake Vivonetto has had some nice moments (including 40- and 45-yard field goals Tuesday). Who knows, maybe the starting kicker isn't even on the roster yet.

8. Barring injury, redshirt sophomore Michael Wiggs will replace Cameron Ruff at center. An aspiring orthopedic surgeon (and a class president all four years at Lake Gibson High), Wiggs has the smarts and size (6-foot-3, 298 pounds) required for the job. He was seriously contending for a starting gig last year before getting hurt in the preseason.

9. Redshirt junior Marcus Norman, once one of the shyest people on the team, has emerged as a strong candidate to fill the leadership vacuum created by the departures of Quinton Flowers, Auggie Sanchez, etc. "He was my first roommate in college…and super quiet," TE Mitch Wilcox said. "But now he has trimmed down weight (listed at 301 pounds) and he's lighter and he's more vocal, and he's getting older. He's kind of like myself, I'm more vocal now."

10. Speaking of Wilcox, he appears destined to be targeted far more than he was in 2017 (17 catches, 158 yards). The Tarpon Springs High alumnus practically has been a possession receiver during some open portions of practice, catching four TD passes in one day. Of course, we've said this about Bulls tight ends before.

Comments
USF’s Randall St. Felix breaking out early, and more Bulls bits

USF’s Randall St. Felix breaking out early, and more Bulls bits

TAMPA — After admiring Randy Moss for years, it's not a coincidence that USF receiver Randall St. Felix's wears Moss' No. 84."I feel like he's the best receiver to ever touch a football," St. Felix said.It's obviously too early and too unf...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF up to No. 2 in AAC power rankings

USF up to No. 2 in AAC power rankings

Three schools remain unbeaten, led by UCF, which moved up to No. 16 in the Associated Press poll. USF beat a Power Five opponent for the second week in a row and Cincinnati is off to its best start since 2012. The biggest jump this week comes from Te...
Updated: 7 hours ago
After fleeing Hurricane Florence, East Carolina trying to keep routine in Orlando before USF game

After fleeing Hurricane Florence, East Carolina trying to keep routine in Orlando before USF game

There is nothing normal about the situation East Carolina's football team finds itself in after Hurricane Florence.The Pirates' last scheduled game (against Virginia Tech) was canceled. After evacuating campus a week ago, they remain sequestered in o...
Updated: 8 hours ago
USF, Central Michigan cancel 2-game football series

USF, Central Michigan cancel 2-game football series

USF athletic director Michael Kelly confirmed Wednesday the Bulls and Central Michigan have mutually agreed to terminate their two-game home-and-home series set to begin next year in Mount Pleasant, Mich.The agreement was reached earlier this year, b...
Published: 09/19/18
Charlie Strong still not happy with USF’s start against Illinois

Charlie Strong still not happy with USF’s start against Illinois

TAMPA — USF coach Charlie Strong was obviously happy with how his Bulls rebounded Saturday to turn a 16-7 halftime deficit into a 25-19 road win over Illinois. But he was displeased with the first-half performance that got them in that hol...
Published: 09/17/18
USF still unranked but moving closer to AP Top 25

USF still unranked but moving closer to AP Top 25

USF moved closer to being ranked in the AP Top 25 after its win over Illinois on Saturday.The Bulls received 14 votes, which would make them No. 32. That's two more votes than Texas, for what it's worth.Alabama remained at No. 1, and Georgia passed C...
Published: 09/16/18
USF morning after: 5 random thoughts on the unbeaten Bulls

USF morning after: 5 random thoughts on the unbeaten Bulls

A few items to ponder in the wake of USF's latest come-from-behind triumph:1. The Bulls absolutely, positively had to pull this one out for any chance at getting ranked before Thanksgiving. The upcoming slate (East Carolina, UMass, Tulsa, Connecticut...
Published: 09/16/18
USF shakes off horrific half, rallies past Illinois 25-19

USF shakes off horrific half, rallies past Illinois 25-19

CHICAGO — For the better part of three quarters Saturday, USF delivered an absolute monstrosity on the Midway. Picks, penalties and poor kicks were conspiring to produce the worst effort of the 15-game Charlie Strong era.But in a display of gri...
Published: 09/15/18
USF journal: Terrific TEs, never-quit QBs and reliable RBs

USF journal: Terrific TEs, never-quit QBs and reliable RBs

CHICAGO — USF coach Charlie Strong spent most of the offseason stumping for junior TE Mitch Wilcox, insisting the Tarpon Springs High alumnus was poised for a breakthrough year.Not to mention a few break-record games. Such as the one he deliver...
Published: 09/15/18
Joey Knight’s takeaways from USF-Illinois

Joey Knight’s takeaways from USF-Illinois

To state the obvious, the Bulls' lack of a steady kicking game invariably will come back to haunt them. Though coach Charlie Strong said opening-night kicker Jake Vivonetto was available Saturday, he opted for transfer Coby Weiss, who went 1-for-3. "...
Published: 09/15/18