Monday, September 24, 2018
USF Bulls

USF football journal: Competition raging at receiver

Sixteen days before USF's season opener, most of the Bulls' starting lineup is coming into view. But at least two significant spots on the depth chart — the guys throwing and those catching — remain a blur.

Mildly overshadowed by the quarterback derby is a wideout competition featuring no fewer than a half-dozen serious contenders for two starting spots.

Senior Tyre McCants has the slot position nailed down, and fourth-year junior Mitch Wilcox will start at tight end once he returns to action (more on that later). But out wide, second-year receivers coach Charlie Williams must choose from among an assortment of rangy and/or fleet options.

"We're competing every day," Williams said. "We have some really stiff competition, really, at all spots at wideout."

The candidates include fifth-year guys Stanley Clerveaux and Ryeshene Bronson, junior Darnell Salomon, sophomore DeVontres Dukes, redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix and even rookie Zion Roland of Admiral Farragut. Sophomore Jernard Phillips, listed at slot on the depth chart, also could join the rotation.

As the team's second-leading returning receiver (behind McCants), Salomon (32 catches, 512 yards, five TDs) appears the front-runner for one spot. The other might be won by St. Felix, who seemingly delivers at least one splash play a day.

"Oh, he's special, he's really special," Williams said.

"Anything close to him, he's gonna make the play or he's gonna really do the best he can to make the play. He got better and better as the spring went on, and then he just carried that over through the summer, and now we're out here. He's a ballhawk, and he's just special."

Yet he's being pushed by Bronson, who could emerge as a wild card of sorts. After sitting out all of 2017 with a torn right rotator cuff, Bronson — by all accounts — has returned to his pre-injury form. He had a career-best 17 receptions in 2015.

"Me and Stanley Clerveaux, we tell him like, 'Oh, that's the old Ryeshene we know,'" McCants said. "He's come along since his injury last year, and I'm just excited to see what he does."

STILL SIDELINED: For the fourth day in a row, TE Mitch Wilcox — projected to emerge as a vital cog in Sterlin Gilbert's offense — didn't suit up in pads and observed from the sideline.

Wilcox is wearing no brace, boot or cast. And while other injured players do rehab drills on a separate practice field, Wilcox has remained with the team observing practice. His status for Saturday's scrimmage is unclear; Coach Charlie Strong is expected to address his status afterward.

Among those rehabbing (with unspecified injuries) on Thursday were LB Andre Polk, S Naytron Culpepper, OL Jeremiah Stafford and DE Marquies Price.

ODDS AND ENDS: Senior Vincent Jackson, a Jesuit High alumnus, has been logging first-team reps at the hybrid end/outside linebacker spot. … We're predicting it now — the Bulls will wear their all-green Adidas uniforms for the season opener (because we're told that's Charlie Strong's favorite). … New P Trent "Aussie" Schneider brandished a powerful leg late in practice, delivering a rugby-style, end-over-end punt that appeared to sail more than 40 yards in the air. … The Bulls get Friday off before returning for Saturday's closed scrimmage.

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