After giving up 456 passing yards and two long touchdowns in a 40-9 loss at Miami, USF is looking for new answers in its secondary, with redshirt freshman cornerback Kenneth Durden getting work Tuesday with the first-string defense.
Durden, who has five tackles in limited action this season, is challenging senior George Baker (42 tackles), one of only two Bulls seniors to start all 10 games this season.
"Just as we did the quarterbacks a week ago, when we've got a couple of people competing for a position, we roll them out there and let them compete every day," coach Skip Holtz said. "It's not fair to have one go all the time with the 1s and the other with the 2s, so we mix it up. This is an evolving process, especially with some of the young guys right now. As a football team, we're trying to continue to get better."
Baker and USF's other starting corner, Kayvon Webster, are both seniors, and with freshman Chris Bivins undergoing surgery for a second torn ACL, the Bulls have few returning cornerbacks for 2013. Durden and Josh Brown would likely enter spring drills as projected starters, though USF will sign a few junior college corners to join the program in January and compete for starting jobs.
"I'm just trying to prepare for the future, trying to get ready for next year," Durden said. "I'm excited and ready to do what I've got to do."
Holtz said he's also giving sophomore walk-on Tre Griffin a look at safety, challenging starters Mark Joyce and JaQuez Jenkins, and he wants more competition after seeing uncontested deep passes during Saturday's loss.
Durden is also an option on punt returns, where Terrence Mitchell has fumbled or muffed four returns, losing three of those fumbles. Since a promising 69 yards on punt returns in the opener against I-AA Chattanooga, Mitchell has totaled 11 yards on four returns; receiver Andre Davis took over the return duties for four games but stopped after suffering an ankle injury against Connecticut. Davis totaled 35 yards on his nine returns.
"I've been returning punts (in practice) for a while. I've been trying to get back there, but they won't put me back there," Durden said.