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New faces, old issues stand out at USF scrimmage

The offense produces at least six touchdowns, but the defense forces just as many turnovers
USF graduate-transfer defensive end Darius Slade (left) signs an autograph during the team's Fan Fest on Saturday at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
USF graduate-transfer defensive end Darius Slade (left) signs an autograph during the team's Fan Fest on Saturday at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published Aug. 10, 2019

TAMPA ― While he’s not about to draw any firm conclusions from his team’s initial scrimmage of preseason camp, Bulls coach Charlie Strong does seem to have one concrete takeaway.

His defensive transfers ― at least those who are eligible in 2019 ― are going to play. A lot.

Safety Devin Studstill (Notre Dame) and cornerback KJ Sails (North Carolina) each had an interception, while rush end Darius Slade (Arizona State) appeared to be in on a forced fumble during USF’s mostly closed scrimmage Saturday morning on campus.

“We’ve got a lot of (defensive) transfers making some big-time plays,” quarterback Blake Barnett said afterward.

Those three, and graduate-transfer linebacker Patrick Macon (Oklahoma State), appear to have established themselves as immediate-impact guys following a summer of conditioning and nine days of fall camp.

Sails, still awaiting word on the hardship-waiver he has filed with the NCAA, is the only one whose status for ’19 remains uncertain.

“They’ve done a good job of learning (the defense),” Strong said. “So now you can watch them and watch next week how they will continue to develop and grow.”

A plethora of penalties aside, Strong said he was “very pleased” with the scrimmage, which featured six turnovers (five interceptions, one fumble) and no fewer than six offensive touchdowns.

Barnett and redshirt freshman backup Jordan McCloud had three scoring passes each. The longest: McCloud’s 57-yard touchdown to third-year sophomore Randall St. Felix on a hot read.

“It was a corner blitz, so I had the quick screen,” St. Felix said. “But the safety jumped down so I had to go, and I caught the go and I scored.”

McCloud also had scoring passes of 19 and 18 yards to slot receiver Johnny Ford and wideout Terrence Horne, respectively. Horne, who missed the final 10 games last season with a torn ACL, remains in a red non-contact jersey.

Barnett’s scoring throws included an 11-yarder to tight end Mitch Wilcox.

“The thing we can’t do, which we had a lot of today, was penalties. We’ve got to get better,” said Strong, whose 7-6 team ranked 110th nationally last season with more than 67 penalty yards a contest.

“It’s nothing but discipline, and we as a coaching staff cannot allow that to happen.”

MORE USF: USF defensive coordinator: tackling greatly improved

Newsome alumnus going long

Strong apparently plans to employ a two-headed kicker this fall, using returner Coby Weiss for short field-goal attempts and Newsome High alumnus Spencer Shrader for longer tries.

A former Wolves kicker and striker on Newsome’s soccer team, Shrader spent most of 2018 competing with an under-20 soccer club in Brazil (a self-penned journal of that experience can be found here). His sister, Sophie, is a midfielder on the Bulls women’s soccer team.

On Saturday, he booted a 53-yarder during the final stage of the scrimmage, and ended the day by dashing around the right side for a short touchdown on a fake.

His formidable leg could nicely complement Weiss’s efficient one. Weiss ended last season hitting nine consecutive field goals, but was 0-for-2 from 40 or more yards.

“It’s good that you have that (tandem),” Strong said. “With Shrader, I just say, ‘Just get the ball to the 40-yard line,’ and I know he’ll go out there and make it.”

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Odds and ends

Defensive tackle Armon Williams and receiver Stanley Clerveaux weren’t suited up Saturday. ... From here on, practices are completely closed, with no viewing windows even for media. ... Strong said he was pleased with the protection of the first-team offensive line, featuring converted right guard Billy Atterbury at left tackle.