USF coordinators Kerwin Bell and Brian Jean-Mary held their weekly session with local reporters Wednesday, discussing last week’s triumph at Connecticut and Saturday’s homecoming game against BYU. Here are four significant takeaways from the conversations:
1. The seniors stepped up on the o-line
Few Bulls have been challenged more in the season’s early stages than right tackle Marcus Norman and right guard Billy Atterbury. But in Saturday’s 48-22 romp in East Hartford, Conn., both fifth-year seniors responded in a big way.
Norman graded out at close to 90 percent, according to Bell, complementing sophomore left tackle Donovan Jennings, a Gaither High alumnus whom Bell said is performing “unbelievable” at this point.
“So we just challenged those two seniors, ‘Y’all have got to go play, now,’” Bell said. “And they really picked their game up, and I think that’s really where we got going, now we had all five playing at a really high level.”
2. Blake Barnett is still ailing
Bell indicated the Bulls’ senior quarterback still is nursing a high-ankle sprain, leaving him doubtful for Saturday’s contest. He added starter Jordan McCloud remains nagged by a right-wrist contusion, but appears to be progressing from some dinged-up ankles of his own.
McCloud ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries at UConn. “I think his ankles, which are really important for his mobility, gives us that extra dimension,” Bell said, “and I think he’s gonna be almost 100 percent as far as that’s concerned.”
3. Cougars will be Cougars
Jean-Mary said he doesn’t expect BYU to modify its pro-style offense in any way now that starter Zach Wilson (hand) is sidelined. The reason: redshirt freshman Jaren Hall, who will become the first black quarterback to start for BYU on Saturday, took a bulk of reps in the spring while Wilson was recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I think they have some talented guys,” Jean-Mary said. “I think their receivers are as good a group as we have seen.”
4. A weighty challenge
Bell expressed concern over BYU’s odd-man defensive fronts led by 321-pound nose guard Khyiris Tonga and his backup, 307-pound redshirt freshman Atunaisa Mahe. Tonga, a junior who has played in 31 career games, has 18 tackles, a sack and two pass breakups.
“I told (center) Brad (Cecil) this is his Super Bowl, he’s got to play well for us in there,” Bell said. “He’s got a big assignment.”
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