TAMPA — The starting quarterbacks were pulled at halftime of USF’s spring game Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium so coach Jeff Scott could get a good look at the backups.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t more Scott still wanted to see from his starters.
Timmy McClain, who is battling Katravis Marsh to guide the Bulls’ offense, returned late in the fourth quarter and completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ajou Ajou to lead the White team to a 17-14 comeback victory over the Green.
McClain, who struggled with inconsistency last season due in part to his scrambling, aims to be more disciplined this year. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown and added 34 yards on three carries.
“It’s been real hard staying in the pocket,” he said. “I was forcing a lot of stuff last year, but this year’s going to be different.”
McClain is being challenged by Marsh, who threw for 124 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half. The first was a 10-yarder on a slant pattern to Xavier Weaver, the second a 4-yard pass to Yusuf Terry.
“The most important thing was to have fun and compete,” Marsh said, “and that’s what we did.”
The quarterbacks exchanged turnovers on consecutive plays in the second half. One play after Antonio Grier Jr. picked off Marsh, McClain was intercepted by Mekhi LaPointe, an Armwood graduate.
“Up and down” is how Scott assessed the play of his two starters. “I’m not going to make excuses for them. I think they managed the game pretty well,” he said. “Overall, I’m pleased with the progress of the quarterbacks.”
Tight end Gunnar Greenwald, with three receptions for 59 yards, was the leading receiver for the White team.
Ajou, a transfer from Clemson and Clearwater International Academy alumnus, had just two catches for 27 yards. But he earned praise from both his coach and Weaver, who had four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown for the Green squad.
“His size (6-feet-3, 220 pounds), and he’s got good ball skills,” Weaver said. “We really need that in our receiver room.”
Ajou credited Scott for his choice to sign with Clemson, as well as his decision to return the Tampa Bay area to play for USF.
“The one I could trust for real is Jeff Scott,” he said.
Another local player who made an impact was former Mitchell running back Mychael Hamilton, who started his college career at Ellsworth Community College and Southwest Oklahoma State due to grade issues. He was the game’s rushing leader with 50 yards on eight carries.
“He’s definitely different than what we’ve had,” Scott said of Hamilton, who has both the ability to run over defenders and breakaway speed.
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Hamilton, who surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards at Mitchell, said he learned from his travels to other schools to “just be patient, don’t rush the process.”
Another local back, Jason Albritton, formerly of Newsome, scored on a 1-yard touchdown.
Brian Norris, a linebacker for the White team, led all defenders with nine tackles, including seven solo stops. Linebacker D.J. Gordon, from Plant City, led the Green squad with five tackles.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who played for Scott at Clemson, spoke with the team before the game. Watkins who has played for four NFL teams in eight seasons and won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2019 season, currently is a free agent.
“I heard him talk for 20 minutes,” Scott said. “Probably more than he did in three years at Clemson.”
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