Several factors — among them experience and attrition — seem to indicate Bulls redshirt junior TE Mitch Wilcox will evolve into an offensive focal point in 2018.
The last three spring practices have indicated it as well.
Arguably no Bull had a more prosperous week than the Tarpon Springs High alumnus, who hauled in a 45-yard Brett Kean pass during Saturday afternoon's closed scrimmage.
On Thursday, Wilcox had four TD catches in 11-on-11 work, according to USF sports-information officials. On Tuesday, he had five receptions.
"He's done a good job," Coach Charlie Strong said following the scrimmage, where the defense reportedly had the upper hand. "He's gonna be in the right place and he's got really good hands and he's gonna be able to make those catches for us."
Wilcox (17 catches, 158 yards, two TDs in '17) entered spring drills as the only tight end to appear in a college game after Kano Dillon announced in February he was transferring. Whether his spring performance carries over into the fall obviously depends on his health and the Bulls' offensive philosophy.
Wilcox and Dillon combined for 28 receptions last year, fewer than Marquez Valdes-Scantling (53), Tyre McCants (36) and Darnell Salomon (32).
"I love the getting the ball in my hands, getting downfield, scoring touchdowns," Wilcox said. "I love it."
DEFENSIVE UPTICK: Challenged by coordinator Brian Jean-Mary after surrendering several offensive splash plays in last weekend's scrimmage, the defense responded Saturday with a blitz-happy performance.
Before roughly 200 high school junior recruits, the defense got interceptions from Plant alumnus Mazzi Wilkins (of Kean) and Tampa Catholic's Bentlee Sanders (of Chris Oladokun). Eyewitnesses said Sanders out-jumped two defenders in the right corner of the end zone for his pick.
MLB Nico Sawtelle and DE Josh Black provided a late highlight, sacking Oladokun in the red zone. The lowlights: some pre-snap penalties on third down, Strong said.
"(Jean-Mary) didn't like how the scrimmage went (last week)," said OLB Khalid McGee, now up to 210 pounds after sliding down from safety late last season. "All the seniors came and we told the defense that we were gonna have a good day today."
The offensive play of the day was provided by Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite, who scored on a 51-yard TD run in the portion not open to reporters. In later red-zone work, Kean had a 10-yard TD pass to slot WR Deangelo Antoine and an 8-yard scoring pass to early enrollee Zion Roland.
"That's exactly what (Cronkrite) can do," Wilcox said. "That's just one glimpse. There's many more to come like that for him."
ODDS AND ENDS: New P Trent Schneider and senior walk-on Jake Vivonetto each went 1-for-2 on 42-yard field goals at the end of the scrimmage. Schneider also went 1-for-2 from 37 yards. … At this stage, Salomon, Stanley Clerveaux and redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix appear to be the top three in the wide-receiver rotation, with Antoine running behind McCants at the slot. … Third-year sophomore RB Elijah Mack had a 3-yard TD run in red-zone work. … Veteran S Jaymon Thomas, sidelined the last several practices with a sprained ankle, didn't scrimmage Saturday but suited up and wore no protective boot. … Strong noted that early enrollees Dwayne Boyles and Antonio Grier are "doing a really good job" at linebacker.