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Bulls brimming with receivers in Year 2 of Charlie Strong era

An assortment of veterans and rookies make the receiver depth chart the team's most intriguing.
USF senior receiver Ryeshene Bronson missed the entire 2017 season with a torn right rotator cuff. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
USF senior receiver Ryeshene Bronson missed the entire 2017 season with a torn right rotator cuff. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
Published Apr. 5, 2018

A handful of receivers, and receivers coach Charlie Williams, were made available to reporters after Thursday's USF practice, affording us a chance to do a deep dive into the position.

We needn't dive warily either. There's plenty of depth at this spot. So much so, coaches felt comfortable switching Chris Barr and DeVontres Dukes to defense earlier this spring.

We know you've heard this before, but senior Stanley Clerveaux — one of the Bulls' most snake-bitten players — appears poised for a breakthrough.

Clerveaux (three career receptions) tore his left labrum shortly after his arrival from North Miami High in 2014, then tore his left ACL on the artificial-turf practice field in the '15 preseason. He was recently granted a sixth year by the NCAA, giving him two more seasons of eligibility.

He's currently carrying 225 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, roughly 50 more than when he arrived at USF.

"This spring he's starving, he's hungry," teammate Darnell Salomon said.

"Stanley's been the leader, he's been catching the ball, running good routes," Williams said. "He put one on the ground the other day that he knows he should've caught in the scrimmage, but he's in Year 2 in the offense and he's having fun."

Don't look for senior Ryeshene Bronson, still recovering from a torn right rotator cuff in the 2016 preseason, to take any live reps at next weekend's spring game, though he's dying to.

"I'm gonna play in the spring game, I'm gonna play," he said. "I miss the game so much, I've got to get out there and feel it."

Bronson, who totaled 30 receptions and three touchdowns his first three seasons before missing all of 2017, has been confined to a red non-contact jersey all spring. He has added 15 pounds — from 193 to 208 — since the injury, hoping to convert it to more muscle upon being cleared to do more in the weight room.

"I think he's still a ways off," Williams said. "He's feeling better about himself because he's taking hits. We're trying not to tackle him to the ground, but he's learning how to take hits again because that was pretty vicious when he got hurt last year. But the thing about it is, he's moving in the right direction."

Speaking of that "vicious" hit, inflicted by former DB Deatrick Nichols on a Bronson jet sweep, the 6-3 Fort Myers native said he harbors no ill will.

"I still to this day feel like he didn't mean to hurt me," Bronson said. "I couldn't slow down and … he protected himself as well. I don't blame him. You're in shoulder pads, it's football. Stuff happens."

Even with a logjam of veterans on the depth chart, several youngsters appear to be making a push for serious playing time. Among them are 6-2 redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix and 5-10 sophomore Jernard Phillips.

Felix reportedly hauled in a pass of roughly 25 yards on a back-shoulder throw from Brett Kean in Thursday's practice portion that was closed.

"Every ball that's in the air, he believes it's gonna be his, and he's won the 50-50 balls more so than he's lost that battle," Williams said. "He just keeps on coming every day, and we love that out of him."

Phillips, meantime, might lead all receivers in catches at this stage of spring, Clerveaux said.

"He's a small guy but he's got a big heart," Bronson said. "I call him a lion. He's the king of my jungle; I love Jernard."

• At this point, many receivers appear interchangeable at the slot and wideout spots. Even Clerveaux was running some slot Thursday.

"For the guys that were with us last year, you can see it's coming," Williams said. "We're gonna be able to mix and match these guys, play 'em inside and outside, and as long as we keep 'em healthy it's gonna be fun to watch 'em compete."

ODDS AND ENDS: All three kickers — walk-ons Jake Vivonetto and Marco Salani and scholarship P Trent Schneider — converted Thursday from 43 yards during a brief special teams portion closed to the media, USF sports-information officials said. … LB Antonio Grier, an early enrollee, didn't suit up and had his left arm in a sling. Coach Charlie Strong could address Grier's injury Saturday. … In the quarterback derby, Kean had two red-zone TD passes, while Chris Oladokun had the day's niftiest scramble, dashing to the edge and juking a linebacker for a significant gain upfield. … Fourth-year junior Billy Atterbury, the starter at right guard in the final 10 games last season, continued working at right tackle Thursday. Redshirt freshman Demetris Harris was at right guard. … Some post-whistle skirmishes in the final scrimmage session resulted in a team tongue-lashing from Strong at the end of practice.

AUDIBLE: "They're doing a terrific job, both of 'em. They're slinging that ball. Right now it's tough. I don't how the coaching staff's gonna make a decision 'cause that's a tough battle right now. I'd hate to be in that room to have to make that call, make that decision, but they're both doing real good right now." — Clerveaux on the QB competition

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