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Bulls display highlights, hiccups in preseason scrimmage

Redshirt freshman Duran Bell (center) scores on a 4-yard run up the middle during USF's scrimmage on campus Saturday evening. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
Saturday 11 August 2018 22.08

As one might expect from an inaugural preseason scrimmage delayed roughly seven hours by inclement weather, the Bulls had far too many picks, penalties and protection errors for their coach’s liking Saturday evening.

"We have a long ways to go," Charlie Strong said of the two-hour situational session, most of which was closed to reporters. "A lot of room for improvement and we're gonna have to get better. Three weeks from today, we're playing."

But sift through the sloppiness, and the Bulls had more than their share of promising moments on both sides:

* Florida transfer RB Jordan Cronkrite, eligible after sitting out the 2017 season, burst up the middle for a 69-yard touchdown.

"Great job by the offensive line," Cronkrite said. "The quarterback made a good read and I just did my job."

Jordan Cronkrite says he’s slightly thicker since he left #Gators @USFFootball pic.twitter.com/zE9k6MzTrW

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— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) August 12, 2018

* Senior DE Josh Black, a Sickles High alumnus, had three quarterback sacks and another tackle for loss.

"Pretty much that's all I did at Sickles, just rush the quarterback," said Black, who has 32 tackles in an injury-besieged career. "That's just a position that fits me well."

* Freshman WLB Dwayne Boyles had a short pick-six and blocked field goal.

* QB Brett Kean found backup TE Frederick Lloyd for a 29-yard TD.

* Senior walk-on Jake Vivonetto, who probably would be the starting place-kicker if the season began today, booted a 45-yard field goal.

* Senior CB Mazzi Wilkins had an interception of Chris Oladokun in the red zone, moments before FS Bentlee Sanders picked Blake Barnett.

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Yet to Strong, the highlights were offset by the hiccups.

"We just have to get tough mentally," he said. "We'll break down and we're not able to come back from the breakdown. We had too many turnovers and threw critical interceptions. … And then just tackling on defense. We've got to tackle."

QB UPDATE: Strong didn't indicate after the scrimmage if anyone has created separation in the Bulls' three-player quarterback derby. When gates were opened to reporters, Barnett lined up with the first-team offense (against the starting defense) in red-zone work, and tossed a 3-yard TD pass to TE Mitch Wilcox.

But he and Oladokun (also with the first team) were intercepted later in the session by Wilkins and Sanders, respectively.

MATHIS ELIGIBLE: USF officials confirmed former Berkeley Prep TE Jacob Mathis, an Ole Miss transfer, has been declared eligible for this season. A former Under Armour All-American, he becomes the latest Rebel to be deemed eligible immediately elsewhere in the wake of sanctions against the Rebels program late last year.

Related: Former Berkeley Prep star Jacob Mathis now at USF

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Mathis had short TD catch from freshman Octavious Battle in red-zone work late in Saturday's scrimmage.

ODDS AND ENDS: Redshirt freshman Mekhi LaPointe — an Armwood alumnus — got first-team reps late in the scrimmage. … Sports-information officials say Sanders, a redshirt freshman from Tampa Catholic, has had a sparkling camp so far. "Bentlee is really doing a good job for us right now," Strong said. "He's a safety and he made a pick here in the (red) zone, but I just love how he comes out here each and every day and he goes to work." … Former Hillsborough High standout Duran Bell had a 4-yard TD run in red-zone work. … Freshman RB Johnny Ford, who at 5-foot-5 (and 168 pounds) possesses a low center of gravity, broke a couple of tackles for a run of roughly 12 yards in the red zone.

AUDIBLE: "We had the practice schedule earlier, and then it rained so you don't have anywhere to go practice and it throws the timing off. And you had to come and meet, then you had to hold 'em in the meetings hoping that the rain would pass, but that's nothing we can control." — Strong, who had to postpone Saturday's scrimmage seven hours due to the weather. (In other news, still no word on ground-breaking of the USF Football Center.)

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