USF preseason: some midpoint observations

Here's what we've seen, sensed and heard two weeks into the Bulls' preseason camp
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
USF running back Duran Bell (22) runs during practice at the Frank Morsani Football Complex in Tampa, Florida on Monday, August 13, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times USF running back Duran Bell (22) runs during practice at the Frank Morsani Football Complex in Tampa, Florida on Monday, August 13, 2018.
Published Aug. 17, 2018

A full two weeks have elapsed since USF's first preseason practice, and two weeks (and a day) remain before the first game. By our math, that makes today the midpoint of the preseason.

Brilliant, huh? Hey, that's not our only profound observation. We've got plenty more, based on what we've seen, sensed and heard from the Bulls so far in August.

Since we're 14 days in, here are 14 of 'em:

1. Coaches aren't paying lip service to the evenness (in terms of reps) of the quarterback competition. Each day, a different guy is running with the first team during the portion open to reporters. Some days, more than one takes first-team snaps.

2. That said, we believe Charlie Strong and Sterlin Gilbert will determine a No. 1 QB (and keep it under wraps) after Saturday's scrimmage.

Related: Charlie Strong: Decision on USF starting QB must come soon

3. We'd be shocked if WLB Khalid McGee doesn't lead USF in tackles this season. Of all the Bulls who have changed positions since the end of 2017, none have transitioned more naturally than McGee, who slides permanently into the box (at weakside 'backer) after nearly three seasons at safety.

4. The place-kicking battle appears to have been whittled down to senior walk-on Jake Vivonetto and Tennessee State transfer Coby Weiss, though both are struggling to develop the consistency to which Bulls fans have grown accustomed (see Marvin Kloss, Emilio Nadelman). Vivonetto has been slightly better in periods open to reporters and probably — probably — would be the guy if the season began today.

5. WR Tyre McCants remains every bit of 240 pounds.

6. The starting offensive line appears set: LT Eric Mayes, LG Demetris Harris, C Michael Wiggs, RG Billy Atterbury and RT Marcus Norman.

7. Redshirt freshman WR Randall St. Felix appears poised for a breakthrough year. Dude seems to make an explosive play daily.

Related: USF football journal: Competition raging at receiver

8. Though unconventional, the Bulls always seem to give the ball to 5-foot-10, 174-pound redshirt freshman RB Duran Bell in short-yardage situations. And the Hillsborough High alumnus always seems to convert.

9. USF will be fine at punter with 28-year-old Australia native Trent "Aussie" Schneider. Dude doesn't quite have the leg of predecessor Jonathan Hernandez, but he's more than serviceable.

10. Speaking of running backs, Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite seems to be tightening his grip on the starting job. By all accounts though, the solid springs of Trevon Sands and Elijah Mack have carried over into August.

11. Our best guess at the starting secondary: CB Mazzi Wilkins, CB Mike Hampton, nickel Ronnie Hoggins, FS Jaymon Thomas, SS Mekhi LaPointe (though Tampa Catholic alumnus Bentlee Sanders also will play a lot).

12. Bulls coaches will maximize the new redshirt rule along the defensive front. Rookies such as DT Tyrone Barber, DE Rashawn Yates and DT Devin Leacock all can play up to four games this season without burning their respective redshirts. We think they will.

13. Strong has a multi-purpose dynamo in the making in 5-5, 168-pound freshman RB Johnny Ford. Carved directly from the Darren Sproles mold, Ford has turned heads with his burst, low center of gravity and ability to withstand punishment.

14. Based on what we've seen, Bulls fans should feel best about the overall depth at the offensive skill spots. They should feel queasiest about the place-kicking.