Spring practice for USF formally commenced Tuesday with a pre-practice news conference, followed by an afternoon workout under gray skies (the first 20 or so minutes were open to reporters). Here are a few takeaways from what we heard and observed on Day 1.
* Though the spring roster features only 12 seniors (four fewer than what appeared on the Gasparilla Bowl roster), Charlie Strong indicated this year’s team could feature a much stronger corps of veteran leaders. Unlike last year’s group, this senior class includes many who have played considerably: offensive linemen Billy Atterbury and Marcus Norman, defensive end Kirk Livingstone and tight end Mitch Wilcox, to name some. “You take a Livingstone,” Strong said. “He doesn’t say much, but just works, and guys just respect him by the way he works.”
* New offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell could have a variety of options at the slot-receiver position vacated by burly veteran Tyre McCants. In addition to converted running back Johnny Ford, East Lake High alumnus Bryce Miller took reps Tuesday. We’ve heard coaches are high on the Southeastern University transfer.
* In the grain-of-salt department, the quarterbacks took pre-practice snaps in this order: Blake Barnett, Jordan McCloud, Octavious Battle. Another QB, freshman Jahquez Evans, arrives this summer.
* Tailback Jordan Cronkrite, believed to be recovering from an unspecified offseason surgery, suited up Tuesday (the Bulls were in shorts and helmets) but mostly remained on the sideline. Similarly, center Michael Wiggs was suited up but also didn’t participate. Return specialist Terrence Horne, who tore his right ACL in September, appeared at practice wearing a conspicuous black knee brace. Horne is expected to attempt some isolated running this spring.
* With leading tackler Khalid McGee graduating, veteran Nico Sawtelle (shoulder) limited and senior Greg Reaves sliding back to defensive end, the Bulls have some serious replenishing to do at linebacker. On Tuesday, Strong mentioned sophomores Dwayne Boyles (20 tackles in ’18), Andrew Mims (11 tackles) and Tony Grier (eight tackles), and redshirt freshman Randal Copeland, as guys who will get a serious look this spring. Though Boyles still is listed at 210 pounds, Strong said he’s closer to 235 these days. “We have some bodies there,” said Strong, who also signed three linebackers in December. “And probably with Sawtelle not going through spring, it helps us give them the reps that they’re gonna need, because they’re gonna have to play at some point.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls