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Mitch Wilcox: new USF offense a reason I stayed put

The veteran tight end briefly contemplated an early departure
 
USF fifth-year senior tight end Mitch Wilcox will enter his final season three receptions shy of Sean Price's program record for career catches by a tight end (75). [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
USF fifth-year senior tight end Mitch Wilcox will enter his final season three receptions shy of Sean Price's program record for career catches by a tight end (75). [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published March 30, 2019

TAMPA ― USF fifth-year senior tight end Mitch Wilcox, who briefly contemplated an early entry into the NFL draft late last season, addressed reporters Saturday morning following the Bulls’ situational scrimmage. Among the topics: his health (he played on two dinged-up ankles for most of last season), and his impressions of new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell’s system.

How do you think things are developing in this new offense?

“I think everything’s developing well. There’s a lot thrown at us right now, but we’re learning on the fly and we’re picking it up well.”

Bell has said he wants to get you a lot of opportunities, especially in the red zone. How much do you think this offense is tailored to what you can do?

"Tailored to what I can do, I think we have a lot of options. I've love to get the ball in the red zone and exploit some good routes and stuff. But right now, we're just installing as much as we can. I got one target today, but I think there's a lot of upside and this offense can be very dangerous, so I'm excited."

What’s distinctive about this offense?

“There’s a lot of detail, and I think once we learn it and love it and live by it, we can really focus on that detail. Right now, all of us and a lot of young guys are just not trying to mess up, whereas when we get I think toward the end of spring camp, we’re gonna be very detailed, and that will show up on the offensive side of the ball.”

How are you feeling physically? You at 100 percent?

“Yeah, I’m feeling good. Just got to be on top of everything. I’ve got to be diligent in my rehab and stuff, and just do the best I can to keep my body fresh. But I’m feeling good. I’m like, 247 (pounds) right now, so I feel good about that. I think going into camp in the fall, I want to be around 255, so I’ll lose a little bit and then be at a good playing weight.”

Was the fact that quarterback Blake Barnett was still around factor into your decision to remain for another season?

“Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I did take a good consideration into my future, but it was a pretty straightforward decision for me at the end of the day. I thought about it a little bit, but not too far to be honest. A second year with Blake, and just knowing what I know and what I can do and bring to the table, I just think I can show more for myself and for this university. I owe so much to this university and I just think there’s a lot left on the table for us and this program.” (Note: Wilcox enters his final season with 72 career receptions, three shy of Sean Price’s school career record for catches by a tight end.)

Did the new offense factor into your decision?

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“Yessir, absolutely. Hey, that was a big upside, so we’re gonna be rolling.”

Spring hits halfway point

A few notes, quotes and observations from Saturday’s scrimmage (most of which was closed to reporters).

* Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud is the clear No. 2 quarterback at this point, per Charlie Strong. “The good thing about him, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and he’s beginning to learn the offense,” Strong said.

* Fifth-year senior Billy Atterbury, a fixture at right guard the last two seasons, continued practicing at left tackle.

* The first-team defense during the scrimmage’s open portion featured ends Kirk Livingstone and Greg Reaves, tackles Kevin Kegler and Kelvin Pinkney, linebackers Dwayne Boyles and Andrew Mims, corners Mike Hampton and Bentlee Sanders, nickel Vincent Davis, and safeties Nick Roberts and Mekhi LaPointe.

* Boyles, as light as 205 pounds at one point last season, said he’s currently at 225. “Even though I added more weight, I feel way more faster,” he said.

* Converted tight end Chris Carter lined up at rush end with the second-team defense.

* Juco transfer McArthur Burnett intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone during red-zone work.

* Strong said 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Cronkrite, sidelined this spring while recovering from an unspecified minor procedure, should be fine once preseason camp starts. “If I waited another week or so he probably could get some work in," Strong said. "But there’s no need in doing that because he hasn’t been out here the whole spring.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.