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Portal could pay off for USF again in 2019

The Bulls’ fall-camp roster features seven new Division I-A transfers
USF defensive line coach Paul Spicer works with redshirt freshman John Waller during Saturday's practice at the Morsani Complex. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
USF defensive line coach Paul Spicer works with redshirt freshman John Waller during Saturday's practice at the Morsani Complex. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published Aug. 3, 2019

TAMPA ― Two days into preseason camp, the Bulls have aced the eye test. Across the board, the ’19 team appears bulkier.

While Charlie Strong’s offseason of reckoning has much to do with the added girth, his offseason of recruiting also helped.

True to Strong’s word, the Bulls tapped heavily into the NCAA transfer portal, landing a handful of sturdy newcomers who could contribute immediately. The fall-camp roster features seven new Division I-A transfers, five of whom are expected to be eligible right away.

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Arguably the most notable is Oklahoma State graduate transfer Patrick Macon (6-foot-3, 245 pounds), who could help shore up USF’s depth issues at interior linebacker. Another grad transfer, Notre Dame safety Devin Studstill (6-foot, 200), also has generated early buzz.

Some within the program have described Macon as a “beast” to this point.

“Patrick Macon, I see a big hitter,” nickel back Vincent Davis said.

“Inside linebacker, filling gaps, filling holes, he’s doing his thing over there. Studstill...he’s been quick, he’s moving like a vet. That’s one guy we really need in our secondary and I think he can do some big things for us.”

Also currently practicing is Arizona State graduate transfer Darius Slade (6-5, 257), with former Tennessee defensive end Ryan Thaxton (6-4, 245) expected to join camp in a couple of weeks.

Another former Vol, receiver Latrell Williams; and former North Carolina cornerback KJ Sails are seeking waivers from the NCAA that would allow them to play in ’19.

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Odds and ends

Strong held separate practice sessions ― one for veterans, another for rookies ― Saturday. Sails had an interception at the end of the veterans practice, according to Davis. ... Former walk-on quarterback Kyle Trina, a Plant High alumnus, now is working at receiver. ... While most of his peers added bulk in the offseason, redshirt freshman defensive tackle John Waller (an Admiral Farragut alumnus) dropped from 342 to 315, and now appears poised to crack the playing rotation. “He’s actually getting stronger, faster,” junior defensive tackle Kelvin Pinkney said. “We need him to be faster and stronger, and he’s gonna do very well for us this season.”

Audible

“We didn’t have much communication or discipline, so we weren’t together, so players did their own thing. There was no togetherness.” ― veteran cornerback (and Thorpe Award candidate) Mike Hampton, when asked what issues affected the secondary last season.