TAMPA ― After 23 consecutive starts at right guard, fifth-year Bulls senior Billy Atterbury appears destined to make his collegiate debut at left tackle when USF hosts Wisconsin on Aug. 30.
New offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell, who experimented with Atterbury on the left side in the spring, indicated Monday that the move likely is permanent.
An all-state anchor at left tackle for Clearwater Central Catholic, Atterbury lined up with the first team in his new position during the portion of 11-on-11 work open to reporters Monday. He trades spots with former Gaither standout Donovan Jennings, a 340-pound sophomore who started four games at left tackle in 2019.
“We really like (Atterbury) over there,” Bell said. “What it does, it moves Donovan ― who’s just a big, natural, explosive, physical guy ― into guard. He’s down to about 330 (pounds) now but he’ll get up to 340, so his natural position is gonna be really a guard, I believe.”
Atterbury (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and senior right tackle Marcus Norman enter the season with 61 combined career starts on the line. Barring injury or demotion, the opening-night offensive front should feature those two, Jennings, sophomore center Brad Cecil and redshirt sophomore left guard Demetris Harris.
The unit’s average weight (per the fall-camp roster): 316 pounds.
“I think it’s made us more powerful and more be able to move guys off the rock inside with those two big guards...and Brad at center,” Bell said.
“And then moving Billy outside, I think he’s just at the point now of his career that he’s very dependable. That left tackle is a very important spot when you’re throwing the football, and I think he’s gonna do a really good job for us.”
Walking on to first team
Proving his breakthrough spring was no aberration, walk-on slot receiver Bryce Miller took some reps with the first team Monday.
Afterward, Bell indicated Miller ― an East Lake alumnus who transferred from NAIA Southeastern University ― is in the best shape of anyone in fall camp.
“He can run all day,” Bell said.
“He runs so many sharp, disciplined routes. We like guys who can get in and out of routes, so he fits exactly what we’re looking for, and we’re gonna give him a lot of opportunities. I believe he’s gonna be in the rotation when we start the season.”
Tweaking for the tight end
Bell, who rarely incorporated a true tight end in his offense last season at Valdosta State, said he and his staff have revamped things just to make Mackey Award candidate Mitch Wilcox a focal part of it.
The Blazers’ top receiving tight end last season was Travis Taylor, who had six catches. Wilcox could haul in that many by halftime of the Wisconsin game, if Bell has his druthers.
“We didn’t have a great tight end those three years we were there (at Valdosta),” Bell said.
“But with Mitch, we have sort of introduced that position (as) a lot more important in our system. It’s easy to do that, so we’ve done that. We’ve incorporated him a lot more 'cause we’ve got to find a way to keep him on the field.”
With 72 career receptions, Wilcox needs only four to eclipse USF’s all-time record for a tight end held by Sean Price.
Odds and ends
The Bulls picked up their 16th verbal commitment from the class of 2020 when Port Orange Atlantic outside linebacker Tyler Berrong announced Sunday via Twitter he intends to sign with USF. A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Berrong reportedly also had serious offers from Missouri, Pitt and West Virginia, among others. ... Lining up with the second-team offense Monday was center Michael Wiggs, freshman left tackle Josh Blanchard, right tackle Jarrett Hopple, right guard Hal Roberson and left guard Sebastian Sainterling.
“Really, the team’s chemistry is insanely better than last year.” ― senior quarterback Blake Barnett