Hope springs anew as USF starts Spring Football practice today as the team heads out to the brand new Morsani Practice Fields. After a successful 8-5 season and a 31-26 victory over Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Coach Holtz has a solid group of players coming back this year, and will use this time to replace our departing seniors. There aren't a lot of glaring concerns on the two-deep, but there are a couple of position battles you should keep an eye on.
Offensive Line: The Bulls lost Offensive Tackles Jacob Sims and Jamar Bass along with Center Sampson Genus to graduation, and Genus in particular will be difficult to replace. 6'1" 301 lb incoming Sr. Kevin McCaskill has been the understudy to Genus for the past two years, and is the front runner to land the starting job at this time. He was thrust into the first team for the Miami game after Genus left the game with a head injury. Incoming Jr. Danous Estenor has moved from guard to center after playing in five games last season. He is a bit bigger than McCaskill at 6'3" 306 lbs and should push McCaskill the whole spring.
Tackle should be a little easier to decipher than Center. Incoming Jr. Mark Popek looks like the heir apparent at Left Tackle after starting nine games over the past two seasons. He has had a bit of injury trouble over his career, but that will be the only thing keeping the 6'7" 288 lb from anchoring the line for the next two seasons.
Right Tackle will be more of a battle with Incoming Jr. Damien Edwards starting on the first team at this moment, but Coach Holtz has said alot about Redshirt Freshman Quinterrius Eatmon and I wouldn't be surprised if he wins the battle. Eatmon came to USF at 370 lbs which is even too big for his 6'6" frame. His redshirt year was spent mostly in the weight room losing that extra fat, and he's checked in at at a svelte 315 lbs for the spring. Holtz even used a Holtzism on him during an interview with Greg Auman earlier this week:
"He looks great. He's changing his body. All the sudden, he's cut all the sleeves out of all his shirts. He looks like Larry the Cable Guy now. You have the right to bare arms, you know."
Running Back: This will probably be the most competitive battle this Spring. 6th Year Senior and Bionic Man Moise Plancher is gone, and part time starter Demetris Murray will compete with transfers Darrell Scott and Dontae Aycock and reserve back Marcus Shaw for carries all Spring.
The incumbent Murray was used in a ton of high pressure situations, including the goalline touchdown in overtime in Miami. He looks to be a little quicker than Aycock and Scott, but he has had the tendency to fumble at times last year. I'm interested to see how Scott does in Tampa after two injury plagued years at Colorado. The former five-star recruit has all the talent in the world, and it seems like the change of scenery has does wonders for him. He's dropped 15 pounds during his redshirt year, and is down to 225 lbs. Holtz has been singing Scott's praises for most of the offseason, and I would be shocked if Darrell isn't named the starter at some point this month.
Dontae Aycock looks like he will be in more of a reserve role this season, but don't be surprised if he runs the USF version of the Wildcat, the wonderfully named El Toro Loco. Aycock played QB at Chamberlain High right here in Tampa and Offensive Coordinator Todd Fitch is excited to add that wrinkle in the defense for next season.
Shaw should be a good change of pace back for Coach Holtz. He can catch the ball well out of the backfield, and is the quickest of the four Running Backs. He did have some academic problems last semester, but it looks like he's in good academic standing and will practice without any problems.
Wide Receiver: This isn't much about lack of depth, just wondering who from a talented and experienced group will rise to grab a starting job. We do have to find a deep threat now that Dontavia Bogan is gone, but there is a big group of receivers still around littered with big game experience. Evan Landi, Lindsey Lamar, Faron Hornes, Stephen Bravo-Brown, Joel Miller, and Terrence Mitchell are all back after productive seasons last year. Projected starters from last season A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin are back after they both missed last year due to injury. Add 6'8" T.J. Knowles and Big East indoor track champion Derrick Hopkins, and you have a logjam at receiver that will only get bigger this fall, when incoming freshmen Ruben Gonzalez and Andre Davis try to break the two deep.