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August 26, 2012
What we've learned in camp
There are still a few questions that won't be answered until USF's opener against UT-Chattanooga next Saturday - such as how will the coaching staff split the carries in the backfield, how much nickel will the Bulls run, and which freshman will see the field - but fall camp, which concluded with a scrimmage on Friday, went a long way in determining things as it pertains to what Bulls fans should expect this season.
Defensive line should be strong
Several key contributors along the defensive line - notably Cory Grissom, Elkino Watson, and Julius Forte - are all at, or close to, full strength and have been cleared to practice when the team returns to practice on Monday in preparation for the opener. The Bulls have had a patchwork defensive line throughout camp, but that could be a good thing as many inexperienced players received extended reps. Junior defensive end Ryne Giddins returns as an all-conference caliber player. Watson turned heads as a freshman, Grissom returns as the most experienced player on the line, and Todd Chandler, Demi Thompson and other provide depth. The Bulls will have to hope Giddins, Forte, and junior college transfer Tevin Mims stay healthy, as the team has little experience at defensive end behind them.
USF has almost too much depth at receiver and tight end
Make no mistake, it's no doubt a good problem to have, but it will be interesting to see who gets most of the touches. Sophomore Andre Davis is primed to be a star, junior Sterling Griffin is the model of consistency, senior Victor Marc has turned the corner, and freshman D'Vario Montgomery was one of the top-ranked recruits in program history, and has proven it during camp. In fact, Montgomery did enough in his few weeks in a college program to warrant a spot on the two-deep in the last released depth chart, an impressing feat considering the depth at the position. That's not even mentioning sophomore Chris Dunkley, another top recruit and Florida transfer, junior Terrence Mitchell, arguably the fastest player on USF's roster who's healthy again, Deonte Welch, who showed the ability to make plays last season, and Ruben Gonzalez, another sophomore who has enormous potential.
At tight end, watch for touted true freshman Sean Price, who's made headlines while competing with three seniors - Evan Landi, Jeff Hawkins, and Andreas Shields. The Bulls also have sophomore Mike McFarland, another Florida transfer who looks as if he can contribute.
Cornerback still a question mark, safety a strength
Senior Kayvon Webster is solidly entrenched as a starter, not to mention an all-conference caliber player. But as like it was prior to the start of fall camp, the other side remains a mystery a week before the opener. A good bet to start is senior George Baker, who has the most experience, but has he done enough to earn the coaches trust throughout the season. His career has been inconsistent at best. Other options are junior college transfer Fidel Montgomery and redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden, but neither has played a down of Big East football. Have they done enough to earn the coaches trust? True freshman Chris Bivins has also entered the mix. At safety, Jon Lejiste, Mark Joyce, and JaQuez Jenkins return to form a formidable unit with depth.
Shaw will be a major factor
Marcus Shaw is finally starting to realize his full potential, as the junior running back finished off a strong camp with a three-touchdown performance in Friday's scrimmage. Like Lindsey Lamar, Shaw is more of a scat-back who's deadly in space, while senior Demetrius Murray does best between the tackles. Nonetheless, Shaw has finally shown the consistency on and off the field to warrant significant playing time this season. It will be interesting to see where Shaw stands on the next depth chart, which will be released on Monday after the coaches are done evaluating film.