TAMPA-Today marks the first scrimmage of the spring season, and the first time that players will have the chance to prove themselves in "game" action in front of the new coaching staff.
"It's going to be a situation scrimmage," Willie Taggart said on Friday. "We're trying to teach our kids how to play football, not just lining up and running plays, but understanding why you're running those plays. All of them are competing."
We've talked about the quarterbacks and what they need to do ad nauseam. So, when it comes to what you need to watch for in today's scrimmage, we're going to focus on the running backs and the defense.
Running back is a bit of a concern on offense seeing as it is such a huge component of the offense that Willie Taggart runs. USF lost all of their experience at the position after the 2012 when Demetris Murray and Lindsay Lamar graduated. Nonetheless, all spring long we've been hearing praise for Marcus Shaw and Michael Pierre. Today will be a good test for those two to see if they can live up to the hype they've been given.
However, a lot of their success today will rely heavily on how well the offensive line can play. The unit is missing a couple of scholarship players in Thor Jozwiak and Kameron Davis. While those guys are working their way back, walk-ons Jake Kaufman and Mak Djulbegovic have stepped up quite a bit in their absence.
Today is also the first time we will see Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch go full speed against the Bulls' offensive line. Through six days of practice, Lynch has been very impressive with his speed and strength. He's one player that can make a huge impact come the fall. A couple of other guys to look out for are Luke Sager and Julius Forte. Both of those players have been receiving praise from Taggart and Chuck Bresnahan, especially Sager. Sager had a very good season last year for the Bulls, and looks to be stepping up as a leader on defense, which is something they sorely need.
One of the main concerns last season for USF was the secondary. Both safeties, Mark Joyce and Jaquez Jenkins are returning, but the cornerback position is one that is still in question. Junior college transfer Torrel Saffold has been getting a lot of reps as the No. 1 in early spring. He'll get the chance today to show the staff why he should keep that spot as he has a tough task of matching up with Andre Davis or D'Vario Montgomery.
After today we will have our first version of a depth chart. The coaches have been evaluating the team these first two weeks, and now it's go time.
Josh Appel is the Senior Writer for RunningtheBulls.com. He is a student broadcaster at the University of South Florida. You can contact him at Josh@RunningtheBulls.com. Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshAppel.