An old face showed up at USF’s spring practice Tuesday, but it was a welcomed sight to all players, especially the quarterbacks.
Marquel Blackwell, who is the best quarterback to lace up a pair of cleats for the Bulls, was a spectator, watching the quarterbacks go through practice and offering helpful tips. Blackwell owns just about every passing record for the Bulls and is the standard by which every quarterback since is measured.
Blackwell was signed by the New York Jets in 2003 as a free agent but never saw one play of action on the field. Blackwell has gotten a couple of calls from some Arena League teams for a workout, but he’s now convinced that his playing days are over.
“I’m looking towards the coaching side of football right now, I think I’m pretty much done with playing,” Blackwell said. “I got a couple of calls from some Arena teams, but just for a workout, so I’m just wanting to get into coaching.”
Blackwell is interested in getting a shot on coach Jim Leavitt’s staff at his alma mater, but there are no openings for this season. Leavitt, however, praised his former quarterback and his chances of making it as a coach.
“I think he would be great at anything that he does,” Leavitt said. “Someday he will get his shot to coach.”
The quarterback situation is still up in the air with sophomore Carlton Hill holding the starting spot in the spring. Redshirt freshman Matt Grothe, however, is making a strong push for the No. 1 spot during spring drills.
Hill got the majority of work on Tuesday but wasn’t consistent, as he was intercepted twice by junior cornerback Trae Williams. Hill did complete a couple of deep passes to juniors Amarri Jackson and Jackie Chambers.
“All three quarterbacks threw well; Grothe is making a move,” Leavitt said. “Carlton looked good; Pat (Julmiste)’s got to get a little better. He had a real good day the other day, but today not as good.”
Catching on: Amp Hill, a sophomore wide receiver who transferred from LSU, had a good day in passing drills. Hill made three impressive catches during 7-on-7 drills, including a one-handed grab on the sideline. Hill tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his freshman season at LSU and has been trying to return to the form that made him a top receiver prospect out of First Coast in Jacksonville.
Keeping options open: In individual drills, all three quarterbacks were working on running the option with a pitch drill. During the offensive period of Tuesday’s practice, the Bulls ran a lot of option plays, opening the door for more such plays next season. USF rarely used the option last season, and most of the option plays were run out of the shotgun set. Grothe and Julmiste ran the option in high school and are familiar with the system. Hill struggled a bit with the pitch on Tuesday but has plenty of time to work out the kinks.
Enjoying the contact: The most exciting period of practice for the Bulls was the 1-on-1 contact drills, especially the battle between the offensive and defensive lines. Junior guard Walter Walker dominated the contact drill, shoving his two opponents around and to the ground. Walker was seen beating his chest and letting all his teammates know he wasn’t playing around in the drill.
Running will fix the problem: After allowing the offense to score from the 50-yard line and during goal line drills, the defense was running numerous sprints after practice. To show he’s just as accountable, Leavitt was running the sprints side-by-side with his defensive squad.
– Charles Gonzalez