With fall camp on the horizon, there will be no shortage of football talk anytime soon. USF is in an interesting position, having plenty of holes to fill, a new set of coaches and ideologies and the first year in awhile that expectations aren’t high.
The Bulls lost a lot of talent this offseason, with seven former players – the most in school history – taken in April’s NFL draft, providing opportunities for other players to step up and assume starting roles in 2010.
And that’s what fall camp is about – finding which players will be go-to guys this season. Here are the No. 10-6 picks on what players are worth keeping an eye on when practice starts Aug. 7.
10) Maikon Bonani, sophomore kicker
Holtz tabbed senior Eric Schwartz as the No. 1 kicker on the post-spring depth chart, but the race for kicking duties is far from over. Schwartz, a former walk-on, was one of the feel-good stories of 2009, making 11 of 16 field goals, including the fourth longest in school history with a 50-yard strike against Cincinnati. But let’s not forget about Bonani, the redshirt sophomore who was a feel-good story in his own right two years ago before he was injured after a fall while working at Busch Gardens and was sidelined last season. Bonani, a true freshman at the time, went 15-for-21 in 2008, including the game-winner against then-No.14 Kansas as time expired. “(Bonani) had a good spring … It’s going to be a great competition to see who the starter is going to be,” said special teams coach Vernon Hargreaves.
9) Demetris Murray, sophomore running back
Murray had arguably the best spring of any running back on the roster, surging to No. 2 on the depth chart behind sixth-year senior Mo Plancher. With running back depth limited after the losses of Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor, Murray helped ease Holtz’s mind. “He’s getting to the point where he can be an every-down back,” Holtz said after a spring scrimmage. It’s not certain how much Murray will be used this season. A new offensive philosophy suggests quarterback B.J. Daniels will be under center more and the Bulls will employ more two-back sets, meaning the possibility of an increase in carries for running backs. Can Murray keep his spring momentum going into the fall? Redshirt freshman Bradley Battles, a touted recruit, could creep into the picture.
8) Sam Barrington, sophomore linebacker
Barrington was injured for much of spring practice, allowing sophomore Mike Lanaris to even the playing field for the starting middle linebacker spot. Barrington, who saw action in all 13 games last season, is viewed by coaches and teammates as a high IQ player who never takes plays off. But talent and work ethic aren’t the questions. Can Barrington stay healthy and separate himself to become the next star middle linebacker at USF? Fall practice should reveal a lot.
7) Jamius Gunsby, freshman quarterback
Who will back up Daniels? Evan Landi is capable at the position, but the receiving corps is thin. The coaching staff will probably want someone other than Landi to step in and make a name for themselves. Gunsby figures to be that guy, even as a true freshman. That begs a few pertinent questions for fall camp: Will Landi split time at receiver and quarterback, and how will Gunsby, a 6-foot-4 run/pass threat who had a scholarship offer to Florida, respond to being the front-runner for the backup spot before attending a single practice?
6) Evan Landi, sophomore receiver
Landi split time between receiver and quarterback last season. He is listed as the backup quarterback on the post-spring depth chart. Depending on the health of some of the injured receivers (Sterling Griffin, A.J. Love), Landi could remain Daniels’ backup while still getting the majority of reps at receiver. For now, though, Landi looks set at receiver. Will that continue even if Gunsby has trouble adjusting? The Bulls must decide whether it is a good idea for Landi to have more than one responsibility.
For Nos. 5-1, pick up Thursday’s Oracle.