An unfortunate circumstance may have become one of the most fortunate revelations of the season for the future of the USF football team.
After senior linebacker Sam Barrington was suspended from last Saturdays game following his fourth arrest during his USF career for driving with a suspended or revoked license, freshman Tashon Whitehurst was given the opportunity to start, and made the most of his opportunity.
While replacing one of his most influential mentors on the team, Whitehurst finished eight tackles and began a string of three forced turnovers in the fourth quarter with a fumble recovery that set up a field goal and a 10-6 lead.
I feel like the game went well, the defense played well and we flew around and made plays, Whitehurst said. I feel good about how I played and feel good about the role that I performed in. Obviously I got more of an opportunity with Sam out, but I also wouldnt be where I was if it wasnt for Sam.
Whitehurst said Barrington, a senior who has said multiple times that he wants to leave behind a legacy of leadership with his successor, played a role in his growth since before he committed to USF.
When I came here on my visit, Sam helped me out and told me what was going on, he said. And then when I got here, he was my Big Brother, and hes taught me how everything works, hes told me everything that hes learned since he was a freshman here and been a great role model for me.
Coach Skip Holtz said he expects Barrington to be a role model and is disappointed with his off-the-field issues.
Sams got a responsibility, Holtz said. Hes guilty of not being responsible and taking care of his business. Hes a senior, and I expect him to be a role model and want him to be responsible. Hes extremely mature, he handles himself very well and this is something that we have to get cleaned up.
Though Barringtons mistake was disappointing to Holtz, Whitehursts performance wasnt, as the coach said he will allow Barrington and Whitehurst to compete for playing time in the final three games of the season.
Well go out there, roll the ball out and let them play, he said. Lets see where they both are, where Sam is at mentally after what he just went through and see where Tashon is after his first full game. Hes probably still a little bit sore.
Whitehurst said hes transitioning into an increased role with the team.
The biggest transition is making sure I know what Im doing, he said. I know what Im doing as far as finding the right gaps and being in the correct alignment.