With Hurricane Matthew expected to make landfall on Florida’s east coast some time tonight, USF finished Wednesday’s practice under the last sunny sky they may see until after Saturday’s homecoming game against East Carolina.
As uncertain as the path of the storm is the length of time the Bulls will be without freshman right tackle Billy Atterbury, who suffered a leg fracture in Saturday’s 45-20 win over Cincinnati.
At the end of practice Wednesday, offensive coordinator Darren Hiller stressed that being able to play at a continually high level despite an injury like Atterbury’s is indicative of the success of his offensive line this season.
“With losing Billy … it’s just plug and play,” Hiller said. “It’s next man up, you know. That’s our football team … whenever there is an injury, no matter the position.
“We have to have the mantra that it’s college football, it’s professional … it doesn’t matter. When somebody gets hurt, you gotta have some depth.”
Atterbury will be replaced on the line by redshirt freshman Marcus Norman and backed up by sophomore Eric Mayes, according to Hiller. Freshman Logan MacDonald will now serve as the backup left tackle.
“Getting the Message”
After allowing 20 points to Cincinnati in the first half of Saturday’s win, USF’s defense finished the game resembling a 2015 Bulls team that was 13th in the country in turnover margin (+10), with four turnovers and an interception returned for a touchdown by senior defensive back Johnny Ward.
With 11 different players forcing turnovers already this season, defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie is encouraged about how many Bulls have made defensive contributions thus far.
“It’s just really exciting,” Woodie said. “All these coaches work on taking the ball away, and that’s what we emphasize. We wanna take the ball away, and put it back in the hands of our offense. It’s really exciting that it’s not just one guy and that it’s multiple guys. The message is getting through.”
Along with the loss to their offensive line in Atterbury, the Bulls will also be thin in the defensive secondary Saturday, with junior safety Devin Abraham out indefinitely after surgery to his thumb Wednesday morning.
Sophomore Austin Hudson, a backup safety and special teams player, was seen Wednesday in a red non-contact jersey. Nevertheless, Woodie said Hudson will be ready to go against ECU.
Junior cornerback Deatrick Nichols also appears to be ready for East Carolina after he was seen participating in full contact drills Wednesday. Nichols was in street clothes at the end of the Bulls’ win over Cincinnati, and started the week in a non-contact jersey.
“(Deatrick) had a good practice,” Woodie said.
“He could’ve went yesterday, but for precautionary reasons, he sat out. We don’t worry about his effort and the things he brings to the table.”