Players anxious as season opener approaches

With two days left until the USF football team?s opener at Northern Illinois, the Bulls are growing weary of merely practicing.

?These guys are worn out with all of this. They want to go play,? said coach Jim Leavitt.

The scout team offense worked out against the first-team defense on one field while the first and second-team offense rotated snaps against the second team defense on the other practice field.

?We need to play Thursday. As far as the amount of work we?ve put in, I don?t want to wait any longer,? Leavitt said. ?The team doesn?t want to wait any longer. Their tempers are there and they are tired of hitting each other. We need to play and we?ll find out Thursday night how well we have prepared.?

Receiver scare as player leaves field

Freshman wide receiver Bruce Gipson was injured while running pass routes against the second-team offense on Monday. Gipson sat on the sidelines for 20 minutes icing his foot before trainers decided to take him off the field on a cart.

?He hurt his foot a little bit,? Leavitt said. ?Somebody stepped on his foot out there and it got bruised. We just wanted to take him in and check it out … I?m not concerned until I hear anything worse.?

Struggling to make the grade

Learning routes and which man to block are not the only concerns for the Bulls in preseason. Grueling two-a-day practices overlapped with the last two weeks of scheduled classes for the summer semester. Maintaining the required grades to stay eligible is as much a concern as man-on-man coverage for the coaches and players. One problem that the Bulls will face is the loss of sophomore wide receiver Elgin Hicks. Hicks, a transfer from Florida, was ruled academically ineligible last week and must sit out the season.

Another possible concern revolves around senior defensive lineman Tchecoy Blount, who missed a majority of practices last week, making up some work in summer classes. Blount is the active career sack leader with 8-1/2 and played in 10 of 11 games last season. Blount rejoined the team for practices this weekend and Leavitt said Blount had all of his paperwork turned in and would find out on Tuesday if he would be eligible.

Lines and rankings for preseason Bulls

An overview of NCAA Division I-A football teams done by Sports Illustrated ranked the Bulls 116th of 117 teams in a preseason poll. A similar poll by CBS has the Bulls 113th of 117. Another sports organization, Athlon, listed the Bulls 115th of 117.

An early line out of Las Vegas has the Bulls as 21-point underdogs in their upcoming game against Northern Illinois. Leavitt said he wasn?t concerned with the line.

?We are going to be probably 20, 40 or 60-point underdogs every game,? Leavitt said.

?They better get used to it, because that is what they are going to hear every week. When you first start into I-A, that?s life. And until you beat somebody, you aren?t going to gain any respect. We don?t deserve any respect because we haven?t beat anybody yet.?

It?s a family tradition

Freshman kicker Santiago Gramatica is going to be following his brothers Martin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Bill (Arizona Cardinals) by wearing the No. 7 jersey. The number will be shared with senior linebacker and team captain Anthony Williams.

The NCAA does allow the use of a number more than once on a team as long as those team members aren?t on the field at the same time. Gramatica wore the No. 3 jersey all summer, but since this number corresponds with sophomore defensive back Ron Hemingway, who will also be spending time on the special teams, he will switch to 7.

It?s official

A letter dated Aug. 21 from the NCAA Management Council gave USF the final approval reclassifying them as a Division I-A team.

The Bulls are scheduled to make their debut as a Division I-A team away, against the Northern Illinois Huskies on Aug. 30.

Jarrett Guthrie covers football and can be reached at