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Bulls continue strong spring

USF football coach Jim Leavitt is much happier now than he was at this time last year.

Leavitt had a positive appraisal of Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the spring, unlike spring 2001 when he struggled to find good in the Bulls’ spring play.

“I saw a lot of good things. I really did,” Leavitt said. “These guys worked really hard today. I saw focus and I saw a lot of serious demeanor today.”

The defense dominated the first scrimmage March 31, but Saturday belonged to the USF offense. The offense scored seven touchdowns, including five from close range, during the scrimmage that lasted two hours and 106 snaps.

“Last week it was the defense’s scrimmage, and this week the offense pretty much got on,” said quarterback Marquel Blackwell.

“We see each other so much that we know what each other’s doing all the time. It’s just a matter of who’s having a good day or not.”

Offensive highlights included a 52-yard strike from Blackwell to redshirt freshman receiver Joe Bain, as Blackwell went 11-of-25 for 152 yards for the one touchdown and an interception by Ron Hemingway. David Mullins went 3-of-4 for 25 yards and one touchdown and ran four times for 27 yards, while Ronnie Banks went 8-for-14 for 51 yards and a touchdown. Mullins and Banks are competing to back up Blackwell in the fall.

Leavitt said Mark Sopcik is now the No. 2 center, with Jason Lehman manning the right guard position.

The defense made the highlights for mostly the wrong reasons.

Linebacker Kawika Mitchell, last season’s top tackler, was ejected late in the scrimmage for kicking tight end Tim Jones in the head while in field-goal formation. And two days after being named to the Lombardi Award Watch List, defensive end Chris Daley joined Mitchell in post-game sprints, reportedly for overly arguing a call.

Daley had a long conference with defensive line coach Earl Lane and was the last Bull to leave the field.

“I’d rather not see that happen … I would hope we would have more composure,” Leavitt said.

Safety Kenny Robinson suffered a groin injury midway through the scrimmage and did not return.

The search for a consistent kicker continues, with newcomer Adam Gold the latest candidate. After walking on to the team earlier in the week, Gold split time with Scott Hastings on Saturday.

With his parents, Maureen and Peter, watching from behind the end zone, Gold drilled field goals from 47 and 29 yards out. According to Maureen Gold, four years ago the family moved from England to Florida, where Adam helped Venice High win the Class 5A state championship in 2000, kicking a title-game record 10 PATs in the final.

“He’s always been a very consistent kicker,” Maureen Gold said. “I’m not worried about his kicks; he can kick under pressure. If they want him, he’ll do it.”

But, like Hastings, Gold also missed two field goals, and Leavitt is not convinced he has filled the kicking void just yet. Starting kicker Santiago Gramatica, still recovering from knee surgery, observed from the sidelines, joined by his brother Bill, a former USF kicker who is also recovering from a knee injury suffered during his first NFL season last fall.

“You just wish you had somebody out there that every time was just automatic,” Leavitt said. “I can’t tell you we’ve found a kicker this spring, no.”

The Bulls end the spring season Saturday with the Spring Game at Raymond James Stadium starting at 1 p.m.