Defense dominates scrimmage

The USF football team entered spring drills looking to find some possible replacements for some key figures that anchored last year’s defense. The unit responded with an impressive performance in Saturday’s 117-play scrimmage, the first scrimmage for the Bulls this spring.

The No. 1 defense didn’t allow a single score, while the unit as a whole forced seven turnovers, had three sacks, scored a touchdown and allowed the offense only one touchdown and three field goals before red-zone drills at the end of practice.

The Bulls are hoping to get a gauge on replacements for linebackers Maurice Jones and Courtney Davenport as well as defensive backs Kevin Verpaele, Ron Hemingway and J.R. Reed, all of whom graduated.

Sophomore linebackers Devon Davis and Stephen Nicholas have been impressive early on in spring drills, as has junior defensive backs Kenny Robinson, who had one of the defense’s two interceptions Saturday, and Javan Camon.

But the biggest question the Bulls face is at quarterback, where some changes have been made since the start of spring practice.

Redshirt freshman Pat Julmiste, who played in six games for USF last season and was named the starter by USF coach Jim Leavitt on Tuesday, finished 17-of-32 for 164 yards with an interception and the lone touchdown pass for the offense, which was a 30-yard strike to wide receiver Joe Bain.

Junior Ronnie Banks did not participate Saturday and has been limited this spring after undergoing off-season knee surgery. Evan Kraky split time with the second team under center Saturday with sophomore Cedric King, a converted wide receiver who was moved to quarterback Tuesday. King, the brother of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Shaun King, finished 1-of-5 for five yards, but he had a few nice runs, including a 3-yard touchdown run to close out red-zone drills.

Former quarterback David Mullins, a sophomore who was No. 3 on the depth chart last season, has been moved to safety.

The offense also was without sophomore running back Billy Henderson, who tore his ACL on Tuesday and may be unable to play in the 2004 season.But the most intriguing absence Saturday was last season’s offensive MVP and arguably the Bulls’ most versatile player, junior Brian Fisher.

Fisher was arrested March 22 for failing to pay almost $17,500 in child support to two different women. Leavitt decided to hold Fisher out of practice.

Fisher missed Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices but did attend Friday’s workouts. Leavitt said Saturday that Fisher has not been suspended but didn’t say Fisher would definitely return to the team for Tuesday’s scheduled practice.

Fisher also could face a possible two-game suspension for failing to notify both Leavitt and associate athletic director Steve Horton within 24 hours of his arrest, a violation of USF’s Code of Conduct policy. According to an article published in The Tampa Tribune on Saturday, Fisher notified only Leavitt.