After losing his starting position at quarterback to Pat Julmiste last season, Courtney Denson is trying to find any position that can get him some playing time. Whether it’s at defensive back or on the special teams, Denson just wants to be on the field to help USF win games.
Denson was moved from quarterback to wide receiver in the middle of the 2005 season but found himself behind Amarri Jackson, Johnny Peyton, Jackie Chambers and S.J. Green. Denson was open for a move to defensive back and is using spring drills to familiarize himself with the position.
“I’m just trying to learn everything right now, because I feel lost out there and I’m just playing off my athletic ability,” Denson said. “Once I start understanding the schemes a little more, then I believe I can do better.”
Defensive ends coach Rich Rachel, who has been working with the defensive backs this spring, believes the biggest adjustment from offense to defense is mental. Even though Denson is a good athlete, his ability can only take him so far during a game.
“Becoming a defensive player sometimes isn’t easy because of the defensive mentality, and he’s been a great offensive player his whole life,” Rachel said. “So we are just trying to teach him how to play defense.”
Rachel is hoping there is a carryover for Denson at defensive from his experience on offense. Denson had to learn the tendencies of defensive backs when he was a quarterback so he could use that knowledge to his advantage.
There’s nothing that has surprised Denson with the move, but he has realized things are much more physical on defense. He has to step up and use his pads a little more on defense than he ever did as a quarterback.
“Nothing has surprised me with the move, it’s just the physical part,” Denson said.
Junior Trae Williams, who started for the Bulls last season, can offer some advice to Denson because Williams also made the move to defensive back. Williams has had a productive spring, with three interceptions and two knockdowns during drills this week.
“He’s looking good, but he’s always going to be good,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “He should be getting better; he’s one of our starters.”
Kickoff team looking special: The Bulls opened practice working on onside kicks and pooch kicks. Justin Teachey, who is battling for the starting kickoff spot, placed a pooch kick right on the sideline. His kick landed into the waiting hands of Mike Jenkins, who raced toward the end zone. Leavitt yelled out that the kick looked so good that it was scary.
Defensive lineman making strides: In 9-on-9 drills, Josh Julmiste made his presence known with a couple of tackles. Julmiste was so impressive that grad assistant Mike Simmonds bellowed out his approval along with a slap on the helmet.
Getting some work in: Pat Julmiste took most of the snaps in Thursday’s practice along with Matt Grothe. Carlton Hill was absent from practice, so Julmiste took advantage of running with the first team. During the two-minute drill at the end of practice, Julmiste was 2-for-6 with completions to Jackson and Cedric Hill. Julmiste missed Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown during the drive.
Dile stays away from contact: Offensive tackle Marc Dile, who injured his ankle during Wednesday’s practice, dressed out Thursday but was held out of contact drills as a precautionary measure. Leavitt said Dile could have played if necessary, but there was no need for him to test the ankle.