Running back arrives, impresses Leavitt

Coach Jim Leavitt wants to put academics first.

That’s why standout recruit and highly followed running back Mike Ford will either be late to practices or miss them entirely.

The first practice Tuesday was no different – that is, until 4:45.

Ford, who Leavitt said at the 1 p.m. luncheon would not make practice because of “things academically,” rushed out to practice for the last hour.

Leavitt liked that.

“I was impressed by Mike Ford,” Leavitt said. “I was first surprised he came to practice. … When I saw big No. 26 running the ball, I said, ‘That guy is big. Wait, that’s Mike.’

“He’s a good-looking back, though. He’s not in shape, he’s not strong enough, he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, but he’s a big ol’ boy scout.”

However, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Ford is not listed as one of the two backs on first- and second-string offenses.

Leavitt was quick to mention at the luncheon that Ford has only played high school football – and that was nearly two years ago.

“We don’t know if he can do it,” Leavitt said. “He’s a good high school player – one of the best in the country, but that’s all he is. He really hasn’t done anything in college yet. We just don’t know.”

Double time: Redshirt freshman receiver Carlton Mitchell is pulling double duty this spring. He’s playing football and running track, participating in the 4×100-meter relay and the 200-meter sprint.

Mitchell said it is exhausting work.

“Oh, it’s very tiring,” Mitchell said. “It was difficult at first, (adjusting to playing both sports), but once I got my timing down, I started to do better.”

Mitchell added that running track has helped him run his routes as a receiver because “(track) coaches have helped me run properly and to control my feet and how to take off the right way.”

Leavitt was blown away that Mitchell arrived at the first football practice following track practice.

“I was very impressed with Carlton Mitchell,” Leavitt said. “He’s running track and still came out today.

“But boy, does he look good standing next to (fellow receiver) Amarri (Jackson). those are two pretty good-looking guys.”

Grothe ‘just fine’: Quarterback Matt Grothe broke his leg in USF’s bowl win in December. But just two and a half months later, there is not a single worry that the Big East Rookie of the Year, who broke numerous USF records, will miss a step. “He’s fine,” Leavitt said. “He’s over there (at the food table) getting food, getting fat. But he’s fine. He ran a 4.6 flat, and if he’s doing that on a bad leg – mercy, I can’t wait to see what he runs in a month or so.

“He’s fine. I’m not going to baby him. He’s a grinder. He knows what work ethic is, and he knows what it’s like to have to work for something.”

Grothe said he healed quickly.

“There’s no pain anymore, and I’ve been running on it and stuff,” Grothe said. “I’ve just worked out in the weight room a lot, put on about 10 pounds, really become stronger. I’ve also got to be more of a leader.”

But Leavitt said Grothe still has plenty of work.

“Matt Grothe has got to prove his game,” Leavitt said. “He’s not where he needs to be right now. He’s got some work to do, and this spring is very important for him.”

This and that: Freedom High head coach and former USF quarterback MarquelBlackwell attended practice Tuesday.