An already experiencd offensive line will add some more experience to the field Saturday. Sophomore offensive tackle Mark Popek, who’s been recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee suffered in the early stages of fall camp, is fully recovered and expected to play against Florida, USF coach Skip Holtz said after Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s been good,” Holtz said. “He’s been really strong. He’s done a nice job – hasn’t had a lot of swelling.”
Popek, who started five of USF’s last six games last season, was competing for a starting spot before the injury. Holtz said he’ll rotate Popek in as the “third tackle” behind senior starters Jacob Sims and Jamar Bass.
“That’s tough to not practice for four weeks or do anything really and just jump back in,” Popek said. “I’m starting to get used to it again.”
Holtz said redshirt sophomore Danous Estenor will rotate in as the “third guard” behind starters Jeremiah Warren and Chaz Hine.
In hopes of finding the right personnel to match Florida’s spread offense, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said Tuesday that sophomore Sam Barrington will get the nod to start as middle linebacker on Saturday.
“Coach Snyder, he’s a coach and I’m his player. Whatever he asks me to do – if he tells me he wants me to play one snap and sit out10, that’s what I’m going to do,” Barrington said. “He’s the coach and I trust my coaches and my teammates to put me where I need to be.”
Sophomore Mike Lanaris started the first game against Stony Brook, which brought more of a downhill running approach.
That’s the good thing about us,” Snyder said. “If we’re playing spread ‘em out tackle in space (offenses), Sam’s going to play. If it’s going to be a rock ‘em sock ‘em game, Mike’s going to play.”
Not so fast, Bogan
Even though senior receiver Dontavia Bogan returned kicks Saturday, Holtz said he’s not sure if he’ll keep Bogan back there in hopes of keeping him fresh as a receiver.
“They told me he was nine yards away from the school record, so I let him get a couple in the opening game, then took him out,” Holtz said. “I’m still not sure if I’ll put him back there or not. He’s the only receiver we have with any experience, and I would hate to lose him right now because that would be a pretty big blow to what we’re trying to do as an offense.”
Sophomore Kayvon Webster, sophomore Lindsey Lamar and freshman Terrence Mitchell all practiced returning kicks Wednesday.
As for punt return duties, Holtz said he’s leaning toward Mitchell. A day after simulating crowd noise through speakers, the Bulls worked on simulating Florida’s speed in practice Wednesday, with several scout team players posing as Florida’s main playmakers on offense: “When you look at (junior running back Jeff) Demps (who ran a nation’s best 9.96 100-meter dash at the NCAA Track and Field championships) and (junior receiver Chris) Rainey, you have to get the speed on the perimeter, the speed in the backfield and you have to turn and get the athletic quarterback.”