With senior defensive end Craig Marshall, the team leader in sacks this season, out indefinitely with a foot injury, fellow end David Bedford knows how much he must elevate his game Wednesday when USF hosts Rutgers.
“I have to (step up),” said Bedford, who’s second on the team with four tackles for loss this season. “He’s going to be missed because of his production. He was always making plays, he was always in the backfield. He was the most experienced guy we had. I have to step it up even more now.”
USF coach Skip Holtz said junior Patrick Hampton will start in Marshall’s place, with redshirt freshman Ryne Giddins also getting an extended role at defensive end.
“We’re fortunate because (defensive end) is one of the positions where we do have some depth,” coach Skip Holtz said. “When you look at the way Patrick has been playing the last couple of weeks, I viewed Patrick as a starter, and (it) felt like we had three starters. And then the way Ryne Giddins has come along in the last two weeks … we’ve been trying to roll those guys out there.”
Helping matters this week, Rutgers has allowed 33 sacks this season, the most in the Big East. Behind Marshall’s four sacks, the Bulls are tied with Pittsburgh for the Big East lead with 21 this season.
Hampton hasn’t started a game at defensive end in his USF career, but with Marshall out, he could play the majority of the snaps in Marshall’s place.
“(Craig) has been a big part of our defense for two years now, going on three,” said Hampton, who has 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks this season. “Knowing I’m going to get a specific amount of playing time because my chance might come and now it’s kind of here. I’m just here doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Return of T-Rex?
Freshman Terrence Mitchell relinquished his punt return role to Jonny Sitton last week because of problems catching the ball, but Holtz said Mitchell has improved in that area.
Mitchell has gained 117 yards on eight punt returns (14.6 average) this season.
“Whoever is catching them the best is going to be the guy that is going to play,” Holtz said. “But if they’re both catching it, I’d really like to see Terrence Mitchell returning it because he’s shown he can create some electricity and some excitement with the ball under his arm.”
Nothing has changed since coach Skip Holtz last talked about wide receiver Sterling Griffin. The receiver expects to redshirt after an originally targeted mid-October return after he fractured and dislocated an ankle in summer workouts. Griffin, however, missed practice last week and is still affected by the injury, Holtz said.
“I don’t think it will be worth it at this point in time to try and push him,” he said. “Just because you get cleared medically doesn’t mean you’re going to be productive as you want to be.”
Holtz said last week he will explore a possible sixth year for senior receiver A.J. Love, who tore his ACL in the spring game and hasn’t played this season.
Holtz said safety Jon Lejiste and cornerback Mistral Raymond, who were limited in portions of practice last week, will play Wednesday.