Junior running back Darrell Scott missed practice for the second consecutive day Tuesday after being sidelined for the final minutes against Rutgers.
This means redshirt junior running back Demetris Murray will likely be listed as the starter against Syracuse. Scott is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 108 attempts this season, while Murray is averaging 4.2 yards after 82 carries.
Even though Scott is averaging more yards per carry, USF coach Skip Holtz said Murray is ready to step in and has already had some big games this season.
“Well, there’ve been some games this year where he has been the key back,” he said. “You look at the scoring drive in the second half against Notre Dame, the long scoring drive, he was the key back for that one. He was the key back in the drive the other night against Rutgers – we turned and got down the field at the end.
“He’s smart, he’s very intelligent, he understands pass protection very well. He’s the best all-around back we have. (He’s) been in the program for two years. He’s done a great job.”
Murray was the team’s leading rusher to return from last season, but his role on the team was threatened by the eligibility of Scott, who had to sit out last season after transferring from Colorado.
Holtz said Murray’s patience in sharing carries and selflessness have been a positive for the Bulls this season.
“Probably more than anything else, it’s just the team approach that he’s taken,” he said. “I mean, every back wants to be the guy. Every back wants to be the lead guy and ‘take the mail’ 25 times a game, you know, and put up a lot of numbers and be the tailback. But at the same time, when you have two guys that are stable and that can carry the mail, there’s no sense in beating one of them up or riding that one until it’s broke, you know? So, we’ve got a great one-two package back there with Demetris and Darrell. I think they compliment each other very well.”
Sophomore running back Marcus Shaw could get playing time against Syracuse if Scott is sidelined Friday.
Competition at punter
With the bulk of the mistakes made in last week’s loss to Rutgers coming on special teams, Holtz said some changes could be in effect for Friday’s game against Syracuse, including the punting job.
In the loss to the Scarlet Knights, junior punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann averaged 32.8 yards on nine punts. Holtz said redshirt freshman Chris Veron got some more repetitions during practice Monday and Tuesday and both punters could get a chance against the Orange.
“I want to punt Brockhaus-Kann on his good punts and I want to punt Veron on his good punts,” he said. “You know, you come out here and we are trying to put them in some team situations and it’s like they each will have one (good) punt. They will each punt one for about 48 yards and one about 25 yards, and so … right now it’s the consistency at that position that is driving me batty. If I knew we were going to punt it 25 yards every time, I could deal with that. Right now they both have strong legs, just watching them punt, there’s a strong possibility they could both play.”
Brockhaus-Kann is aware of Holtz’s plan to possibly utilize both him and Veron, and he said he isn’t fazed by the competition.
“I think guys are actually taking another focus on it, paying more attention in meetings – it’ll carry over to the football field,” he said. “We compete everyday, I think everybody knows that – that your job is never secure on the football field, no matter what position. I didn’t have a very good game and I know I have to focus a little bit more, do a little more work.”
Brockhaus-Kann said he didn’t have his best game last week, but he remains confident in his playing ability.
“I’m always confident in myself. After a bad game, after a bad hit, I always feel like I can go out there and succeed,” he said.
Special teams player Armando Sanchez and backup defensive tackle Luke Sager both have ankle injuries. Their status for Friday is questionable … Wide receiver Stephen Bravo-Brown is probable to return from an ankle injury.