The USF secondary, which struggled last week against Louisville, will receive a boost in time to face the Big East’s most potent offense.
After sitting out last week with a concussion sustained from a collision with fellow starter Quenton Washington while both attempted to block Miami’s game-winning field goal Nov. 19, cornerback Kayvon Webster has been cleared to return to the field.
Washington, who also had concussion-like symptoms but was able to play against the Cardinals until injuring his shoulder, is expected to be available as well.
“Kayvon’s back 100 percent,” defensive backs coach Rick Smith said. “He had a good (practice Sunday) night. (Washington) practiced (Sunday) night, he should be OK. Those two are the starters.”
Beyond that pair, though, the depth chart is very thin and the injury list is long. Five defensive backs are limited by injuries, with a sixth, Spencer Boyd, suspended.
JaQuez Jenkins (hamstring), Tyson Butler (neck) and George Baker (ribs) are all questionable for this week, while Ernie Tabuteau (back) and Ricardo Dixon (ACL) are out for the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be a heck of a challenge back there because we’re a little banged up,” defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. “We’re thin, there’s no doubt about it. We’re going to have to be smart about how we play the game.”
Receivers set for return
While the defense struggles with depth, the offense is in line for a major boost with the possible returns of wide receivers A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin.
Love has been hampered this season by an ankle injury and missed the last two games with a stress fracture in his shin. Griffin has been sidelined with a fractured ankle since Oct. 22 and was expected to miss “six to eight weeks,” but participated in practice Monday and could be set for an early return.
“On the positive note, it looks like Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love both have a chance to be back this week,” coach Skip Holtz said. “It looks like both of those guys have a chance to be back, which would be a welcome addition to our receiving corps, which would give us a couple more weapons to utilize from an offensive standpoint.”
Despite missing four games, Griffin remains the Bulls’ leading receiver with 493 yards and two touchdowns this season. Love has 116 yards and one touchdown this season.
Odds and ends
Junior quarterback B.J. Daniels’ status for Thursday night’s game against the Mountaineers remains uncertain. Holtz said he is progressing, but the pass velocity just “isn’t there yet” … Running back Marcus Shaw is once again eligible to play this week after missing the last two games due to suspension … Tight end Evan Landi will replace Victor Marc as punt returner this week.