USF will be without two veteran linebackers for its first two games this season.
Senior Tashon Whitehurst and junior Nigel Harris will be forced to sit out the opener against Florida A&M on Sept. 5 and the first road game at Florida State on Sept. 12 after both were suspended Tuesday for violating unspecified team rules during the spring semester.
Harris, a former Hillsborough High standout, set a school record and led the nation with six forced fumbles last season. He was expected to challenge Whitehurst (49 tackles in 2014) for the starting spot at inside linebacker.
Coach Willie Taggart expressed disappointment in Harris and Whitehurst’s actions, but said he is confident the team has enough depth to fill their void.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Bayes — rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com — senior C.J. Garye and freshman Danny Thomas are candidates to replace them, Taggart said.
“Those guys are going to have to work their butt off to get back and come back and play and earn the job back,” Taggart said. “I think that’s the beauty of going out and recruiting and having some depth to where you can go play.
“Our guys also understand there’s a standard that we’re going to have around here. It’s a culture that we’re creating and you’ve got to live up to it, or there will be consequences when you don’t.”