USF Spring Camp starts today Tuesday, February 23rd and we cannot WAIT to see the finished product come March 27th when the team is set to play in Ray Jay for the annual USF Spring Football Game. Before the dust settles, Mike Cusimano and Josh Katz predict how the defensive side of the ball may shake out at the end of camp next month.
Defensive Line (DL)
Projected Starter (DE): Darrien Grant
Projected Backup: Ryan Thaxton
Projected Starter (NT): Kevin Kegler
Projected Backup: Kelvin Pinkney
Projected Starter (DT): Thad Mangum
Projected Backup: Rashawn Yates
Projected Starter (LEO): Jason Vaughn
Projected Backup: Tramel Logan
The two positions to really keep an eye on with the defensive line is the DE and LEO positions. I’m looking for the guys that were there last year to continue to progress and if not, there are guys inserted into the roster now (or guys currently on the roster) that could play themselves into a role on the DL when it’s all said and done. Inside, the players there have experience, electing to save Jhalin Hobbs and Jacquez Williams until next year due to the lack of space on the roster with scholarship limits affecting college football programs across the country. This will be an interesting group to follow throughout spring camp to see who has a leg up on the competition heading into the fall. Look for Mississippi State transfer Jamari Stewart to throw his hat in the ring at the LEO position as well…
In the past, the South Florida Bulls have struggles up front on the defensive side of the ball. But, under second year Defensive Coordinator, Glenn Spencer, the Bulls will be looking for a consistent rotation up front here. I believe at Defensive End, Grant and Thaxton could each have an impact at their position. Though Grant has been listed as my starter, I think Grant could still see valuable minutes on the field. At Nose Tackle, Kevin Kegler has been a monster for USF ever since he became a Bull. Personally, I would say he’s a “lock” at this position. Nonetheless, do not be surprised when you see Kelvin Pinkney abusing every team’s Offensive Line. At Defensive Tackle, it is VERY hard to see either of these guys “losing” the job. But, Mangum, who transferred from Wofford a year ago, will most likely end up as the starter here. At the LEO/Hybrid position, I see Vaughn and Logan potentially getting pretty equal playing time unless one of them has an absurdly positive Spring Camp.
This position gets REALLY interesting after you look past the two starters in Grier and Boyles. Keep an eye out for guys that contributed behind the starters last year in Mims, Bellamy, Mac Harris, Brian Norris, and Keyon Helton. Overall, it’s a well-rounded group that will be fighting and clawing for action with true freshman CJ Ross and Davon Hicks with the program as well. Who sees the two-deep at LB in 2021 is the biggest question with this group in my opinion.
Here’s a position with some of this team’s best athletes. At Outside Linebacker, Dwayne Boyles gets the start here. He’s a Quarterback’s worst nightmare. He has NFL potential and will cause any team’s Offensive Line to struggle with stopping him. When you look at the Inside Linebacker position, it’s pretty much the same story here. Antonio Grier will lock in as the Bulls’ starter at the Inside position. USF’s group of Linebackers is insanely gifted and all are talented enough to see playing time. Do not sleep on true-freshmen Davon Hicks and CJ Ross as both of these guys look to make an immediate impact.
Defensive Back (DB)
Projected Starter (CB): Daquan Evans (Josh picks KJ Sails’ son, King… JK, Daquan Evans)
Projected Backup: Ben Knox
Projected Starter (SS): Mike picks TJ Robinson, Josh picks Matthew Hill
Projected Backup: Vice versa… Mike picks Matthew Hill, Josh goes TJ Robinson
Projected Starter (FS): Will Jones II
Projected Backup: Vincent Davis
Projected Starter (CB): Christian Williams
Projected Backup: Jaelen Stokes
Projected Starter (STAR): Christopher Townsel
Projected Backup: Brock Nichols
Talk about having guys in the secondary… With the transfers coming in + true freshman that have either enrolled early and/or will join the team in the summer, this is a position group chalk-full of opportunity both spring AND fall camp. How this position pans out before NC State in September is anyone’s guess with spring camp giving a solid indication with who the favorites could be when it is all said and done.
The Defensive Back positions have many well-rounded players to fill each role. The loss of KJ Sails, Mike Hampton, Nick Roberts, and Bentlee Sanders (all either declared for NFL Draft or entered Transfer Portal) will force a lot of young guys to step up and prove what they can do on the field. Using his 6-2 frame, I expect Townsel to succeed while playing up in STAR position. This position group has guys that can do everything.
Special Teams (ST)
The punter spot should look like this at the end of spring camp with Stokes waiting in the wings until Schneider graduates at the end of 2021. At kicker, it could be a similar situation as the 2020 season with Shrader handling long FG attempts with Sackett as the short-yardage/extra point kicker.
Uhhh, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. On a more serious note, the USF Special Teams group has many guys that specialize in different things. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Shrader and Sackett kicking in the same game.