USF Coaches Get a Good Look at Personnel
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Throw out the question of which side of the ball dominated the Bulls' first scrimmage of the spring because that's definitely not what it was about.
Head coach Skip Holtz and his staff put the play calling into warp speed Friday morning, running the Bulls through about 140 plays for a simple and very important reason.
"It was a scrimmage of we're trying to evaluate our personnel," Holtz said. "What can we do, and who can we do it with?"
Call it watching, cataloging and judging each individual's body of work from two intense hours of what Holtz called a "very physical" process.
"It was a lot of hard hitting. I thought they got after it today," he said.
The coaching staff already was hard at work reviewing film as soon as the scrimmage ended. From there they'll meet, discuss and visit with players on Monday before the initial depth chart is released.
"For us coaches, in our minds, we've got some idea of who has been playing at a certain level through eight days," Holtz said. "For the players, today is the first day they had the opportunity to earn the position."
JaQuez Jenkins did just about all he could do to prove himself. The free safety, which Holtz called Jenkins' "natural position" intercepted a Bobby Eveld deep ball early in the day to set the tone. Jenkins followed with two pass breakups against Eveld that eerily resembled his pick-6 during last fall's West Virginia game when he jumped a route and jetted to the end zone.
"It's just reading the quarterback's eyes. That's basically it," he said. "I just read his eyes and I just went."
Although Jenkins' performance wasn't perfect, the initial glance from Holtz earned him rave reviews at safety after he had to spend most of 2011 filling in at cornerback because of injuries. The redshirt junior's size (6-2, 189), athleticism and experience has his head coach feeling pretty good about his possibilities in 2012.
"I've really been impressed with Jenkins," Holtz said. "He gives us that free safety we haven't had here - tall, lanky, athletic and can cover a lot of ground."
Jenkins' interception was the first of three from a secondary group that's the deepest since Holtz and his staff took over in 2010. Junior Mark Joyce, who is competing for a starting spot at safety, made a diving pick shortly after Jenkins' play and even a walk-on got involved when Zach Fischer caught a pass in traffic and ran for what would have been a touchdown.
"Everyone who got a rep today played great," Jenkins said. "That's what we need right there in the secondary because we took two losses with Jerrell Young and Quenton Washington back there. Those are key guys and we need younger players to step in. That's what they did today. I think they made a name for themselves."
WIDE RECEIVERS GET THEIRS
The USF defense played well for most of Friday's scrimmage, but Bulls receivers found a way to make a couple of large gains.
Eveld took advantage of a blown coverage and found Chris Dunkley for a 38-yard touchdown strike. Dunkley, a redshirt sophomore, has been recovering from a wrist injury and has been getting limited reps this spring while getting more familiar with the system after transferring from Florida last year.
"I think it's great to see him out there," Holtz said. "He needs the work and I think the more comfortable he feels in the offense, the more his talents and abilities will have the ability to rise to the top."
Andre Davis' play has stood out all spring and the sophomore went up and grabbed a long touchdown catch in traffic that served as an example of what Holtz is looking for from his receivers in preparation for the fall.
"He caught that contested ball, which I'm trying to see," Holtz said. "I want to evaluate the personnel, not necessarily see the result. We have to get to the point where we can play the ball in the air. We have to get to the point where we can get it one-on-one and I thought we did that a couple times today."
The Bulls get a couple of needed days off before getting back to work on the practice fields Monday morning. They'll go again on Wednesday in preparation for next Saturday's Green and Gold Bowl at Corbett Stadium that's open to the public. Action will begin at 6 p.m. on campus.