By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - USF used the bye week to create more depth and fans should expect to see a lot of young talent getting playing time on the defensive side of the ball.
Head coach Skip Holtz went through a list of players that have caught his eye during what he called an "open tryout" last week and it includes linebackers Tashon Whitehurst, Reshard Cliett and Zack Bullock, defensive back Chris Bivins Jr. and defensive end Clavion Nelson.
"You are going to see more of these younger guys playing," Holtz said. "We need to get more of a rotation going and we have to get more depth on the field rather than playing these guys 75 plays a game."
USF's veteran players have embraced the situation and having fresh bodies on key downs might allow the Bulls to create more turnovers.
"I think it's going to help out really well," senior cornerback Kayvon Webster said. "It's just a little spark to the defense having that rotation there. You don't want a guy that's really tired during third down when you can have somebody that's just as good and fresh coming in."
Safety Ernie Tabuteau is earning more playing time and Webster also has been impressed with the way Bivins Jr., a freshman, has been progressing with time.
"He comes to play and he competes for the ball while it's in the air. He has good hands," Webster said. "... I feel confident about Bivins playing."
A big man that could help USF get better in the turnover battle is 6-foot-3, 274-pound Nelson, who has impressed coaches with his ability to deflect passes on the line. The redshirt freshman said during fall camp he'd get his hands on two passes a day, and these days it's one per practice.
"I always make sure I put my hands up because I know my arms are long," Nelson said.
Nelson's ability could help a defensive line that's batted down just two balls this season.
Looking Good at Linebacker
Younger players stepping up has allowed senior Sam Barrington to move inside, while Cliett is likely to start outside and Whitehurst will be able to spell DeDe Lattimore at the weak side spot.
"Hopefully that's going to result in a fresher player for 60 minutes," Holtz said.
Holtz said there will be no "wholesale substitution" and coaches will decide to make moves based on how players are holding up at certain times. Holtz feels really comfortable with Cliett in the game and the sophomore is excited about the opportunity.
"Just go out and ball out. That's my mind set going into the game," he said.
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