By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls just finished practice 10 of 15 this spring, but the big talk Monday morning was about No. 9.
The USF coaching staff had the weekend to analyze film from the team's first scrimmage on Saturday and offensive coordinator Todd Fitch was left with several impressions of where the Bulls are from a personnel standpoint.
One name Fitch, head coach Skip Holtz and many players keep repeating this spring is Austin Reiter, who has taken great strides in his pursuit of filling the team's vacant starting spot at center. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound redshirt sophomore's athleticism was noticeable on Saturday when he looked solid matching up against USF's first and second defensive units before grading out as a winner.
Reiter will have very large shoes to fill if he wins the starting spot. Last year's center, Chaz Hine, is preparing for an NFL career after he took over for second-year Green Bay Packer Sampson Genus.
Reiter spent most of 10 games on special teams last season and the Bradenton native has used increased reps this spring to open up his coaches' eyes to his promising possibility at center.
"He's got great quickness," Fitch said. "He's probably quicker than all those (Hine and Genus) when he plays with great leverage. As he develops and continues to get game experience, he's got a chance to be a really good player. It's just been fun to watch him."
Another name Fitch brought up was receiver Andre Davis and it wasn't only for the sophomore's big-play ability. USF executed well on third downs in Saturday's scrimmage and some of the credit has to go to Davis. He made tough catches in short-yardage situations a year after Fitch said he would have "flopped around," along with getting aggressive on a deep ball he snagged in traffic.
"He also got some blocks on the back side that were big runs for us," Fitch said. "That was encouraging to see."
The Bulls' first simulated game action of the spring featured mostly conservative drives that consisted of eight plays and Fitch said the offense will get more aggressive in scrimmage No. 2. USF's next scrimmage is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday on campus at Corbett Soccer Stadium and it will be open to the public.
"You'll try to move the chains, throw more and finish the drive," he said. "We'll probably be a little bit more open in this scrimmage in terms of doing some things on early downs just to try to get the ball into space a little bit more than we did last time."
MARTIN A MAN ON THE MOVE
JUCO transfer Lawrence Martin has been a man on the move, even after he moved in at USF.
Naturally a left guard, Martin has been spending time on the right side this spring while filling in for senior Danous Estenor, who has been slowed by an ankle injury.
"I like it. It's fun, but a lot of work though," said Martin, who redshirted last season after earning First-Team Region II All-California honors at Merced College in 2010.
Switching sides on the line isn't an easy task and 6-foot-3, 309-pounder sounded like he was learning a new type of dance when describing his new tasks for the time being.
"You go from setting from the left to setting with your right (hand)," explained Martin, who is extremely left-hand dominant. "You're so used to stepping with your left (foot) on a pass set when you're supposed to step with your right. It's a big difference."
The move to the right side is very foreign to Martin at this point, but the new Bull is definitely eager to learn the position in his plan of becoming versatile for the Bulls in 2012.
"I can't do anything but work at it because if something happens during the season, I can be able to play it," he said.
His technique might not be perfect and footwork might be out of sync at times, but Martin's work ethic has left a big impression on Fitch.
"He's got a chance to be a good player; he just has to get more comfortable in the system. I was kind of encouraged by the way he kept competing," Fitch said.
IT'S FINALLY FOR REAL FOR DAVIS
Running back Willie Davis spent the entire 2011 season pretending he was someone that he's not.
The redshirt freshman was delegated to scout team duties, posing as players from opposing offenses, and now he's finally getting used to increased reps while running as a real Bull.
"I'm just going out there trying to better myself every day. I'm trying to listen to the advice the coaches have for me," Davis said. "I'm basically just trying to compete with everybody and see where I'm at."
Davis has to learn fast because he belongs to a very talented group that's competing for playing time at the No. 2 spot in the Bulls' backfield. At 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, Davis has not shied away from contact this spring and said getting physical is important for any USF back heading into the new season.
"That's what this offense is really all about - toughness," he said. "As a running back, personally I think you have to be tough. Those are the runs that really count. In the second half, the defense doesn't really want to touch you when you're being tough with them. Then you can start breaking off the big runs."
The Bulls will be back on the turf Wednesday morning for the final time until Saturday's Green and Gold Bowl. Gates will open at Corbett Stadium at 4:30 p.m. A punt, pass and kick competition will be going on during the scrimmage for USF students, who have the chance to win a spot on the sidelines for the Bulls' spring game at Raymond James Stadium on April 21. Click here to register.