One of the spring standouts for the USF football team has been sophomore running back Demetris Murray, who USF coach Skip Holtz had more praise for after Murray impressed in the team’s second spring scrimmage at One Buc Place Saturday afternoon.
“He’s getting to the point where he can be an every down back,” Holtz said of Murray, who’s listed a second team back on the depth chart, which Holtz said he’d update once he evaluates Saturday’s scrimmage. “As just a young player, that’s a nice thing to have right now knowing Mo Plancher is a sixth year senior. I know Mo can be an every down back when you watch him on film last year but (sophomore Bradley) Battles and Murray are the two that are going to have to continue to develop.”
Murray, who rushed for a touchdown in the first scrimmage, had three runs of ten yards or more and scored a touchdown near the goalline in the absence of Plancher, who was held out because of a minor hamstring tweak.
“I was really impressed with Murray,” offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. “He made some nice runs – some really good cuts … He got a lot of quality reps.”
Murray, USF’s mere fourth option last season, has been making strides in a backfield hit with attrition in the offseason. Senior Mike Ford was kicked off the team in February and senior Jamar Taylor’s future with the program is still in question after Taylor was held out of spring practice with academic issues.
With both Taylor and Ford expected to be significant contributors in USF’s backfield in 2010, Murray’s progression has been a welcome sight.
“He’s running the ball extremely hard. He’s doing some good things. I think he’s been a bright spot, definitely,” Holtz said. “(Senior running back) Mo Plancher wasn’t able to go (Saturday), which is an opportunity for (Murray) to step up and show a little bit about what he can do … he’s getting better and better. He’s showing some toughness. He’s running hard. He’s being physical.”
Depth concern at cornerback
USF defensive coordinator Mark Fitch said he was impressed with USF’s first string defense on Saturday, though he still sees a depth concern in the secondary.
“I’ve been pretty pleased with that whole first unit. We’re not very deep at corner – that’s the one thing that’s concerning right now,” Snyder said. “We have some depth (overall). We have some speed. I think the guys are performing at a pretty high level right now to only be three weeks into the system.”
Junior Tyson Butler, who played in USF’s first eight games last season, is out for the spring with a knee injury suffered last year while Ricardo Dixon had surgery on his shoulder, causing him to miss all of spring practice.
Sophomore Daniel Bryant, a converted wide receiver, had an interception as did senior linebacker Sabbath Joseph.
But Snyder said Bryant, who’s listed as a second string cornerback on the depth chart, still “has a long way to go.”
“He had a lot of mistakes, too,” Snyder said. “He’s going to need every 29 practices that we have but he is a good athlete … (cornerback) is a position a young kid, a freshman, might have to come in and help us.”
The Bulls are expecting a touted freshman cornerback this fall in Hillsborough High’s Terrence Mitchell, one of USF’s highest rated recruits in program history. Mitchell is expected to push for immediate playing time.
Defensive line impresses
Snyder said he “saw a flash off the ball” Saturday.
“That excites you as a coordinator,” he said. “We do have some suddenness up front.”
With the departures of George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, who are both expected to be taken in April’s NFL draft, defensive end still may be a bit of an unknown for 2010, but on Saturday, the line created havoc all scrimmage long, Snyder said.
“We lost some pretty critical components on the outside with our defensive ends but Craig and David have a lot of playing experience. They’re doing an awesome job,” linebacker Mike Lanaris said. “Our interior lineman are doing an awesome job … They’re really coming along. We’re communicating well and I feel like they did control and help keep guys off me all day, which is good.”
Holtz said there were a few minor injuries during the scrimmage, with sophomore tackle Mark Popek (hip pointer), junior guard Chaz Hine (foot), and sophomore tight end Andreas Shields (leg) expected “to be OK here in a couple days.”