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USF assistant talking tough

Posted Apr 9, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Apr 9, 2012 at 04:20 PM

This much we know: University of South Florida defensive backs coach Rick Smith values toughness. He believes his unit has good depth, but he wants to see more progress. And he doesn’t hesitate to call anyone out.

Asked about junior free safety JaQuez Jenkins, who had one interception in Friday’s scrimmage and dropped two others, Smith said following Monday’s spring practice, “Jenkins will have a good day, then he’s hurt. Like today, he goes down and we don’t get anything out of him. That’s his history. Durability, there is none. Toughness, there is none. He’s just a real good athlete that I can’t depend upon to be on the field.’‘

Smith said senior George Baker, a contender at cornerback, had a great scrimmage on Friday, but tempered that enthusiasm after Monday’s practice.

“Today, I tried to explain to him, ‘We don’t trust you right now,’ ‘’ Smith said. “We put you in a game last year when it counted and you got us burned, lost the dang Louisville game. He has a great (scrimmage), today he goes out there and gives up two deep ones. You think the head coach is still going to trust you? We don’t trust him. He’s never going to be a starter until we can trust him. If he wants to keep giving up touchdowns, eventually he’ll be third team.’‘

Talking about junior-college transfers Fidel Montgomery and Josh Brown, who might be fighting for a first-team spot at cornerback, Smith said, “Josh has a lot of talent, but Josh is not very tough mentally. He’s got a long way to go in toughness. Fidel is very tough mentally, may not have as much talent, a little stiff in the hips, whereas Josh has great flexibility. But one is tough and one is not.’‘

Smith said if he had to line up a nickel package today, the likely starters would be senior Kayvon Webster and Montgomery at cornerback, Jenkins at nickel back, junior Mark Joyce at free safety and senior Ernie Tabuteau at strong safety.

That doesn’t take into account the injuries to senior Jon Lejiste, expected to start at safety, and highly rated freshman Chris Bivins, who enrolled in January. Smith also said Montgomery, more of a natural safety, is currently working at corner because of necessity. Montgomery could easily shift to safety during training camp, when the secondary is at full strength.

Regardless of who starts, Smith made it clear that toughness will be a big factor. He said Joyce and Webster have a big edge in that category.

“You’re born with it or maybe it’s instilled in you with the way you are raised,’’ Smith said. “Kids are different these days. But why is Mark Joyce tough? Why is Kayvon tough?

“Joyce will be on the field, even if his throat was cut. That’s how tough he is. He’s just a tough mother and that’s what you need.’‘


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