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USF scrimmage: High noon

Posted Aug 18, 2012 by Joey Johnston

Updated Aug 18, 2012 at 08:40 AM

VERO BEACH—The University of South Florida Bulls will hold their final training-camp scrimmage today at the Vero Beach Sports Village (noon, open to the public). Bulls coach Skip Holtz said it will be more of a “game-like’’ scrimmage, unlike last Monday’s scrimmage, which was mostly utilized to evaluate personnel and set an initial depth chart.

And speaking of that depth chart ...

“Very few things are set in stone,’’ Holtz said. “There are a lot of position battles still going on. We have a lot of guys on the depth chart with a ‘slash’ (meaning a position is shared with another player, 13 of those, in fact). It’s all ever-changing. Between the last scrimmage, this scrimmage and the next scrimmage (Friday in Tampa), things could keep changing.’‘

Holtz said he believed there were two areas that may have been the most thought-provoking on the initial depth chart:

* Offensive line: Sophomore Darrell Williams, who played 10 games in a reserve role last season, was listed as the first-team left tackle. Meanwhile, senior Mark Popek, who started all 12 games last season at left tackle and has 21 career starts at tackle, was listed as the first-team left guard. The moves also shifted senior Damien Edwards, the spring starter at left guard, to the reserve role at left tackle.

* Linebacker: Redshirt sophomore Reshard Cliett was listed as the first-team strong-side linebacker. Senior Sam Barrington was shifted from the outside to first-team middle linebacker. Senior Michael Lanaris, who started 11 games last season at middle linebacker, was listed as second team at that position.

  “Those areas are probably the two most glaring changes on the depth chart and the reasons are two-fold,’’ Holtz said. “Darrell Williams and Reshard Cliett are playing really, really well. We think highly about both of them. But the other part is we need to see if they are ready to be starters.

“How are they going to handle being (on the first team)? It’s a little different when you’re always a two, you’re always going against the second team. Now all of a sudden, if you’re Darrell Williams, you’re going against (Ryne) Giddins and (Tevin) Mims every day. All of a sudden, a very different mindset. Yes, they are talented, but are they ready to handle a starting role on our football team? These are things you need to find out as you develop depth.’‘

Holtz said the initial depth chart listings were not a knock against Edwards or Lanaris, who were shifted to the second team, nor a reflection of Popek’s play at left tackle.

Whether or not the moves remain permanent, Holtz said it’s a way to explore options, an element that USF lacked in previous seasons when depth was depleted.

“If we get into the middle of the season and we want to move Sam Barrington to the inside or outside—or we want to move Mark Popek from guard to tackle—they will have already played those positions,’’ Holtz said. “It’s a way to develop depth on the offensive line and linebacker, which is something I think we need. You can work on these things now and not at halftime of the Rutgers game, when we may be facing an injury or some adversity.

“Mike Lanaris has been playing his best football, but we need depth at middle linebacker. Damien Edwards has been playing great, but if he goes down, who is the next guard? We’re going to watch how Sam Barrington and Mike Lanaris will handle being in the middle together. We can see how Damien Edwards handles going from a starting guard to a backup tackle. Their attitudes have been really great. There are people on our depth chart who are identifying themselves as standouts, obvious key-role guys. But in the bigger picture, as far as what’s fair for this football team and giving us the best chance to keep improving, we’ve got to explore creating more depth.

“Some things might change. Some things might stay the same. We’ll see how the scimmages play out. We may move things around again next week and it will create even more of a stir (with fans). But I will say our depth has never been better and that’s a very, very healthy thing for this football program.’‘

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