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Pork Chop leftovers: Assessing USF’s DL


Heading into the final week of spring football practice at the University of South Florida, before a clean getaway, I was thinking about players the Bulls could least afford to lose.

Senior quarterback B.J. Daniels, certainly. Probably senior linebacker Sam Barrington and senior cornerback Kayvon Webster. You might suggest senior tight end Evan Landi, senior safety Jon Lejiste or even senior place-kicker Maikon Bonani because of his career-long consistency.

But you could make a big case for the overall value of senior defensive tackle Cory Grissom, the guy known as “Pork Chop,’’ an experienced run-stuffer who has started 25 consecutive games. Now Grissom (6-foot-2, 316 pounds) is down. Monday, he fractured the fibula in his right ankle during a non-contract drill and was carted off the field. He will have surgery on Thursday. The timetable for his return is uncertain and will remain that way because the recovery time can’t be predicted that precisely.

USF must at least confront the possibility of playing the season without Grissom, who could petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and a return in 2013. Even if Grissom recovers on the fast track, he figures to miss much of training camp and perhaps the start of the season.

So what’s ahead for a potentially Grissom-less defensive line at USF?

Here are some names to watch:

Junior DE Ryne Giddins (6-3, 283)— Giddins, the former Armwood High School standout and a second-team All-Big East selection, is entrenched on one side of the line. He had 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss last season. In Saturday’s Green and Gold Bowl, Giddins had three sacks. “I think Ryne’s practicing the way he’s playing,’’ USF defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. “I really appreciate his energy and the way he’s playing.’‘

Sophomore DT Elkino Watson (6-2, 287)— Watson made a nice impact last season as a true freshman with 33 tackles and nine tackles for a loss. He’s a candidate to start at an interior position. “I’ve got a lot of guys on my tail to make sure I don’t settle for being mediocre,’’ Watson said.

Junior DT Luke Sager (6-3, 282)— Sager was listed as a first-team defensive tackle on USF’s intial spring depth chart. He played in 12 games last season, but had a minimal impact with 10 tackles, although he forced two fumbles and recovered one. Earlier in spring practice, Sager said he was taking his lead from Grissom. “I feel like I’ve made a good effort this spring by just showing the coaches and showing Pork Chop that I could take this (starting) spot. I always notice what Pork Chop does. You watch him and know what you need to do.’‘

Sophomore DT Todd Chandler (6-0, 306)— If ever there’s a time for Chandler to live up to his press clippings, it’s right now. Chandler was a highly rated prep prospect out of Miami Northwestern High School when he became part of Skip Holtz’s first recruiting class in 2010. He took a redshirt, then became academically ineligible and missed all of last season. With Grissom down, Chandler’s emergence would be a welcome sight at USF.

Junior DE Julius Forte (6-2, 255)—“Ju-Ju’’ figures to start on the opposite side of Giddins. Forte’s listed backup, senior Anthony Hill, suffered a torn ACL last week. Last season, Forte had 21 tackles, three sacks and six tackles for a loss. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t know too much,’’ Forte said. “I just knew how to put my hand in the dirt and get after the ball. They’ve been teaching me every day, my coaches and my teammates. Without them, I’d be running in quicksand.’‘

Junior DE Tevin Mims (6-3, 250)— Mims, a junior-college transfer who played at the University of Texas as a freshman, has caught everyone’s eye with his hustle, attention to detail and experience. “I like him,’’ Forte said. “He’s open-minded toward learning. A lot of times, transfer players might think they know a lot. But he’s very eager to learn and very talented. I have a great feeling about him.’‘

Freshman DE Eric Lee (6-3, 234)—The true freshman from Daphne, Ala., will carry a lot of momentum into training camp. He’s a yes-sir, no-sir type who has gained valuable experience in the spring after enrolling at USF in January. Pushing for a starting position might be unrealistic this early, but he will contend for ample playing time. “If I didn’t know he was a freshman coming in here, I’d think he has been here a couple of years,’’ Cosh said. “He should be going to the prom here in the next month. He’s really a mature young man. He’s got a chance to play real early. I like where he’s at right now.’‘

Others

Freshman DE Antoine Pozniak (6-2, 223)— Enrolled early in 2011, but redshirted last season.

Freshman DE Clavion Nelson (6-3, 269)— Redshirted last season.

Freshman DT James Hamilton (6-2, 330)— Enrolled early in January from Orlando Olympia HS

Junior DT Demi Thompson (6-1, 281)— Missed entire season last year due to back injury.

Freshman DT Cody Sanfratello (6-0, 265)— Redshirted last season.

Freshman DL Guito Ervilus (6-5, 230)— Will begin in training camp, recruited from Orlando Oak Ridge.

Freshman DL Daniel Perry (6-7, 225)— Will begin in training camp, recruited from Fort Lauderdale University School.

     


 

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