TAMPA — University of South Florida senior WR Derrick Hopkins — listed at 5-foot-5, 158 pounds — has grown accustomed to people sizing him up.
The first impression last spring for USF first-year coach Willie Taggart?
“Man, that guy is small,’’ Taggart said. “My oldest son is taller than he is, and he is 11.
“When I saw him run, I said, ‘Man, that guy is fast.’ We’ve got to be smart and find ways to get him the ball. We’ve got to find ways to use his speed to his advantage and put him in space, let him run past people.’’
Hopkins, who registered the nation’s best 200-meter dash time (20.97 seconds) as a Miami Monsignor Pace high-school senior, had 19 catches last season in his most extensive work as a USF football player.
“I believe I’m going to be able to get the ball and do some things,’’ said Hopkins, who will also work in the return game. “I feel I’ve always got to proving myself because of my size, (but) I don’t think about that anymore.’’
Two days into training camp, Taggart pronounced himself pleased with the early progress of his players.
“We didn’t have a lot of do-overs because the guys know what to do,’’ Taggart said. “We had a lot more guys making plays on the first day than we usually do. I don’t like seeing us make a mistake on the same thing we just talked about. That’s what gets you emotionally hijacked and gets you frustrated.
“When we run our plays, we’re going to get out of here and not run any extra plays. When we get to the point where we’re getting out of practice early, and not having to do things over and over, things are really rolling right.’’
Taggart mentioned RB Darius Tice and FB Auggie Sanchez as two freshman who caught his eye. Freshman CB Lamar Robbins is “tall and long, which you like at corner, and very instinctive,’’ he said. Freshman QB Mike White is “still learning,” but he knows what to do and he has made some plays.’’
Meanwhile, Taggart also was impressed with sophomore QB Steven Bench, the transfer from Penn State.
“He’s really athletic,’’ Taggart said. “You can tell he has done it before. He’s really poised at what he’s doing.’’
UF backup QB Murphy ready if needed
GAINESVILLE — Tyler Murphy, right now, is the backup to Jeff Driskel but he has been running with the first team while Driskel recovers from an appendectomy. He knows the old saying about being a “heartbeat away’’ from stepping into the starting role is true from experience.
“I’ve been here where, my sophomore year (John) Brantley went down and Jeff and Jacoby (Brissett) had to step up, and I was here last year when Jeff went down and Jacoby had to step up,’’ said Murphy, a redshirt junior. “That’s definitely in the back of my head that it’s a possibility.’’
Murphy has little game experience, and it wasn’t pretty when camp opened, with Driskel watching.
“I’m getting better, I’m making strides,’’ Murphy said. “I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job running the offense, not perfect, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Jeff went 11-2 last season as the starting quarterback, so you’ve got to do a lot of stuff to beat out the quarterback that led the team to the Sugar Bowl.’’
But Murphy realizes injuries happen — they have every season he has been in Gainesville. So there’s a good chance, at some point, he’ll be needed whether he starts a game or not.
Junior WR Quinton Dunbar thinks Alvin Bailey of Armwood and Ahmad Fulwood have stood out as freshmen receivers in camp.
“I just feel like everybody is competing, everybody has got a chip on their shoulder so everybody is trying to go out and show what they can do,’’ Dunbar said of the battle at receiver.
Dunbar believes all the freshmen “can help us this year.’’
David Jones, Florida Today
Ex-Gaither star transfers to Miami
Former Gaither High DE Ernest Suttles has transferred to Miami, Gaither coach Jason Stokes confirmed.
Suttles, a Tribune first-team all-Hillsborough County selection in 2012, signed with Nebraska in February and was set to join the program this fall. Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini said in February that Suttles had a chance to be an immediate contributor.
In June, Pelini announced Suttles was no longer on the team.
Nebraska’s athletic department said in a statement it was “aware of an incident involving student-athletes which occurred off campus over the weekend.”
Lincoln Police Capt. Danny Reitan told the Journal Star that Suttles was cited for assaulting another football player on June 21 at an off-campus party. The Associated Press reported Suttles allegedly struck LB David Santos in the head with a bottle.