TAMPA — University of South Florida converted wide receiver Chris Dunkley is ticketed to start at cornerback in Saturday night’s opener against Western Carolina, Bulls coach Willie Taggart said on Monday’s weekly American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference.
Taggart released the first-week depth chart, which had 19 first-year USF players, including six true freshmen and six redshirt freshmen on the two-deep.
“He’s a good football player and he has worked hard to get where he’s at,’’ Taggart said. “We’re expecting big things from Chris.’’
Dunkley and Johnny Ward are the first-team cornerbacks with Nate Godwin and Jamie Byrd playing safety.
Dunkley, who originally signed with Florida then transferred to USF, missed most of the 2012 season and Taggart’s first spring practice due to an indefinite suspension stemming from a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Dunkley completed a pre-trial intervention program, freeing him from prosecution, and was reinstated to USF’s team last summer.
Last season, Dunkley had seven receptions for 87 yards. He averaged 22.6 yards on kickoff returns and 24.2 yards on punt returns, including a 50-yard touchdown.
“Right now, we want Chris to focus on being a great defensive back for us and a great return man for us,” Taggart said. “I think (cornerback) is the position for him.’’
USF listed RB Marlon Mack, WR Ryeshene Bronson, LB Vincent Jackson, S Devin Abraham, CB Deatrick Nichols and P Eric Briggs as backups.
Meanwhile, the starters included two redshirt freshmen, LB Auggie Sanchez and FB Kennard Swanson. Backup redshirt freshmen included G Jeremi Hall, C Cameron Ruff, K Emilio Nadelman and NT Deadrin Senat.
The Bulls are largely healthy, Taggart said. He “expects’’ TE Mike McFarland (knee) to play. LB Nick Holman (shoulder surgery) and DB Jalen Spencer will not play.