TAMPA — If the University of South Florida’s defense has to play a lot of snaps in its season opener against McNeese State on Saturday, expect to see a handful of youngsters make their Bulls debut.
Three true freshmen — OLB Nigel Harris, S Nate Godwin and CB Lamar Robbins — are listed as backups on USF’s depth chart, meaning they’ll likely get to play against the Cowboys. In addition, redshirt freshman CB Jalen Spencer should get some defensive snaps as sophomore Kenneth Durden’s backup.
Cornerback was one of the Bulls’ fiercest position battles in training camp, with Durden and former walk-on Brandon Salinas holding the starting spots they earned in spring practice, ahead of Spencer and Robbins. Salinas has played seven career games, but never started.
“We’ve got some young talent there, that’s pushed (Durden and Salinas) some,” USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said. “I’m pleased that they’ve worked hard. They’ve practiced every day and haven’t missed a thing and done well.”
Spencer and Robbins are almost certain to play on a young defensive unit, as well as freshman DB Johnny Ward, Bresnahan said.
The Bulls will have a young starter at strongside linebacker in sophomore Zack Bullock, who played in nine games last season as a reserve.
“It’s a great honor to get the nudge at the end, but I’ve still got to prove myself,” Bullock said. “I’ve still got to earn it every day I come out here. It could change before the game, it could change every day, so I’ve just got to keep working.”
USF head coach Willie Taggart will be reunited with his defensive coordinator from Western Kentucky, Lance Guidry, who now holds the same position with McNeese State.
“I know their defensive coordinator really well and he knows us really well,” Taggart said. “I don’t think it’s Guidry that we’ve got to worry about, it’s their players and our players doing what we do. He can know it, but he’s got to get his guys to know it.”
Guidry’s knowledge of USF’s offense won’t affect play calling, Taggart said.
“We’re going to do what we do,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. …He knows some of the things we like. We also know what he likes. It’s about who puts their kids in the best position to make plays and it’s on our guys to go and make it happen.”