Having a handful of offensive linemen expected to contribute this season miss practice time is never a good thing, but there were a few positives to come from it, according to South Florida offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler.
"It's given us a chance to build some depth and kind of discover one or two little pieces, not that we didn't think they could do it, but all of the sudden because of the reps and the opportunity they've been given they're kind of stepping up a little bit," Shankweiler said.
Among those pieces were two freshmen that USF coach Skip Holtz mentioned among the newcomers expected to contribute this season — tackle Darrell Williams and guard Thor Jozwiak. In addition, Jeremiah Warren (from guard to tackle) and Kevin McCaskill (from center to guard) got valuable reps in different spots and seemed to show they can be viable options in those roles if needed.
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch mentioned this week a group of 12 players the staff was looking at as in the mix on the first two lines, and Shankweiler echoed those sentiments Thursday.
The first-team line consists of, from left to right: Mark Popek, who returned to practice Thursday for the first time since leaving Saturday's scrimmage with a head injury, Warren, Chaz Hine, Danous Estenor and Quinterrius Eatmon.
Tackle Damien Edwards, who Shankweiler said has had a very good camp, factors into the primary backup stable that also includes center Austin Reiter, guards John McGhin and Tony Kibler (still out for a few days with a shoulder injury), McCaskill and the two freshmen.
"That group is pretty much the group we're going to center on for the season," Shankweiler said.
S C.J. Garye had surgery on his left knee Thursday and will be out for three weeks. … CB Ernie Tabuteau (back) and DT Demi Thompson (back), sidelined the final few days in Vero Beach, returned to practice. … RB Darrell Scott missed practice after having some dental work done, but he is expected back today. … Holtz said the team will vote on captains for the season next week.