With less than two weeks remaining before the start of the college football season, beefing up the depth along the offensive line remains a primary concern for the University of South Florida.
Kevin McCaskill always figured to be part of the solution. Now, though, it seems it could be on multiple fronts.
McCaskill, a fifth-year senior competing for playing time at center, has been taking plenty of reps lately at guard. He has drawn praise from USF coaches for his work there, and if he's able to continue to progress, his versatility could help answer some of the questions remaining up front for the Bulls.
"Kevin McCaskill has done a really nice job," coach Skip Holtz said following the team's most recent scrimmage. "Kevin McCaskill is a guy that's starting to really elevate himself to start playing at that level. He's a guy that I really see starting to emerge."
A career backup at USF, McCaskill seemed poised to finally crack the starting lineup in his final season. When spring practice ended in April he was listed atop the depth chart at center, in position to step into the role held the previous two seasons by Sampson Genus, the two-time all-conference performer who was lost to graduation.
But when the Bulls opened fall camp, it was senior Chaz Hine, a returning two-year starter at guard, who was taking the bulk of the reps at center with the first-team line. Shortly after the team's first fall scrimmage in Vero Beach, McCaskill began getting reps at right guard, and his amount of practice time there has continued to increase.
McCaskill's previous experience at guard is limited, to say the least. Outside of a one-game stint at tackle in high school and a handful of reps at guard during his first four years at USF, he has worked exclusively at center. But McCaskill does think he's picking things up quickly, and his attitude toward the new role is positive.
"I think it's better just for the whole overall line," said McCaskill, who has leaned on senior Jeremiah Warren, junior Danous Estenor and Hine for advice during the transition. "When you have numerous players that can play numerous positions, it builds more depth and more trust. If you know someone can play multiple positions and they know what they're doing, I think that's the best thing, especially for an (offensive) lineman, as far as everyone has to work together and know their role. I think bouncing around different positions is beneficial for me and the line."
Like Holtz, offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler has been impressed lately with the 6-foot-1, 320-pound McCaskill, whose twin brother Keith is penciled in as a starting defensive tackle.
"He's a different player than he was in the spring. He's more motivated, he's lost some weight, he's working hard," Shankweiler said. "He's going to figure into this thing. Having the flexibility of Kevin playing both guard and center has been a plus for us."
McCaskill knows with each passing day the light at the end of the tunnel on his college career draws nearer, and that fact is something he's using propel him on the field.
"Just knowing that your time is winding down, it really clicked," McCaskill said, "and I think that's what really motivates me now."