VERO BEACH At one point late last season, then-University of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt called Sam Barrington the best freshman linebacker in Bulls history.
Barrington showed improvement as the season progressed, and in the regular-season finale at Connecticut he filled in nicely for the injured Kion Wilson by registering a career-high seven tackles.
Barrington played in all 13 games, recording 41 tackles and firmly establishing himself as one of the Bulls' most-promising players.
However, so far in fall camp Barrington has done little tackling due to a lingering shoulder injury that forced him to miss a week of spring practice.
Barrington, at the top of the depth chart at middle linebacker coming out of spring practice, is working behind fellow sophomore Michael Lanaris most of the time in practice. Barrington (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) has yet to flash the potential he showed late last season because he is on a restrictive-contact program to make sure he doesn't reinjure the shoulder.
"I'm going through the motions, making sure I can help coach up the other guys and anything I see on the sidelines that I can help with," Barrington said. "You've got to be a teammate all the time.
"You've got to be your brother's keeper, and just because I am hurt, that doesn't mean I can't help the other guys."
Today's scrimmage will be a big test for Barrington, who will be watched closely by defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. The plan is to test Barrington's shoulder, but the Bulls want to take baby steps.
"We don't want to take a risk where he gets hurt and is set back for another month," Snyder said after Friday's practice. "If I see the slightest twinge when he makes contact, we'll scale him back."
As for the shoulder, here is what Barrington had to say: "I'll be 100 percent by the start of the season. Coach Snyder has given me a selective role - no contact. He is very supportive of it. He wants to keep me in the motions. Teammates are helping me out with it."
When will the limited-contact ban be lifted?
"No idea," Barrington said.
While Barrington has been limited in live drills, Lanaris has shown he is ready for more playing time. A redshirt freshman a year ago, Lanaris (6-0, 232) played in 12 games primarily on special teams, recording one tackle.
"He's showing us that he can do some good things out there," Snyder said.
The Barrington-Lanaris position battle is one of the most intriguing entering today's scrimmage according to first-year USF coach Skip Holtz.
"Those are two guys right now that we treat both as ones," Holtz said Friday. "But who's the one and who's the two?"