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College football

USF: Banks battling a tough standard

By PETE YOUNG, ROB BRANNON
Published November 2, 2003

TAMPA - Ronnie Banks has discovered the same thing folks such as Ron Zook and Bill Guthridge know: replacing a legend can be rough.

The South Florida quarterback this season succeeded the program's original legend, four-year starter Marquel Blackwell. It has been a fluctuating ride that plummeted Friday when Banks was benched after going 1-for-6 for 3 yards in USF's 24-17 double-overtime win over Cincinnati.

Blackwell's greatest gift was his ability to feel the pass rush and avoid negative plays. His sixth sense, nimble feet and quick thinking, combined with his starting experience, made him nearly flawless his final two years.

Banks has struggled against pressure, and his accuracy has wavered, especially Friday, when he scattered passes high and wide. But coach Jim Leavitt said he is far from giving up on Banks. Backup Pat Julmiste (5-of-12 for 67 yards Friday), a redshirt freshman from Miramar, is talented but raw.

"I'm proud as can be of Ronnie Banks," Leavitt said. "He's still in the hunt."

Both could play significant snaps the rest of the season. Julmiste (6 feet 2, 220 pounds) likely will get first crack Saturday at East Carolina, and if he plays well he could be the main man the rest of the way, with receiver/option specialist Brian Fisher continuing as the sporadic changeup. Julmiste, like Banks, has a tremendous arm, but he is a better runner, allowing the Bulls to expand their repertoire.

MAJOR IMPACT: Senior safety J.R. Reed tallied a school-record 19 tackles (unofficially), breaking the mark of 18 set by Anthony Henry in 1999 vs. James Madison and Maurice Jones in the season opener at Alabama. (Reed's mark might have an asterisk because it came in a double-OT game.)

Reed also had an interception, raising his school-record total to 14, a 27-yard kickoff return and a big stick that drew a late flag on Cincinnati's lone touchdown drive of regulation. The personal foul kept the drive alive and drew a vehement protest from Leavitt.

"It's ugly but it's still a win," Reed said after USF won despite gaining 218 yards in regulation.

HIGH RISER: Huey Whittaker, USF's leading receiver, left in the third quarter with a sprained ankle but returned late in the fourth to block Cincinnati's 40-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of regulation. The 6-foot-5 Whittaker leaped from behind the line, and Chet Ervin's low kick nailed him in the chest, sending the 10-10 game to overtime.

GOING TO CAROLINA, AGAIN: USF will play consecutive seasons at East Carolina. The Bulls won 46-30 last season, with Blackwell throwing five touchdowns.

[Last modified November 2, 2003, 07:26:04]


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