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College football

Secondary injuries stand at USF forefront

By Times Staff Writers Times Wires
Published October 14, 2004

TAMPA - Injuries in the secondary continue to be a concern, and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said he does not plan to use starting cornerback Mike Jenkins, nursing an ankle injury, in Saturday's homecoming game against Army.

"Jenkins didn't work. We're not planning on it. I'm planning on playing the other guys," he said. "I can't plan on guys who aren't here."

Jenkins' top backup is senior Bruce Gipson, but he had an injury scare Wednesday when he turned his ankle during punt coverage drills. Gipson was on his back for several minutes, had the ankle taped and did not return to practice in the next half hour. Co-defensive coordinator Rick Kravitz said Gipson was able to return to drills later and should be fine for Saturday. If Gipson can't go, redshirt freshman Trae Williams, who started at cornerback in the Sept. 18 loss at South Carolina, would play.

Starting right guard Chris Carothers, who missed the Southern Miss game Oct. 2 with an ankle injury, practiced.

BIG CROWD: USF could set several school attendance records Saturday, including the largest at Raymond James Stadium (36,044, set last year against Louisville) and largest homecoming (34,432 set against Southern Illinois in 1997).

- GREG AUMAN, Times staff writer

FSU: Sexton focused

TALLAHASSEE - Wyatt Sexton's well-documented laid-back demeanor has been elevated with his first Top 10 test looming as FSU's starting quarterback.

The importance of Saturday's matchup with No. 6 Virginia calls for more deliberateness.

"I'm a little more focused just because of the intensity level this game is going to be played in," Sexton said. "I'm not quite as relaxed out there during practice. I'm more in the mentality that I'm going to be using during the game."

A flawed game against a lesser opponent can inspire that.

Sexton had to remain poised as Florida State needed a comeback to beat Syracuse 17-13 Saturday in his second career start. Add to the fire coach Bobby Bowden's remarks after the game that had Chris Rix been healthy, he would have considered replacing Sexton when FSU was down 10-3.

"I don't want my head coach to ever think he should be pulling me from a game, because I feel like I definitely can lead our team to victory," Sexton said, "no matter if we're struggling in a game or if we have the game under control or we're playing a Top 10 quality opponent. I feel like I'm capable and have shown I'm reliable enough that I deserve a chance to be stuck with through a tough game."

Rix's sprained ankle is getting closer to 100 percent, Bowden said. That could mean Sexton has a lesser chance of remaining in the game if he struggles. And with Rix running the second-team offense in practice, Sexton knows it: "I sense his presence there."

WEATHERFORD REHAB: Freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford was in shoulder pads during practice, but that doesn't mean his sprained right ankle is healed.

The Land O'Lakes grad got hurt on his first and only college play Oct. 2 against North Carolina. He said the resulting sore Achilles' tendon has slowed his recovery.

"It's getting better, but it's taking a lot longer than what they thought," Weatherford said. "I think because the Achilles' is a little more serious than the ankle, it's taking time to recover."

Though in uniform, Weatherford did not work out in team drills, Bowden said.

- ZACHARY SPAIN, Times correspondent

UF: Hill's presence felt

GAINESVILLE - Defensive tackle Michael Hill, who missed time during his Gators career with a variety of injuries, made his way up the depth chart and onto the field last weekend against LSU. The redshirt freshman failed to record a tackle, but coach Ron Zook said his presence was felt.

"I thought he did a really nice job the other night," Zook said. "In a big game he played with a lot of energy. During one of the interceptions he hit somebody and knocked about three guys backwards."

With starting tackle Ray McDonald nursing an ankle sprain, Hill could find himself with a more significant role against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. And after all that he has endured, including two shoulder surgeries and collapsing during a 2003 summer workout, Hill is glad to have his number called.

"I know it was a traumatic time in my life," Hill said. "But it paid off for the best because for all that I have been through, I don't think there is much worse I can go through. It helped me mentally and made me stronger mentally than I was before."

BIG-PLAY CHAD: Zook said punt returner Vernell Brown is doing a good job but he plans to use receiver Chad Jackson.

"I ran a couple punts back for touchdowns in high school," Jackson said. "In the playoffs, I ran one back and scored the game-winning touchdown for our high school team. So, I'm pretty used to it. But in college, everyone is faster, so it's different."

LOOSE CHANGE: Safety Jarvis Herring has been the primary nickel back but his suspension leaves the role up for grabs.

"We've got three choices," Zook said. "(Zephrin Augustine) will play nickel. We could move Cory (Bailey) up there and play Kyle Jackson (at safety). Or we could play Big Twin, Jermaine McCollum."

Zook said Middle Tennessee substitutes so frequently, all three will play.

- BRIAN SHAFFER, Times correspondent

Nation

NO. 17 W.VA. 31, UCONN 19: Rasheed Marshall rushed for 110 yards and threw a touchdown, and Mike Lorello had two interceptions for the visiting Mountaineers in the Big East opener.

GEORGIA: Linebacker Arnold Harrison hopes to play Saturday vs. Vanderbilt after missing two games with an injured shoulder.

NORTH CAROLINA: Punter David Wooldridge was sentenced to 50 hours of community service for stealing computer equipment from a Wal-Mart under a deal that will clear his record if he stays out of trouble for the next year.

- TIMES WIRES

[Last modified October 14, 2004, 00:44:16]


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