Anthony Bryant is playing well--very well, in fact. On the other hand, Ahmad Childress has yet to assert himself this fall. "Ahmad has had some other problems physically this fall that has held him back a little bit," Buddy Wyatt related. "Ahmad hasn't been out there enough to really say one way or another how he's progressed."
Football depth charts are pretty much a zero-sum game. When one player falls back a bit, there's always someone behind to step ahead. At this point Jeremy Clark is working with the first unit, alongside Bryant.
"Every day I'm coming out, just trying to get better every day," Clark said. "I'm taking it one technique at a time. I try to focus on one thing every day. I'm trying to perfect my technique."
Both Bryant and Childress focused on their conditioning this summer. Childress ended up losing 27 pounds and Bryant 12. Again, if they both stay healthy, the two are clear favorites to start this season. But they'd better watch out for the hard-charging redshirt freshman.
Since arriving on campus, Jeremy Clark has built his body up to a rock-solid 290 pounds. He has yet to play a down of college football, but there's no question that will change quickly.
Wyatt commented, "Jeremy had a good scrimmage. He was more productive, doing some good things. He's starting to make some plays. We're still trying to get him more physical at the point of attack. But he's doing really good."
Clark was a star in high school, but big-time college football is played on another level entirely. After spending a year on campus lifting weights and learning, Clark says he's turned the corner. "Finally! That light bulb seemed to come on this fall," Clark said. "I'm in there now practicing with the big guys. The mental aspect of playing college football is coming to me right now."
Kyle Tatum and Clark both played defensive end in high school. They arrived on campus together, and the two worked hard this summer to bulk up to play inside. "Kyle is working his behind off," Wyatt said. "He's trying hard. He'll do whatever you ask him to do. You ask him to run through a wall, he'll run through it."
Tatum began fall camp weighing 282 pounds, but he's taking a bit longer to adjust to defensive tackle. "He's just got to get a feel for the game," Wyatt explained. "He doesn't have the feel for the game down like some of the other guys. But it'll come. That comes with playing time and experience.
"Kyle is still adjusting a little bit to playing tackle. Things happen a little faster inside. He's still adjusting to that."
Generally, true freshmen aren't ready to play at defensive tackle. But Dominic Lee could be an exception. Since arriving on campus, he's caught the eye of his coaches.
"Dominic has some good traits," Wyatt said. "When you go one-on-one, he shines. He does some really good things. Where he has his problems is when you put him in team situations. We're going there now, and things are moving a little fast for him. But he has a lot of talent."
Lee could play or redshirt. That decision has yet to be made. But either way Wyatt thinks the coaches have a good one on their hands. "He's gifted," Wyatt said of Lee. "He's a very talented young man. I think before it's all said and done, Dominic is going to be an outstanding football player."
The South Florida game is barely more than two weeks away, and Wyatt is still searching for his top group.
"It's still to early to see the playing rotation," Wyatt said. "We're still trying to work that out. We want to see how some of the guys progress. See how far some of the guys have come. Then we'll decide whether or not to redshirt them or play them."
But back to the question of starters. Which two players are ahead at this point?
"Jeremy and ‘Bear' are both having a really good camp," Wyatt said. "I think Jeremy and 'Bear' are having better camps."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Obviously based on his relative lack of work, at this point Childress is working with the second unit. But that could change quickly.