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FLORIDA TODAY: South Florida opens against little-known Elon


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South Florida opens against little-known Elon

BY JEFF BERLINICKE

FLORIDA TODAY

TAMPA - While tonight's opening night is little more than a glorified exhibition game, USF football coach Jim Leavitt still has some questions he needs answered.

There aren't many better ways to get that done than to take on a small team from the hills of North Carolina.

The Bulls take on Elon -- you might need to check the Internet to find out that Elon's nickname is the Phoenix -- tonight at 7 at Raymond James Stadium, and it's a prelude to a tough next three weeks that include a trip to Auburn and home games against West Virginia and N. Carolina.

Although the Bulls are already getting Top 25 votes, Leavitt is tinkering with the team on the eve of opening night.

The key question is running back, where a host of Bulls are vying to be the lead back. Moise Plancher sustained a sprained ankle in practice this week and looks doubtful for the Elon game. Junior Ben Williams and freshman Mike Ford are currently 1-2 on the depth chart.

Ford has been impressive since signing with USF after a commitment to Alabama, and Williams led the running backs in rushing last year, second on the team to quarterback Matt Grothe. Then, early this week, Alabama running back Jamar Taylor was granted a hardship waiver and will be eligible to play immediately.

Leavitt said that, prior to the injury, Plancher was expected to play a big role despite his spot on the depth chart.

"Mo is right in the mix with everybody," Leavitt said. "He knows the offense and he'll get a lot of time, but Ben (Williams) is also in there. With Taylor, you will see him playing (tonight). He gives us another guy to work with."

While Elon looks like little more than a pre-season game, Leavitt is looking forward to having his depth chart fully in order before traveling to Auburn next week. He is still looking for a second-string quarterback behind Grothe and hopes that the Bulls can get off to a big early lead before turning the reigns over to former Indiana transfer Grant Gregory, former wide receiver Carlton Hill and senior Anthony Severino for mop up duty.

Leavitt said he also wants to figure out the linebacker situation. All-America candidate Ben Moffitt will anchor the unit, but the other two spots are up for grabs with Chris Robinson battling Iowa State transfer Tyrone McKenzie on one side and Brouce Mompremier trying to hang on at the other side.

Tonight also marks a big night for Nate Allen (Cape Coral) at free safety. He earned the job in the spring, but he's being pushed hard.

Leavitt cautioned his team that several spots are still up for grabs.

"We aren't looking ahead," Leavitt said. "After all this practice, my voice is shot and we are tired of practice. Elon is a good team that plays hard. It will be a tough game."

That may be coachspeak, but for many of the Bulls, this is the first and last audition before the schedule gets scary.

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