Holtz is hopeful both can play Thursday against West Virginia, but if they can't it's not as easy as plugging in the backups. The top two are George Baker, who is doubtful with a rib injury, and JaQuez Jenkins, who has battled a bad hamstring all season.
Beyond that? Well, Ricardo Dixon and Ernie Tabuteau would likely be next in line were they not out for the season with knee and back injuries, respectively. And if the cornerback situation isn't bad enough, backup safety Tyson Butler is questionable with a neck injury and another backup safety, Spencer Boyd, was suspended from the team.
"Some years it seems you get hit harder at some spots than others,'' Holtz said. "And it seems like the wide receivers and defensive backs have been kind of targeted for us. We finished [the Louisville game] without seven defensive backs. You're getting into your depth on your football team and this time of year the teams that are playing well are those that have been able to create depth during the course of the year.''
One might think that a guy like West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would be licking his chops over the prospect of facing a USF secondary that could be reduced to walk-ons at any second. If he is, though, he's not saying.
"I wouldn't say it's a weakness,'' Smith said of the Bulls' secondary. "They have a lot of young guys getting reps and you don't know what they can do until they get out there. It doesn't matter what it looks like on paper.''
No, but the on-paper version of the USF secondary is a mess. The on-field version hasn't been faring too well, either. Louisville freshman Teddy Bridgewater threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns last week.
"We gave up three uncontested touchdown passes when we were in three-deep coverage,'' Holtz said. "You just can't make those types of mistakes and expect to win a football game against a good football team.
"We just have to see who's healthy and where we have to put the pieces to the puzzle in order to put a defense on the field. You're not going to stop [WVU's offense], but you can at least try to slow them down a little bit to where we can keep up with them.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.