The first thing you notice when attending the open USF football practices is how much faster things are happening. For a team that finished 121st out of 128 in adjusted pace last season, it would be hard to see that being repeated in 2015 if the Bulls can translate what we see in practice to the pitch. Things are absolutely moving faster, and the Oregon-style signboards on the sideline to signal the formation and play calls are just one change you'll notice. Tempo has been a point of emphasis, and you can see the results.
But you also see the same frustrations many USF fans will continue to have: An inefficient offense that can't seem to get chunks of yardage or make big plays. When they do, it's been with their feet: Quinton Flowers either getting on the edge after the play breaks down, on a designed run, or keeping it via a zone read between the tackles. When the ball is thrown, more often than not it often looks like a bubble screen or a check down to a safety valve running back.
And when it is thrown down the field, it hasn't been caught too often. Tyre McCants got behind the defense today by 10 yards on a busted coverage, and was so wide open in the end zone he could have auditioned for the lead on Man vs. Wild. But he couldn't haul in Flowers' pass.
"We've got to do a better job of execution. Too many dropped balls today," said Willie Taggart after practice. "When I say dropped balls, I mean both sides. I mean dropping some interceptions. Offensively, just dropping some balls that are hitting them right in the hands that can extend drives and keep them going."
"I thought the effort was there, and that was great to see. Hasn't been any lack of effort in training camp."
UCLA transfer Asiantii Woulard came on late in the session, and made possibly the best throw of the day: a beautiful corner route that got through the defense and was right on the hands of his receiver. If he's able to get a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play this season, it would seem like he'd be quickly in contention to be the starting quarterback. He seemed to show more poise and control in the pocket than either Flowers, Steven Bench, or Adam Robles, though it was a very limited sample.
Defensively, Taggart pointed to Tajee Fullwood as a star through the first seven days of practice. "He's had an unbelievable training camp. Day in and day out: this is the first day in the last three days he didn't get a turnover or create a turnover."
"The key for me has really been what Coach (Tom) Allen has been stressing," said Fullwood. "Every day we have a goal to get five takeaways every practice. They set us to a high standard, so we try to do our best to go get it."
It's tough to tell how good this defense is so far: they're still putting in parts of the new 4-2-5 scheme, but seem to be winning the battle with the offense more often than not.
But how good is that offense? It will probably take a few games against other opponents this season to know that answer.