On Wednesday, Wille Taggart decided to give his team a break by taking them to Clearwater Beach for the afternoon.
"It was much needed, I ain't going to lie to you," said safety Jaymon Thomas, who appears to have grown a couple of inches since spring. "Our bodies were tired, we were dead. Then he said 'beach.' Everybody went crazy. It was awesome."
Back on campus last night, the Bulls got down to business running drills and scrimmaging in full pads. The depth chart seems to be solidifying, but with two weeks until the season begins, the coaches are reluctant to name their starters.
"Jaymon Thomas has done a fantastic job," said safeties coach John Jancek. He also mentioned Devin Abraham, Khalid McGee, and Nate Ferguson as defensive standouts.
Jancek was Tennessee's defensive coordinator for the last three years under Butch Jones. He also coached at Cincinnati with Jones. Last year Tennessee's defense held their opponents to 20 points per game and crushed Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, but he was the fall guy for some late collapses by the Volunteers.
"It's good for those guys to get in especially against a great group of receivers that we have here at South Florida, so it's encouraging," said Jancek. "They're making plays, but they're making plays against good players, too, so that's positive."
With many starting jobs up for grabs at USF, there is a lot of rotation going on in practice as the coaches try to get every player ready for the fall. "We were lucky last year. We went through the season fairly healthy," said Taggart. "We want to continue to build depth with some of the guys that haven't played but have been in our program, and then with some of the freshmen that come in."
Out With the Husky, In With the Striker
Khalid McGee seems to be earning a starting spot in the Bulls secondary. He'll be stepping into Jamie Byrd's shoes to play "striker," which is that permanent nickelback position in the 4-2-5. "Striker is fun," said McGee. "I can do so many things: I can cover, I could act like I'm blitzing, I could blitz."
You may remember Jamie Byrd flying to the ball on every play last year, hitting hard, and intercepting passes from the "husky" position. He hasn't been a stranger this summer at USF, making some appearances to support the young safeties taking his place. "He was here last week watching film, telling us good things, what to look for and not look for," McGee said of Byrd. "That's a good thing to have him around."
McGee got a lot of personal praise from the coaches on Thursday for his talent and hard work. Expect to see him on the field all season.
Practicing under the lights gives the Bulls a nice rest from the heat and helps them prepare for the minimum of four night games they will play this fall. They'll hold at least one more night practice before camp is over.
With the first game drawing closer, USF will soon begin focusing on preparations for the Towson Tigers. "Come next week we'll start to really hone in on Towson, and really make sure we're sharp and ready for our first game," Taggart said.
Speaking of that first game, did you know that two days before USF lost to McNeese State, UConn lost to Towson? Willie Taggart probably doesn't lose sleep over what happened in 2013 anymore, but you can bet he's serious about winning that first game of the year.