The USF football team ended the first week of spring practice by getting in full pads and hitting each other for the first time since getting the bowl game versus South Carolina. They were all too willing to hit something.
“I love the energy and enthusiasm [from the team],” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We did bang it up some and had some really good drill work.”
The team started with a 1-on-1 “Oklahoma”-type of drill that really got the juices flowing and set the tone for the rest of practice. Later in the practice they went back to it, but this time it was 3-on-3 with the defense working to shed the block and tackle the running back.
Redshirt freshman running back Elijah Mack put on ten pounds in the offseason to get up to 215, and he used it effectively all practice. At one point during team drills, he met LB Jimmy Bayes in the open field and drove him back about four yards after contact.
The defense was getting agitated on the sideline because they kept getting popped but weren’t allowed to hit back like they would in a game. Senior saftey Devon Jones-Stewart drilled junior WR Chris Barr coming across the middle and Strong halted practice to lay into the safety.
While it seemed like the offense was getting up and down the field at a fast pace, new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert didn’t think it was that fast.
“That was slow today. We gotta be faster than that,” Gilbert said. “That is not our standard what you saw today. We gotta be faster, but it’s just a matter of process.”
The pace isn’t the only thing that’s different about the offense. Quarterback Quinton Flowers told us Monday that basically everything is different on offense and the changes don’t stop there.
Running back D’Ernest Johnson said it’s a lot different for the running backs.
“We’re the ones that’s calling the plays to the o-linemen,” Johnson said. “So, we’ll get the signal from the coach and tell the o-line. And it’s just a lot faster than last year. We run a lot more power [runs] than outside zone.”
““It’s a lot more power,” running back Darius Tice said. “Sometimes there’s huge holes out there that I like all y’all [the assembled media] to run through some of them.
Tice was granted an extra year of eligibility and he’s making the most of it. He had a couple long touchdown runs in the team session and looked as quick and powerful as ever.
“They’re easing me in. Things are starting to come back natural to me so I’m feeling better,” Tice said.
Tice said he feels a responsibility to be a leader for the team, because he didn’t know if he’d be back and has gotten a new lease on life.
“I took things seriously, but I take things more seriously, it’s almost like I got a second chance at life,” Tice said.
It may not be the three-headed monster from previous years, but the dynamic duo of Johnson and Tice will still be a force in 2017.
- DE LaDarrius Jackson has put on 44(!!) pounds since last season and weighs 287.
- TE Elkanah Dillon is up 11 pounds to 267.
- WRs DeVontres Dukes and Stanley Clerveaux are both up 13 pounds to 217 and 220, respectively.
- Newly converted DT Mi’Cario Stanley is up 26 pounds to 274.
- Virginia transfer lineman Grant Polk is up 15 pounds to 310.
- CBs Ronnie Hoggins and Mazzi Wilkins have been sidelined since Monday with minor injuries. Safety Craig Watts took reps at CB today, but will move back to safety once they return.
- LB Auggie Sanchez is still unavailable to practice as is DE Vincent Jackson Jr.
- Freshman WR Jernard Phillips pulled up limp during 1v1’s and did not return to practice.