USF football got spring practice underway at the Frank Morsani Football Complex today as they look to improve on their 11-2 record in 2016.
Absent were the three statements former head coach Willie Taggart had hanging on the fence surrounding the practice fields. In its place was just a plain black cover. Business-like. Much like new head coach Charlie Strong.
The first practice under Strong had as much pace, if not more, than the former regime.
“We were going really fast and it was more of [the players] just locking in and staying focused and we were able to keep their attention for the full practice,” Strong said.
The Bulls return seven starters on offense for 2017, including quarterback Quinton Flowers. He threw for 2,807 yards and 24 TDs and rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 TDs in 2016 (all school records except for the passing yards, which missed by just 105 yards). They will however, have to replace running back Marlon Mack, who declared early for the NFL draft after posting three consecutive seasons over 1000 yards rushing, as well as slot wide receiver Rodney Adams. On the offensive line, the Bulls need to replace LT Kofi Amichia and RG Dominique Threatt, who each started all 26 games the last two seasons.
Flowers said it was a little weird not having Mack lined up next to him, but: “At the end of the day, you just gotta keep moving.”
“It’s very different,” Flowers said of the offense under new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. “Everything goes very fast and you only get the signal one time, so you have to see it.”
Wide receiver Chris Barr worked in the slot with the first team and had some nice plays. Midyear enrollee WR Jernard Phillips worked in with the second team and looked comfortable in the slot as well.
Redshirt freshman QB Chris Oladokun continues to impress as he did during spring and fall practive last year. It wouldn’t be surprising if he is the primary backup to Flowers come August 26 at San Jose State. He has the strongest arm of the quarterbacks on the team, and showed off some nice touch as well.
Defensively, the Bulls have their work cut out for them after last year’s poor performance, but they return nine starters, including team captain LB Auggie Sanchez.
Senior CB Deatrick Nichols likes what he sees from new defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary, who got on the defensive early and often during day one.
“I like crazy coaches and he’s kinda crazy,” Nichols said.
When asked if Jean-Mary’s attitude is a throwback to 2015 defensive coordinator Tom Allen, Nichols chuckled and responded, “You could say that.” One complaint about last year’s defense was that former coordinator Raymond Woodie wasn’t “rah-rah” enough to get the most out of the players.
Also missing was sound tackling technique, but that has been made a priority this spring.
- As expected, running back Darius Tice received an additional year of eligiblity after breaking his ankle against Florida State, and he was at practice this morning.
- WR A.J. Legree is not currently with the team. His petition for an extra year after tearing his ACL before the 2016 season began is still pending.
- OT Glen Bethel practiced today, so his academic issues looked to be cleared up.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We have put odds on Nate’s injury reporting somehow getting spring practice shut down to the media at +700.)
- Linebacker Auggie Sanchez and DE Vincent Jackson are both still recovering from surgery and did not participate.
- DE Kirk Livingstone and WR Tyre McCants (who had a bit of a limp) were also held out.
- LG Jeremi Hall was held out with a minor leg injury per our friend Joey Knight.
- The Bulls practice again Wednesday at 8 a.m., then again on Friday at 8 a.m. before heading off for spring break. All practices are open to the media, but closed to the public.
- USF’s Pro Day will be March 21 at 1 p.m.
- The USF spring game will be April 15 at 4 p.m. at Corbett Soccer Stadium.