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Taggart: Flowers doesn't have to lead (at least not yet)

"What we're asking Quinton (Flowers, 9) to do is be the best football player he can be, be the best student he can be and have fun,'' says head coach Willie Taggart, left.

SCOTTY SCHENCK | Times

"What we're asking Quinton (Flowers, 9) to do is be the best football player he can be, be the best student he can be and have fun,'' says head coach Willie Taggart, left.

He'll be summoned to sprint out and set his feet, to zone read or zip one downfield in play-action. He'll have to improvise, even audible on occasion. …

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Plant's Jordan Reed in mix for punt-return gig

With punt returner Hassan Childs (torn right ACL) sidelined for the season, the Bulls are considering turning to a freshman to fill the vacancy.

Linebackers/special teams coach Raymond Woodie said Thursday former Plant High standout Jordan Reed currently leads the tight competition, which also includes Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Tajee Fullwood and receivers Tyre McCants and Chase Whitehead.

Reed, a consensus three-star prospect, had 304 yards on punt returns as a Panthers senior last season.

"It's time for someone to step it up," Woodie said. "Out of those four -- going into next week -- we're going to know. ... I really think we're going to find the guy to solidify those spots."

STILL BATTLING: Woodie said the starting kicking job between sophomore Emilio Nadelman and senior Michael Hill (Tarpon Springs) remains up for grabs as the team begins game-week preparations for its Sept. 5 opener against Florida A&M.

Nadelman is USF's only option with collegiate experience, kicking off three times against Western Carolina last season.

"Those guys are battling; we haven't named the starter yet," Woodie said. "Everybody got spoiled with Marvin Kloss (now graduated) and now those guys will get a chance to really get experience."

ODDS AND ENDS: LG Thor Jozwiak (left ankle), injured in the waning minutes of Wednesday's practice at Raymond James Stadium, was in a walking boot during Thursday morning's on-campus workout. ... P Mattias Ciabatti said he has been working on adding an "Aussie-style" rugby kick to his repertoire, hoping it gives him additional hang time.

AUDIBLE: "I would love to use him, but Coach (Willie Taggart) told me, 'I don't think so,' and to find someone else. So that's what I did." -- Woodie when asked if he has considered RB Marlon Mack as an option to field punts.

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DB Hassan Childs out for season

While injuries haven't reached pestilent proportions at USF this August, the Bulls hardly are entering their inaugural game week of 2015 unscathed.

Reserve rover (strong safety) Hassan Childs sustained a torn right ACL at a recent practice and will miss the season, Coach Willie Taggart reported Wednesday. A junior with three career interceptions, he becomes the Bulls' second ACL casualty this month, joining redshirt freshman WR Stanley Clerveaux.

"It (stinks) for the kid, but it's part of the game," Taggart said after Wednesday morning's workout at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bulls essentially ran through their game-day routine in shells.

"We heal differently around here, so we expect for him to be back sooner than what the doctors say, but to be back stronger than what he is now too."

Fortunately for Taggart, the secondary remains one of the Bulls' deepest areas.

Former area prep standouts Tajee Fullwood (Tampa Bay Tech) and Devin Abraham (East Lake) appear capable of playing both safety spots, and projected starting rover Nate Godwin recently returned from a hamstring injury. …

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Reilly not ready...yet

Though he's getting closer to returning to a normal practice schedule, OL Reilly Gibbons likely won't play in the Sept. 5 season opener against Florida A&M, Coach Willie Taggart said Tuesday.

Gibbons, a Stanford transfer granted an NCAA waiver that allows him to play immediately, is recovering from an unspecified knee procedure. He spent virtually all of preseason camp rehabbing the knee and observing full-team work.

"I’d say in about another week or so, you’ll probably see him out doing more drills with our offensive linemen," Taggart said.

Taggart reported nothing new on the status of another offensive lineman, junior college transfer Glen Bethel, who hasn't appeared this preseason. Taggart said earlier this month Bethel was completing a class.

LEAN SNAPPER: A year after an error-free season, junior LS Alex Salvato was among three veteran walk-ons awarded a scholarship by Taggart at a team meeting Saturday night. Salvato is listed on the official team roster at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds -- highly generous on both counts.

On Tuesday, he said he weighs 165, making him the Bulls' lightest down lineman (offensive or defensive) by nearly 70 pounds.

"Undersized my whole life, but it just kind of makes you have to work harder a little bit," said Salvato, who played at Lakeland's Victory Christian. "It makes you really have to earn what you get. You kind of get overlooked, you've got to kind of get people's attention back toward you." …

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While Flowers starts, linebackers will sit

USF coach Willie Taggart indicated Quinton Flowers' mobility gave him a mild edge in his duel with senior Steven Bench.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF coach Willie Taggart indicated Quinton Flowers' mobility gave him a mild edge in his duel with senior Steven Bench.

Roughly 15 hours after naming Quinton Flowers his starting quarterback, USF coach Willie Taggart indicated the 21-year-old sophomore's mobility gave him a mild edge in his duel with senior Steven Bench.

"I think both of 'em can run with their legs. Quinton is unique," Taggart said after Tuesday morning's practice. "He can make guys miss. He can do some things the average Joe can't do, and I think that's what makes him different."

Tuesday's workout -- Flowers' first as the announced starter -- came 11 days before the Bulls formally unveil their new zone-read, spread-style scheme in the season opener against Florida A&M at Raymond James Stadium. The high-tempo system is similar to what Flowers operated at Miami Jackson, where he totaled more than 8,000 yards in four seasons. …

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Quinton Flowers named Bulls' starting QB

Sophomore Quinton Flowers has been named USF's starting quarterback.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Sophomore Quinton Flowers has been named USF's starting quarterback.

USF will puts its spread-style, up-tempo offense in sophomore Quinton Flowers' hands to begin the 2015 season.

The school announced Monday evening Flowers, a 21-year-old Miami native with eight career completions, edged senior Steven Bench for the starting job in a duel that spanned the Bulls' entire 17-day preseason camp.

Coach Willie Taggart, who has had three different opening-day starters in as many seasons, is expected to comment on the decision after Tuesday morning's practice. …

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CDS alumnus Mak Djulbegovic earns a scholarship

USF fifth-year senior Mak Djulbegovic, who ended the Bulls' preseason camp as the starting right tackle, is among three veteran walk-ons who have been awarded a scholarship by Coach Willie Taggart.

Junior LS Alex Salvato and senior DL Daniel Awoleke, both of whom hail from Lakeland, are the other recipients. Salvato started in 2014 and had no erroneous snaps. Awoleke.

A Carrollwood Day alumnus, Djulbegovic appeared in 10 games each of the last two seasons, starting two. He worked his way onto the first-team offensive line this past spring and has remained entrenched their since preseason drills began Aug. 6.

"He's done well," offensive line coach Danny Hope said recently. "I thought he did outstanding in the spring, and...when spring ended he was probably playing the best out of all our offensive linemen." …

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Taggart: Starting QB will be staff decision

For all practical intents, USF's preseason camp has concluded. The ongoing two-player quarterback derby hasn't.

Following the end of Saturday morning's closed scrimmage, Coach Willie Taggart said the duel between sophomore Quinton Flowers and senior Steven Bench will end "when our coaches tell me, 'Coach, this is the guy we think should be our quarterback.'

"We're gonna rely heavily on our coaches, all of 'em," added Taggart, whose team opens its season at home against Florida A&M two weeks from tonight. "They've all seen 'em throughout this training camp, and we'll rely heavily on the film that we've seen."

Taggart said Saturday's scrimmage, which preceded USF's annual Fan Fest at the Sun Dome, was devoid of turnovers. Flowers accounted for the lone TD, checking down and finding walk-on Chase Whitehead on a zone-read play for a 25-yard scoring pass.

Taggart reiterated the QB decision will be based primarily on who makes the fewest mistakes.

"Oh, no doubt, by (all) means," he said. "If we take care of the football, like I said, I think they're all good enough athletically to play the position. Just got to be smart and take care of the ball."

DAWN PATROL: Starting next week, the Bulls will practice almost exclusively in the mornings, a modification from previous years. Taggart said several colleagues -- and the area weather pattern -- were influential in the decision. USF practiced in the mornings this past spring and fared very well academically, he said.

"Weather, I think we all know what that's like around here," said Taggart, who had to cut short Friday afternoon's practice due to lightning in the area. "But also I think our kids just do better overall when they get up and get going."

AUDIBLE: “I feel like I had a good camp. This is our last scrimmage – this is our second one. I think I performed well. I got a lot of help from my offensive line. They’ve been blocking their butts off all camp. The receivers are making plays for me, the backs are making plays for me. I feel like I’m seeing the defense very good and just doing what a quarterback’s supposed to do. So, overall, I feel good about it." -- Bench

AUDIBLE, PART DEUX: “I feel like I’m playing really good. I got my weight down, I’m moving a little faster. I ran the offense in high school. So, I’m feeling really good about it.” -- Flowers

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USF Fan Fest set for Saturday

Players and coaches from all USF fall sports teams will be available for autographs and photos at the Bulls' annual Fan Fest on Saturday.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Players and coaches from all USF fall sports teams will be available for autographs and photos at the Bulls' annual Fan Fest on Saturday.

USF Fan Fest

When/where: Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, Sun Dome

Admission: Free

Need to know: Players and coaches from all of USF's fall sports (as well as cheerleaders and Sun Dolls) will be available for autographs and pictures. The event also will feature a Kids Area, interactive games, a raffle and a surplus sale of USF athletic gear and apparel from past teams. Fans are encouraged to use the Sun Dome parking lot. Entrance is through Gate A.

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Full disclosure: My preseason AP football ballot

While I normally enjoy going against the grain, I can't deny Ohio State its rightful spot atop the ballot. …

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Starting o-line taking shape

While the USF QB derby rages, the unit protecting the eventual winner is solidifying, Coach Willie Taggart said Thursday night.

Senior Brynjar Gudmundsson is solid at center -- the only line position he hasn't played in college -- while Carrollwood Day alumnus Mak Djulbegovic maintains his hold on the starting right tackle spot, Taggart confirmed. A third senior, Thor Jozwiak, appears entrenched at left guard.

"It's feeling really good, man," Gudmundsson said.

"We're playing physical, we're playing together, we're playing for each other. ... Jelling, that's been our theme. We're trying to jell no matter who's in there. It has to be no drop-off, playing 100 mph all the time, communicating and what not. We've been doing a great job of that so far in this camp, I believe."

Even more jobs -- up front and elsewhere -- could be cemented Saturday, when the Bulls are expected to hold a private scrimmage either before or after USF's 10 a.m. Fan Fest at the Sun Dome.

"I think the unity up (front), the synergy that those guys have now, is really showing," Taggart said following Thursday evening's workout, which he opened to boosters.

"And just the camaraderie that those guys have off the field is showing on the football field now. ... I think the things we're doing up front now are a little simpler for those guys, where they can just line up and play and don't have to think much. A lot of things we do, it's easy for the line."

A DAY AT THE BEACH: Taggart's decision to bypass practice Wednesday afternoon and take the Bulls via bus to Clearwater Beach for a few hours produced the desired effect.

He called Thursday's workout a "really good practice."

"And we expected that," he said. "We gave 'em a day off (Wednesday) and they got a chance to get some rest, and came out and had a wonderful practice. And I had a feeling we would. Guys were talking (Thursday) morning about what kind of practice we were gonna have (that) night. ... I knew then we weren't going to have to fool guys out here to come out and practice well."

CHERRY ARRIVES: Freshman ILB Cecil Cherry, who spent three days in Texas' preseason camp before transferring to USF, was on campus Thursday but isn't expected to join the team for practice until next week. Cherry, a four-star recruit who played his senior season at Lakeland Victory Christian, must sit out the '15 season per NCAA transfer rules.

ODDS AND ENDS: Joined by Taggart, the Bulls again participated in Thursday morning's Bull Haul, helping students carry luggage, microwaves, TVs and other personal effects into their dorm rooms. ... A majority of Thursday's practice was closed to reporters, but the Bulls' official Twitter feed reported an assortment of big plays. They included Plant High alumnus Jordan Reed hauling in a wide receiver screen and darting for a big gain after making several defenders miss; and QB Quinton Flowers finding redshirt freshman Tyre McCants on a quick slant for a 30-yard TD. Reporters were allowed entry in time to see sophomore TB D'Ernest Johnson score from roughly 20 yards on what appeared to be a sweep.

AUDIBLE: "And I tell you what, there's another five (linemen) right behind us (starters) that are playing just as good. This is the best depth that I've ever seen at the offensive line position at USF." -- Jozwiak

AUDIBLE, PART DEUX: "We just had a newborn and I still get sleep at night...just because guys understand expectations around here. I tell everyone now, I don't get emotionally hijacked anymore because guys know what to do, guys are holding each other accountable. And when I say accountable, on and off the football field."  -- Taggart, discussing the positive culture change within the program since he took over in December 2012

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Bulls confirm transfer of Cecil Cherry

USF on Wednesday confirmed the transfer of Texas freshman ILB Cecil Cherry, who becomes the fifth player in less than a year to transfer from a Power Five school to USF.

The others: OL Reilly Gibbons (Stanford), QB Asiantii Woulard (UCLA), WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (N.C. State) and S Austin Hudson (Wisconsin).

Only Gibbons is currently eligible; Woulard is seeking a hardship waiver from the NCAA. A sixth possible transfer, former Pasco High TE Bowman Archibald (Wake Forest), announced in July he's transferring to USF, but hasn't yet formally joined the Bulls program.

According to USF, Cherry will enroll this week and will have four years' eligibility remaining after sitting out the '15 season. He can begin practicing once the enrollment process is complete, perhaps as early as Thursday. …

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Bulls men, women exit Barcelona with a bang

In addition to the other souvenirs they bring back from Spain, USF's coaches probably are trying to figure out how to bottle up freshman Jahmal McMurray's clutch performance Tuesday.

That's one thing they'd like to admire again -- and again and again -- this winter.

The 6-foot rookie hit two 3-pointers in the last 43 seconds of regulation -- including one with 3.9 seconds to play -- to help rally the Bulls to an 84-75 overtime triumph against C.B. Vic in the final contest of their four-game Spain tour.

USF, which lost to a pair of national teams (Venezuela, Angola) earlier in the tour, finished 2-2 in Spain. Both triumphs were against C.B. Vic.

Trailing by as many as 22 in the first half, the Bulls -- who suited up only eight players during the 10-day tour -- outscored C.B. Vic 25-4 in the fourth period. They took their first lead 30 seconds into overtime on PG Roddy Peters' two free throws and never trailed again.

Senior PF Jaleel Cousins had his second consecutive double-double (19 points, 15 rebounds), while junior PF Chris Perry had 17 points and 14 boards. Peters finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists. McMurray scored 12.

The women, meantime, completed their four-game sweep of the country with a 91-43 annihilation of Saint Adria. Freshman long-range specialist Kitija Laksa and senior Naismith Award candidate Courtney Williams each scored 20, with Laksa sinking all four of her 3-point tries. 

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Bulls season-ticket sales down, but officals still encouraged

In the wake of a 4-8 season, USF has experienced a football season-ticket sales decrease of roughly 20 percent from 2014, the school informed the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.

As of July 16, the Bulls, who open their season at home Sept. 5 against Florida A&M, had sold 11,795 season tickets, approximately 3,000 fewer than last year's total (14,788). The figure doesn't include student tickets or corporate trade tickets.

While attributing the decrease to the program's recent struggles (four consecutive losing seasons), school officials remain optimistic for a number of reasons. A new function on USF's website, which allows visitors to chat live with a ticket-sales representative, remains busy, senior associate athletic director Andrew Goodrich said.

Some 11th-hour ticket sales also are anticipated.

"Hitting 80 percent (of the '14 total), it's not our goal for the year, but to be honest, I feel pretty good about it," said Goodrich, the Bulls' external-relations chief. "All things considered, you know, I kind of like where we are. The other thing is, I feel pretty good about the positive momentum. We're seeing a lot more upticks in traffic to our website; we keep an eye on that."

In March, the school launched the Bulls Club Champion Seating Program, which abolished the previous requirement of an up-front donation before a season-ticket purchase. The program automatically enrolls those who purchase season tickets in "donor areas" into the Bulls Club (USF's official booster organization).

For most, the new policy lowered season-ticket prices, though some longtime donors -- who had paid a modest annual up-front donation for nearly two decades -- reported a significant increase. 

"We've never stopped trying to reach out to those (veteran season-ticket holders)," Goodrich said. "We've always tried to continue to get them on board. And quite frankly, a lot of them have renewed. And the truth is, we were able to identify seats where they could renew and actually pay less than what they paid last year.

"We really appreciate the fans that have renewed this year, we really do," Goodrich added. "Our fans have been through a lot the last several years, and we appreciate them. I want them to know that."

ANOTHER TRANSFER: Texas freshman ILB Cecil Cherry, a three-star recruit from Frostproof who spent only three days in the Longhorns' camp, reportedly is transferring to USF.

Cherry, who played last season at Lakeland's Victory Christian Academy, reported last week via Twitter he had been granted his release. On Tuesday, Cherry's father told ESPN.com he was transferring to USF. If he enrolls, he'll become the sixth player in less than a year to transfer to USF from a Power Five program.

SCRIMMAGE SETBACK: Upon reviewing Saturday's two-hour situational scrimmage, Coach Willie Taggart said the two quarterbacks dueling for the starting job -- sophomore Quinton Flowers and senior Steven Bench -- took a "step back."

Neither finished with an exceptionally high completion percentage, Taggart said. Bench had two long TDs, including a 95-yarder to Tyre McCants when the redshirt freshman was in single coverage, but threw two interceptions. Flowers was picked once.

"We didn't do a good job completing passes, either one of them," Taggart said. …

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Men's soccer: 3 Bulls earn preseason All-AAC nods

Three preseason All-American Athletic Conference selections, including the preseason goalkeeper of the year, will take their home pitch Tuesday night when the Bulls men's soccer team hosts Stetson in its 7 p.m. exhibition opener.

USF, seeking its 12th consecutive winning season, was picked to finish third in the AAC in the preseason coaches poll released Monday. The Bulls received three first-place votes (coaches weren't permitted to vote for their own teams) and 41 points overall, slightly behind Connecticut (44) and reigning AAC champ Tulsa (43).

Junior GK Spasoje Stefanovic, a first-team All-AAC pick in 2014 (1.00 GAA, 63 saves) was named the league's preseason keeper of the year. Junior M Lindo Mfeka, a two-time all-conference pick and the Bulls' active career scoring leader (27 points) and sophomore M/F Eduardo Maceira (five goals, two assists in '14) joined Stefanovic on the 14-player preseason All-AAC team. Mfeka was a unanimous pick.

USF will play a second exhibition, Saturday evening at home against the University of Tampa in the annual Rowdies Cup, before its Aug. 28 opener against Missouri State at Corbett Stadium.

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