Canales not going to Utah State
(Pictured above: USF coach Jim Leavitt. Times photo -- Willie J. Allen Jr.)
Times USF beat reporter Greg Auman answered your football, basketball and soccer questions for more than an hour this afternoon. Here is the full transcript:
G.A.: Hey guys. I'm here and will start answering questions. Already a few good ones, but keep them coming, and I'll try to answer as many as I can in the next hour or so ...
Bull Daly: What are the chances that USF ends up in the Hawaii bowl this season?? I know the bowls are going to have a hard time finding bowl eligible teams, so I think USF might have a shot with a 6-6 record. How ironic would that be to award the players and coaches a trip to Hawaii after losing 6 games in a season with so much promise?? It would be almost comical to see.
G.A.: I'd say it's extremely unlikely you'll see USF playing in Hawaii. I think given the economic climate this country is in, you will see geographic proximity play a much higher role in filling bowls -- people have less money for travel, schools are facing budget crunches, so nobody gains anything by sending teams across the country and making it more likely that fans stay home. So USF -- a school that has yet to establish itself as traveling in large numbers -- and Hawaii, as far away as bowls get, are not a match on either end.
I think the Hawaii Bowl folks are first praying that Hawaii beats 2-9 Idaho this week to get bowl-eligible, and then will fill the other side with a West Coast team that burdened by travel to Hawaii.
There's certainly a chance USF could wind up in a non-Big East bowl if the Bulls lose their next two games. Sorry, but I don't think that will be Hawaii.
G.A.: I'd like it, if only because the whales hadn't migrated in yet when I was there in October. Then again, if you wait your whole life to go to Hawaii, you don't necessarily need to go twice in three months ...
G.A.: Sure. Jim Leavitt always says that his coaches can very quickly shift the sales pitch from "We want you to be part our success" to "We could really use your help right now." Recruits love the chance to play right away, and a major skid like this makes everybody's job seem up for grabs. In the minutes before his postgame press conference Saturday, Leavitt was talking to recruits, and I'm sure he was telling them how they could help USF avoid those kinds of losses in 2009.
Al: How many assistant coaches has Jim Leavitt fired during his tenure at USF?
G.A.: I've only been on the beat since 2004, so I can't speak to the specifics of all the departures before then, but I'm not aware of any being let go. Closest would be last season, when cornerbacks coach Rich Rachel was reassigned as the director of high school relations -- he's remained a part of the program, but isn't a full-time assistant. Beyond that, there's not much precedent.
I think Leavitt -- like any boss -- can make an assistant feel like he might be better served elsewhere, but every offseason in the past where I've asked him about staff turnover, he's said he hopes everyone is back, that he likes the people he has in place. That's not to say you couldn't have turnover among the assistants this spring -- it's been a frustrating and disappointing season, so assistants might want a change themselves. I think this is Wally Burnham's last stop as a coach, and I think he'll have every right to stop coaching when he wants to.
Bulls fan: Any chance we see daniels getting some playing time with grothe sturggling?
G.A.: If Daniels were to take the field, it would be entirely because Grothe wasn't able to play due to his ankle injury. The Bulls won't practice until Tuesday afternoon, so we won't know on that for at least another day. Leavitt has said he doesn't expect to play Daniels again, that the wrist injury that came up during the first long bye is serious enough that USF will apply for a medical redshirt for him. If Grothe can't go, Grant Gregory would start, and I think you'd only see Daniels in the case of another injury. Grothe has struggled in his last few games, but he's still leading the Big East in total offense -- the Bulls are still playing for a bowl berth, so putting their best offensive player on the bench doesn't make much sense.
CG: How does redshirting work with a two sport athlete? I read that Leavitt was going to attempt a medical redshirt on B.J. Daniels, but also that Daniels will be allowed to practice with the basketball team soon. First, that seems to make what was already a shady decision even more suspicious (BJ must have taken a serious lick in practice for that injury...), but can you be redshirted for two different sports during different years?
G.A.: I'm getting a lot of B.J. Daniels questions lately. First, to address redshirting, an athlete has a five-year window in which he can play four seasons, and one sport's clock does not affect another.
Remember Amarri Jackson? He played two years of basketball at HCC, but came to USF as a sophomore for football because he still had three years of eligibility. The same way, Daniels could play against Connecticut, not play this basketball season and still be a redshirt freshman in basketball in 2009-10. Conversely, he could get the medical redshirt USF is seeking, recover sufficiently to play basketball this spring, and still be a redshirt freshman in football next fall.
As far as whether playing basketball makes it less likely that USF will get a medical in football, it's an interesting question. Daniels meets the criteria for a medical, in that he played only two games, both in the first half of the season, and USF has an injury documented by its training staff. Only Daniels and USF's staff can truly know whether the injury legitimately sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Daniels doesn't get a ton of reps in practice and doesn't run the scout team (Evan Landi does) so we haven't seen much of Daniels in the second half of the season at practice either.
Kennedy: The one common thread over the last few years has been the lack of discipline; too many bad/dumb penalties that either end drives or give the opponent second chances. Is this a product of the coaching or the character of recruits?
G.A.: USF has ranked in the top 10 in the nation in penalties for each of the last eight seasons, and that's not the kind of streak any team would aspire to. The Bulls have been as consistent in very few things as they have drawing a high number of flags.
In terms of whether it's a product of coaching or the character of recruits, it's probably more the former. "Character" is probably a strong word -- kids don't jump offsides because they have bad character, they do because they want to be aggressive but lack the focus or discipline to wait for the snap. You don't send a kickoff out of bounds because you're a bad person. Late hits? Unsportsmanlike conduct? I don't think there's been an unusually high number of those flags this season, even compared to most teams. Sometimes a penalty can reflect someone being overmatched -- if you can't stop someone within the rules, you have to hold them, or commit pass interference. I've seen more of that.
I think the defense has had more flags than the offense this season, but I don't know that flags have been a huge factor in the team's four losses. The phrase you hear quite a lot is "shooting ourselves in the foot." The timing of penalties -- like on the goal line late against Cincinnati -- has been the worst aspect of the flags.
Peter: The scheduling this year was terrible - 6 games in 5 1/2 weeks, (2) 16 day periods of time off between games. 2 Thursday games after a Saturday game. Is the Big East conference out to get us?
G.A.: USF certainly didn't get any help from the Big East on scheduling. I think it's a bit of an excuse to point to the schedule for losses -- two of them have come after 16 days of preparation.
More than anything, the schedule has thrown USF out of its rhythm. Leavitt really likes the normalcy of playing on Saturdays, so to have two Thursdays, a Friday game and this week's Sunday night date, it takes his team out of its standard routine. Playing six games in six weeks didn't bother the Bulls until they had a short week for Pittsburgh -- and the Panthers had the same short week.
This week, for instance, USF had 16 days to prepare, while Rutgers had seven. Could you tell that on the field? On the scoreboard?
Going into the season, I felt like the timing of bye weeks helped set USF up for a strong second half -- they had three bye weeks before the final six games, which have certainly shown to be the toughest on their schedule. Having said that, having a road game on the Thursday after a road game on Saturday is something the league should definitely avoid at all costs -- I'd be surprised if you see USF in that position again in 2009.
Anonymous: How is rivas looking. his legs looked like they gave out at the end of the smu game.
G.A.: Coach Stan Heath said after the SMU game that he wouldn't really know how far Alex Rivas Sanchez had come until he saw how the junior center felt the next day, how he was able to practice. He's coming back from surgery to insert rods into both lower legs, so he's playing through pain, and only able to run fullcourt drills in the last two weeks. If he paces himself, he should be able to contribute more each week -- Big East play is still six weeks off. I thought he had an active, promising debut on Friday, but obviously his health will be a concern because of what he's been through.
DELdaBULL: Reassigning Rachel looks really good now doesn't it?
G.A.: It's not really that simple. Going from two coaches in the secondary to one was tricky, especially with new starters at cornerback. The move allowed USF to have two coaches on the defensive line -- and replacing someone like Dan McCarney isn't easy -- but Leavitt could not have foreseen John Hendrick's absence from a heart attack this summer, which has limited his involvement from what it might have been. That put more of a burden on Kevin Patrick -- who'd been out of coaching for a long time -- but I can't say if that's had any bearing on the play of the defensive line or the secondary. The d-line has dealt with injuries much of this year, and the secondary hasn't been healthy either. Obviously the defense hasn't played at the level USF wanted, but there are several factors in that and the change in coaching staff is just one.
DELdaBULL: Does Gregory really think having one player be 94% of the offense is a good thing. Why do they refuse to run the ball with their running backs.
G.A.: Greg Gregory will tell you that his offense goes with what the defense presents them -- if they line up to stop the run, he'll pass; if they come out with six defensive backs, he'll run. The running game has been shorthanded most of the season -- on Saturday, you saw Gregory wait until the fourth drive to give Mike Ford's ankle a test -- which seems a drive or too long, until Ford waves himself off the field after one carry, obviusly not feeling right about the injury.
USF's running backs had 10 carries for 21 yards, with no run longer than 5 yards. Grothe had like 10 carries for 60 yards by halftime, but the second-half deficit predicated USF passing the ball most of the time.
Grothe is and has been the best player on USF's offense -- that's a function of injuries, too -- but as was the case last season, he's clearly feeling the burden of carrying the offense, trying to make plays where he probably shouldn't. After three interceptions in the first seven games, he has eight in the last three, but he's also been in position where he's trying to overcome 10-point first-half deficits, which means taking risks and paying the price when plays don't work out.
I think if Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor are fully healthy, the run game is much more prevalent, so Grothe doesn't have nearly the burden he's had lately.
R.R.: How does USF get away with seeking (and likely receiving) a "medical" redshirt for B.J Daniels when he is going to be playing basketball (which is just as hard on the wrists)?
G.A.: It's not a matter of getting away with something -- if the NCAA doesn't think Daniels deserves a medical redshirt, they won't grant it. Yes, you have a situation where Daniels has played very little, so you could anticipate that an injury might pop up and make for a convenient medical redshirt. The possibility of that doesn't eliminate the chance that an actual injury took place and has limited Daniels. Leavitt will tell you they put a brace on Daniels' non-throwing wrist for the "Bull Bowl" scrimmage the week after the Pittsburgh game, and he hasn't played since.
As far as the two sports go, I think there's a greater risk of aggravating an injury as a scrambling quarterback then as a basketball player coming off the bench. Being released to practice with a basketball team is a far cry from taking the court -- Daniels has zero practices in Heath's system, has very little experience playing with his new teammates, so you'd expect a period of weeks for him to make that transition, to get into basketball shape. It might be January -- or next season -- before Daniels actually plays. He might see the 5-6 guards ahead of him in the rotation who have been practicing for almost two months together and decide it's not worth his time. There's a lot still to be seen.
Hernando: Does the mens basketball team have a full roster? It seems there is a revolving door over there with guys stuck halfway in the jams coming and going.
G.A.: Stan Heath has had a large amount of turnover in the past year, with six scholarship players getting releases and transferring out since he got the job in April 2007. He hasn't used his full allotment of scholarships, trusting that they'd be better used in future classes, so he doesn't have the optimal depth he'd like to have.
USF is thin in the post, for instance, and fortunate that forward Gus Gilchrist got a waiver allowing him to play most of this season. They have basically four post players right now -- B.J. Ajayi, Eladio Espinosa, Alex Rivas Sanchez and Aris Williams. But if they're healthy, that's all most major college teams would use. The problems arise if injuries hurt the existing depth -- Friday night seemed to show encouraging signs for the health of Williams and Rivas Sanchez.
Heath will find out Wednesday about Orlando forward Keith Clanton, and if he gets him, he'll have two scholarships available for the spring signing period, putting him close to full capacity for next season.
Collin: How about a little love for the men's soccer team!! They're Big East Champions, a lock to get a bye in the NCAA Tournament, and possibly won't have to leave Tampa until the College Cup. Will we see you on a plane to Dallas to cover said College Cup if they can keep it going??
G.A.: Collin, read anything about newspapers lately? I don't think I'll be flying anywhere to cover college soccer, but that doesn't take away from a huge weekend for the Bulls, who got clutch wins against Notre Dame and St. John's to win the Big East crown on their home field.
We'll write more about George Kiefer's team on Wednesday, but tonight they'll find out their draw for the NCAA Tournament. They'll almost assuredly have a first-round bye this week -- the top 16 teams get that -- and then they'll be back home on Tuesday, Nov. 25, to host a second-round game on a field they haven't lost on this season.
Soccer has had good crowds -- more than 1,200 for both games this weekend -- and the only thing in the way of a sellout next week would be students leaving to go home for Thanksgiving. We'll have much more on soccer in the next week or so ...
Bull Hooper: Greg, please comment on Aris Williams, i thought he looked good, he held his own down low, and had good lateral movement on parimeter defense for a big man, can he contribute?
G.A.: BH, I think a lot of people wrote Aris Williams off this summer, suggesting he take a medical scholarship for his last season, but he's made a solid recovery from knee problems. Again, Friday night is against an SMU team that has the lowest '07-08 RPI of any team the Bulls will face, but Williams looked comfortable and confident when he got in. He and Alex Rivas Sanchez gave quality minutes off the bench -- had B.J. Ajayi done better than 1-for-7 from the field and Eladio Espinosa played more consistently, you'd hear even more talk about USF's post play.
I'll be curious to see how USF's frontcourt players handle a test like a trip to Virginia on Wednesday night ...
Ch: Is there any sort of Academic standard to be on the USF football team? Plain old stupidity has seemed to finally caught up to us this year and I know it sounds crazy, but I think alot of our grossly underachieving has to do not with the fact that we don't have the athletic abilities in these players, but rather that these players are simply not football smart. Bill Walsh used to say that you can't just jump into a weight room and expect to have great football players, much of football is a mental game and I think something has to be done with the academic standards for our team.
I am in class with several football players who never show up and when they do they either come in an hour late or sleep through the entire thing. I'm not trying to lump all athelelts and even for that matter, football players into that category. I just wanted to know your take on the sheer lack of intelligence on this team and if you heard of any measures that are being put in place to get rid of some of these numbskulls on our team...
G.A.: I'm responding, first and foremost, to highlight the presence of the word "athelelts" in a question about the overall intelligence of a group of players who are still often teenagers. I probably shouldn't find that as amusing as I do.
USF has the same academic requirements in place as any NCAA football program, in terms of grade-point averages and being on course to graduate and so on.
Leavitt makes players run extra after practice if they've missed classes, and once you've missed a certain number, you can be suspended from games. I'm not suggesting that solves the problem of football players missing class or sleeping in class, but I'm just showing how he addresses it.
I think you've seen a lot more instances of players not understanding their schemes this season -- defensive players out of position, offensive players going the wrong way and missing a block as a result -- but I think there have been other more significant problems leading to four losses this season.
Bull Hooper: Mike Mercer was not on the bench at the beginning of the game friday, he showed up later. any story there?
G.A.: Hadn't picked up on that, if only because I got to Friday's game right before it tipped off, but I'll check on it. Again, Mercer isn't playing for another month, so it isn't as absolutely critical he be there at the opening tip. I don't know how long he wasn't there, or how much of a concern that is for Stan Heath, but I'll check on it ...
G.A.: OK. Think I'll wrap things up then. We'll get this cleaned up and post a transcript shortly. Thanks for the questions, and if you have others I haven't answered, just post them on another blog thread and I usually can get to them relatively quickly. Thanks again for stopping by ...