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Heath: Fatigue weighs in late-game slumps



After his team scored just six points in the final nine minutes Sunday in a 67-57 loss at Notre Dame, USF coach Stan Heath said Monday that fatigue has played a key role in the Bulls' struggles to finish strong in close games.

"I don't think there's any doubt that's the reason for our droughts," Heath said. "We've got to find a solution, utilizing a little bit more depth, finding ways to keep our guys a little fresher down the stretch ... When we're getting into the later stages of games, guys like (guards) Jesus (Verdejo), Dominique (Jones) and Chris (Howard) are playing on fumes."

After tying Notre Dame at 51-51 with 9:47 to play Sunday, the Bulls went 8:08 without scoring, with two turnovers and nine consecutive missed shots, including five missed 3-pointers.

USF's depth issues have been compounded by season-ending injuries to guard Mike Mercer and center B.J. Ajayi, who would both be in the regular rotation if healthy. Freshman guard Justin Leemow played just seven minutes Sunday after averaging more than 20 minutes in the previous six games.

On Sunday, Jones played all 40 minutes, with Howard playing 39 and Verdejo 37; in fairness, Notre Dame actually used its bench for fewer minutes (23) than USF (29).

WHO WILL IT BE?: I'll preface this by saying that any name-dropping as to who Jim Leavitt will hire for the opening on his offensive staff is just speculation and little more. All signs point to receivers coach Mike Canales being promoted to coordinator, with a new hire stepping in as position coach, perhaps with a tag of "running game coordinator," just as Canales was "passing game coordinator" when Greg Gregory ran the offense.

If Leavitt sought an established assistant with experience as a coordinator, someone with Florida ties, you wonder if he'd consider Patrick Nix, who has gone unclaimed in seven weeks since being dismissed as Miami's offensive coordinator in December. Nix was offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech for three seasons before he went to Miami, and he has ties all over the Southeast. Again, just a thought.

It seems less likely that he would go too young with this hire, but if Leavitt was pleased with the results, both in coaching and recruiting, from former USF player Larry Scott, there are other former Bulls starting to get enough experience to be viable options. Ryan Hearn, who played receiver and worked two seasons as a grad assistant at USF, has now spent four seasons as an offensive assistant at The Citadel, including two seasons as recruiting coordinator.

If you wanted a former Bull with even more experience with Canales, you could look at Kevin Patullo, who played sparingly as a QB/WR/holder at USF, but has been active in coaching since. He was a graduate assistant at USF, then spent three seasons as a GA under Canales in Arizona. He's spent the past two seasons as the offensive quality control assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs, who announced Monday he won't be retained as they bring in a new coaching staff. Again, he's never been a position coach, has never recruited, but he has as much familiarity with Canales as anyone USF could find.

Leavitt hasn't said much about the opening, but he hasn't spoken with much urgency, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's next week if not later before a hire is made. The Bulls start spring practice March 9, and you'd think he would want to have someone in place by then to ease the transition to next season.
Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions?

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 5:58pm]


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