Football report: Will Bulls pick up the pace?
Cryptically, Bulls players and coaches suggest their offense, under new coordinator Paul Wulff, will shift into a higher gear than normal Saturday. How much higher remains the mystery.
Tempo was a point of emphasis in spring drills, when the Bulls regularly snapped the ball with double digits remaining on the play clock. And while live scrimmages in August have been closed to the public, the Bulls indicate fans will recognize changes in pace when they kick off 2014 Saturday against Western Carolina.
"I think they'll definitely notice some certain changes there, without having to go into any detail," C Austin Reiter said.
Added Wulff: "I think (fans) are gonna see some things different as we move forward. ... As long as we execute what we've been practicing and how we've been doing it, I'm pretty sure they're going to see some things and some differences than what we've done in the past."
BLACKWOOD ABSENT: Three days into USF's fall semester, freshman DE Rohan Blackwood remains off the roster as he attempts to resolve some academic issues. The former Nature Coast High standout initially was expected to join the program when classes began. Now, his timetable is unclear.
Team spokesman Brian Siegrist said Wednesday evening the Bulls are hopeful he'll be able to join them in the spring. Blackwood, a rangy two-way force at Nature Coast, logged 186 tackles and 25 sacks in three seasons for the Sharks and was a two-time All-North Suncoast pick by the Tampa Bay Times.
SPREAD IT ON: Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said he fully expects Western Carolina, which returns 10 offensive starters from a 2-10 team, to spread the field and play "sideline to sideline" behind dual-threat junior QB Troy Mitchell (2,179 total yards in 2013).
"The good thing is, that's our conference...and that's what we're gonna face, and it gives us a good, good introduction to it," said Bresnahan, putting more linebackers on the field (in a 3-4) this season to better defend the litany of spread schemes USF will see.
"But they've got athletes now. This is a talented team and the quarterback presents you with issues because he's a runner and a thrower, and you've got to be able to defend both."
BYRD WATCHING: In an era when the terms "free" and "strong" are growing obsolete in the safety vernacular, Bresnahan said guys such as juco transfer Jamie Byrd -- a headhunter athletic enough to cover -- have become priceless.
The former Pasco High star, who played last season at Iowa Western Community College, is expected to start Saturday. After two seasons at TCU, Byrd earned second-team NJCAA All-America honors last season, then enrolled at USF in January.
"Jamie's made an impact and that's one of the reasons why we went after him," Bresnahan said.
"He's a local product that's been known locally here as a hitter, a guy that brings a level of physicality to the field that we like, and yet he's athletic enough to cover and do some of the things that you really want safeties to be able to do nowadays. You really don't have an in-the-box safety and out-of-the box safety anymore because of the spread offense."