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Men's golf: Bulls hope to rebound at USF Invitational

Maybe the rolling hillsides of St. Leo will provide exactly the type of visual USF's men's golf team could use at this early-season juncture.

In their first spring tournament last weekend in Houston, the Bulls mostly epitomized flat.

Tenth out of 15 teams at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship, the Bulls host 16 other squads at Lake Jovita's South Course in the three-day USF Invitational starting Sunday. Bulls coach Chris Malloy calls the field the best in tournament history.

USF will go off Sunday morning with Florida and FSU, leaving little time to dwell on a tournament in which it collectively finished 9-over-par.

"Even though we're a young team, even the young guys are learning to be great leaders," Malloy said. "And I tell them they have to have a short memory. It's no different than the PGA tour."

Six-foot-5 junior transfer Joseph Winslow, an honorable mention All-American at Iowa in 2012, led the Bulls last week, finishing with a 4-under 212 after shooting 70 each of the last two days.

Sophomore Chase Koepka, who emerged from the fall season ranked sixth nationally by Golfweek after winning two tournaments, finished 4-over including an opening-day 77. Malloy said he expects Koepka to rebound on a course rife with elevation and firm greens.

"He's really starting to come into form," Malloy said. "I look for him to play well."

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Spring football: Day 2 report

Though most of USF's defensive line depth chart will be different in 2014, the expectations won't.

In fact, Chuck Bresnahan expects to replenish so effectively at his most depleted spot, his goal of producing one of the nation's top 10 defenses remains intact.

"That's probably the biggest question mark going into this spring practice for us," USF's veteran defensive coordinator said after Friday morning's chilly workout. "Not if we have the talent; we've got the talent there. It's who really steps forward and takes control."

Last season's two starting ends -- redshirt sophomore Aaron Lynch and senior Tevin Mims -- both recently completed modest performances at the NFL Scouting Combine. The two primary backups, JuJu Forte and Ryne Giddins, also were seniors.

Inside, tackle Luke Sager also graduated and junior James Hamilton has been moved to the offensive line, leaving seniors Todd Chandler and Elkino Watson as the only experienced
defensive linemen.

Chandler and Watson have appeared solid in the initial two days of spring drills. Sophomore tackle Derrick Calloway appears to be making an impression, as does redshirt freshman Bruce
Hector, a former Robinson High standout who has added roughly 15 pounds (to 289).

Watson appears to possess the agility to slide outside, where junior college transfer Demetrius "Shawn" Hill also is making noise.

"No one's stood out yet, and...we're not in pads," Bresnahan said. "So I could have these shorts All-Americans and it doesn't mean anything. I can't wait 'til (Saturday) to put the pads on and start to really evaluate it, but I'm impressed with what I see so far."

LOCALS MAKE STRIDES: Though new offensive coordinator/line coach Paul Wulff notes no practical depth chart really exists yet, two locals -- Cameron Ruff (Jesuit) and Mak Djulbegovic (Carrollwood Day) -- clearly are in contention for the two-deep rotation.

Ruff, a redshirt freshman 309-pounder, is working at guard. Djulbegovic (6-5, 293) has been
lining up at second-team right tackle.

"Mak has been working really hard in the offseason. Ever since he's been here, he's one of the hardest workers on the o-line," senior LT Darrell Williams said.

"Cam Ruff continues to get better every day. Me and Brynjar (Gudmundsson) were talking about
it the other day; he's grown so much since his redshirt year and he continues to impress. ...
They have a chance to play, yes."

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE: Sophomore LB Nigel Harris, among the Bulls' top offseason weight
gainers, has been joined this spring by older brother Brandon, a walk-on fullback who played
at Jacksonville Wolfson.

"He's going to come out here and do some big things for us, I know he is," Nigel said.

He'll have a hard time upstaging his sibling's debut season. Thrust into action due to injuries last fall, Nigel Harris started six games, finishing with 35 tackles and a forced fumble. He is listed this spring at 215 pounds, 25 more than he weighed in 2013.

His favorite source of calories? "It's kind of not good, but I like McDonald's a lot," he said. "But I don't overdo it. I eat my vegetables; it's always good to eat your vegetables."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls are expected to be in pads for Saturday's 3 p.m. workout, which is
open to the public. ... During a two-minute drill with the second-team offense Friday, QB
Mike White went 5-for-9 for 32 yards, capped by redshirt freshman Emilio Nadelman's 49-yard
field goal. ... Former Northeast High star Auggie Sanchez, a redshirt freshman, is transitioning from fullback to linebacker this spring. "There's another guy that's played the position that really is a natural when it comes to football," Bresnahan said. "He's just got to learn the details of our defense."

AUDIBLE: "The depth chart really isn't one to be honest. We're doing everything we can just
to play and get every individual better, and that stuff will sort itself out in time. There's
no reason to worry about that right now; the players shouldn't worry about it." -- Wulff

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USF spring football roster

2014 spring roster …

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Spring football: Bulls pick up pace on Day 1

TAMPA -- The team that managed a Division I-worst 11 offensive touchdowns last fall scored No. 12 in brisk fashion Wednesday morning.

Engineering a two-minute drill that began around midfield, sophomore QB Mike White completed five of six passes, capped by a 2-yard TD to Andre Davis on a back-shoulder fade route. With that, USF served notice it intends to heighten its pace and production in 2014.

"That was impressive," said Coach Willie Taggart, who launched the start of spring drills in heavy fog Wednesday morning. "Last year, I don't think we ever scored a touchdown in the two-minute drill. But again, we look comfortable."

In the wake of a 2-10 season in which it ranked 121st of 123 Division I teams in total offense (255.5 ypg), Taggart said a faster pace is a priority this spring. Power running and play-action passing, however, remain the primary objectives.

"Everybody's doing everything much faster, on the offense most definitely more up-tempo," said Davis, who set USF's single-season receiving yardage record (735) last fall. "Everybody seems like they know what to do now, instead of just guessing."

BULKIER BULLS: Don't be shocked if the Bulls' spring MVP turns out to be strength and conditioning coach Hans Straub. The average weight of USF's five starting offensive linemen, manhandled most of last season, increased from 297 to 310 pounds over the winter.

Other big gainers: QB Steven Bench (from 208 to 220), TE Mike McFarland (244 to 260) and LB Nigel Harris (190 to 215). Even QB Mike White, listed at 200, gained "exactly 12.3 pounds."

"Out of 79 guys we had go through workouts and winter conditioning, we had 66 guys make every last one of 'em," Taggart said. "Huge, big-time. It says a lot about our football team and what they want to do."

FLOYD GONE: Taggart confirmed fourth-year junior QB Matt Floyd, the opening-day starter last season who never played again after that 53-21 loss to McNeese State, intends to transfer. If he graduates this spring as expected, Floyd will have two years' eligibility remaining.

"I've said from Day One, we're going to be highly competitive around here," Taggart said. "Everybody's going to compete. I'm not going to give anyone anything."

DURDEN SUSPENDED: Junior DB Kenneth Durden, arrested in January on a marijuana-possession charge, is on the Bulls' spring roster but is indefinitely suspended.

"He's got things he's got to take care of, much bigger than football," Taggart said. Those are his issues, and if he works those things out he can come back and talk to us then.

RETURN OF THOR: Junior G Thor Jozwiak, who missed all of last season with an unspecified heart condition that required October surgery, returned to action Wednesday. At 332 pounds (up from 300 last season), Jozwiak is the Bulls' third-heaviest player.

"Can't wait 'til we get on pads to see Thor get out there and do something," Taggart said. "We want big guys. We need people movers up there: big, strong guys to move people out of the way so we can run the football and protect."

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart said early enrollee Devin Abraham, an East Lake High alumnus, is recovering from shoulder surgery and isn't participating in spring drills. ... Davis has re-claimed the No. 7 jersey, which he wore while leading Jefferson High to a state title in 2010. ... Toledo transfer (and former Lakewood High star) Rodney Adams made his debut Wednesday. A 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore receiver, Adams earned a hardship waiver from the NCAA after losing his mom in a car accident in November. ... Sprawling banners, emblazoned with Taggart slogans such as "Do Something" and "I Will," have been hung around the practice-field fences. ... Two linebackers, Reshard Cliett (shoulder) and Hans Louis (ACL), are not participating this spring, but Taggart said Cliett could return before drills conclude.

AUDIBLE: "I mean, you've got guys flying around. The offense is moving like I've never seen 'em before. It's amazing, man. Everybody's finally jelling with Coach Taggart's plan, and it's just amazing to see it all coming together." -- senior DT Todd Chandler

AUDIBLE II: "Nobody on this football team has a job. Not even (PK) Marvin Kloss, who was up for the Lou Groza Award. ... We can't do that to our football program, we can't do that to this university, just to give guys anything. Everybody's going to earn it and that's how we're going to get better as a football team." -- Taggart

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Lackluster combine for Lynch, Mims

Fortunately for Aaron Lynch and Tevin Mims, defensive linemen typically aren't required to sprint 40 yards upfield or bench press a quarterback on a given play.

Otherwise, their respective NFL Draft outlooks might really be bleak.

From a workout perspective, neither of the former USF defensive ends regaled scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine that wrapped up Tuesday in Indianapolis. Most results can be found at NFL.com.

According to the site, Mims (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.95 seconds, finishing 21st among the 42 defensive linemen who participated. Lynch, the only Bulls underclassman on the 2013 team to declare early for the draft, did not run.

A representative from Morgan Advisory Group, which is representing Lynch (6-5, 249), couldn't be reached Tuesday evening. Lynch also didn't participate in the vertical jump; Mims jumped 27.5 inches (tied for 35th out of 43).

Elsewhere, Mims managed 17 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, one fewer than Lynch. The two were among only nine defensive linemen to bench fewer than 20 reps.

If those results weren't sobering enough, the individual analyses on Mims and Lynch from Pro Football Weekly senior editor Nolan Nawrocki are pretty scathing.

Both have a chance to enhance their draft stock at USF's annual Pro Day on March 10.

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Heath, Rudd react to Pitino (and mostly agree)

Six days after Rick Pitino's optimistic-yet-candid assessment of USF senior Victor Rudd's NBA chances, Stan Heath offered a concise response.

"I agree 100 percent."

Pitino was asked about Rudd moments after the 6-foot-9 forward totaled 27 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulls' 80-54 loss at Louisville last Tuesday. Heath and Rudd happened to be watching Pitino's press conference on a large-screen feed outside the media room.

Pitino indicated Rudd possesses the length and athleticism pro scouts love, but must improve his ability to go left, become a better offensive rebounder, and evolve into more of an interior force.

"I went right up to Vic and said, 'It's a lot of the things we talk about,'" Heath recalled.

"He goes, 'I know.' Just watching since that game, I really think it gave him a little extra motivation, knowing that he's going down the stretch, his (college) career's winding down and he wants to finish strong."

Rudd indicated for the most part, he agrees with Pitino and, for that matter, Heath.

"I just take it and try to apply it to my game," Rudd said.

"(Pitino) said I don't go left, which I do. ... Offensive rebounding, that's something (Heath) has been preaching to me that I need to do more, and I do think I need to do that more and go inside.

"I take that and apply it. It's coming from a Hall of Famer and I appreciate it."

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Bulls rested, motivated for UConn rematch

They enter Wednesday's rematch against Connecticut with fresh legs and fresher memories of the Humiliation in Hartford.

Two weeks after their 83-40 loss to the Huskies, USF's men (12-15, 3-11 American Athletic Conference) aren't necessarily guaranteeing  vengeance, just a far more valiant effort on Military Appreciation Day at the Sun Dome.

Shouldn't be difficult.

"If you've got any kind of pride or any kind of heart," Bulls coach Stan Heath said, "you're going to come out a lot differently than you did the first time around."

On Monday, Heath said he still hasn't dwelt at length on the first encounter, which quickly segued from disaster to debacle. In foul trouble essentially from the opening tip, the Bulls were forced to improvise on the fly, resulting in matchup problems and, ultimately, poor shot selection.

By halftime, the Bulls trailed 45-14, converting four of 23 field goals in that span. By night's end, 7-foot Huskies freshman Amida Brimah had nearly as many blocks (six) as USF scoring leader Musa Abdul-Aleem had points (eight).

"I think once things got going, it just snowballed and we never recovered," Heath said.

"They're pretty much the same team from last year, they just have the big guy (Brimah) in the middle and he makes a difference," senior Victor Rudd said. "I didn't know he could block shots like that, so I've got to adjust."

The Bulls enter the rematch coming off a seven-day break, their longest layoff in conference play. By contrast, UConn (21-6, 9-5) will be playing its third game in seven days. The Huskies fell to SMU by nine points at home Sunday.

"I really feel this time around will be different," Heath said. "We're certainly going to be more competitive, give greater effort and I think our team will be more ready to go against a very, very good UConn team."

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Break up the Bulls: Baseball off to 7-0 start

By rallying for a 6-5 victory Sunday against Penn State, USF's baseball team achieved its first 7-0 start in 32 years.

Thirty-two years. Let that seep in a moment. The last time the Bulls began so auspiciously, stirrups were hip. So was the University Square Mall. Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak hadn't started. Neither had serious talk about Major League Baseball coming to Florida.

Need more perspective? Here are some local dabs of it:

* Bulls coach Lelo Prado was a 19-year-old catcher at Hillsborough Community College.

* Eventual World Series MVP Pat Borders, dad of USF underclassmen Luke and Levi Borders, had just begun a 10-home run senior season at Lake Wales High. 

* Bulls assistant and recent USF Hall of Fame inductee Chris Heintz, who had his No. 23 jersey formally retired in a pregame ceremony Friday, was 7.

* The 1982 Bulls, coached by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, was embarking on a season that would end with the program's first NCAA Tournament berth.

* Concessions stands and restrooms had just been added to Red McEwen Field, the Bulls' home ballpark.

But enough nostalgia. The current Bulls club has posted a collective .338 batting average to this point, with four players already tallying at least 10 hits.

Junior Austin Lueck, mired in a 1-for-15 swoon entering Sunday's game, went 4-for-4. Junior Michael Arencibia, who drove in the go-ahead run with an infield grounder in the seventh inning, is a team-best 10-for-19 (.526) so far.

USF can tie the '82 club's record for the program's best start Wednesday night at Stetson.

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Q&A: Ron Dugans, Paul Wulff

Five days before spring drills commence on USF's campus, the Bulls' two newest assistants -- receivers coach Ron Dugans and offensive coordinator/line coach Paul Wulff -- sat down Friday afternoon with a trio of reporters.

Dugans, a receiver on FSU's 1999 national title team, arrived from Charlie Strong's staff at Louisville, where he had the same job. Wulff, a former Washington State center who spent four seasons as coach of his alma mater, spent the last two years as a 49ers offensive assistant.

Here are chunks of the conversation.

Dugans
How did you arrive here?
"It was kind of up-in-the-air. I didn't know if it would be Texas or I wanted to possibly interview to stay at Louisville. My wife's from Vero Beach and that was one reason; I hadn't lived in Florida in a long time. But just to top it off, just the relationship I built with Coach (Willie) Taggart and getting a chance to really sit down and talk with him. The thing that he's trying to do here, I feel like that's what Coach Strong was trying to do -- and what he did -- at Louisville. To me, I just felt like, 'What other place would you want to do something like that?'"

Your assessment of the roster?
"You've got a group of guys that I feel like there's talent there. It may not be as fast at the position right now, but if you play with great technique, and just knowing what's going on with the defense, being detail players, you've got a chance to have more explosion plays. I'm excited because their attitude is where you want it to be. Those kids are excited right now. I think they take pride in getting better, and that's what I've seen with these guys."

Could we see an increase in offensive tempo?
"There's been some talk about it, possibly speeding up a little bit. I feel like a lot of people nowadays are changing up the tempo; not necessarily spread and all that stuff, but just kind of changing up the tempo a little bit, getting guys going, moving the ball around, just playing at a faster pace. There are some things we've kind of talked about and feel really good about it."

What are one or two things you took from Coach Bowden that help you as a coach today?
"When I got to Florida State, the biggest thing I learned was worry only about the things you can control. Coach Bowden told us you can control going to class, you can control the effort that you give in practice, you can control how you treat people. And I've always lived by that because I learned it my freshman year; everything's not going to go your way. Coach Bowden always said, 'I pray for a stronger back and not a lighter load.' I still live that way and preach that to my guys. I do have favorites. Some coaches say they don't have favorites, they don't play favorites. My
favorite guys are the guys that do right and don't hurt the team, because it's all about the
team. I saw it my freshman year when Coach Bowden kicked Randy Moss off the team. It's not about you."


Wulff
From what you've observed and studied, how far away is this offense?
"I don't think it's very far. I think we can definitely do some really good things this year. Without a doubt there's going to be a lot of improvement. ... We've still got a lot of guys to work in and have to clean up what they're doing, but I think there are some pieces here, and without question I envision a drastic improvement in what they're doing." …

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Six spring practices open to public

USF football fans will have a half-dozen chances to watch the Bulls work out on campus before their annual spring intrasquad game.

The school announced Friday six spring practices -- all on Friday or Saturday -- will be open to the public. Friday workouts start at 8:30 a.m.; Saturday practices are at 3.

The dates: Feb. 28, March 1, March 7, March 8, March 21 and March 22. The spring game will be staged March 29 at 4 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium. Admission to all practices and the spring game is free.

"The spring is a great opportunity for us to get better, and I want the fans to be part of what we are building," Coach Willie Taggart said in a school release. "I look forward to seeing a lot of them out at the practice field in the coming weeks."

Fans are asked to park in the lot on Sycamore Drive, behind the Morsani Football Complex fields and Corbett Soccer Stadium on the east end of the campus. Attendants at the gate adjacent to the back of that parking lot will allow spectators inside. Bleacher seating will be provided.

The first spring practice is Wednesday.

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Women's hoops: Williams steps up after sit-down

The succession of double-doubles was preceded by doubt. The flourish arrived after a funk. Courtney Williams admits she has spent as many nights in tears as she has in double figures.

"Plenty of times I wanted to go home," USF's sleek sophomore guard said.

"But I called my mom and she'd tell me I've got to stick in there, there ain't nothing back in Folkston (Ga.) for me. She'd be like, 'Go to sleep, and when you wake up you'll feel better.'"

The awakening arrived earlier this season. Williams doesn't remember the exact date, but she's clear on the site, circumstances and soundtrack. It was a heart-to-heart with Coach Jose Fernandez in the Bulls' second-floor conference room inside the Muma Center.

Fernandez's message: Courtney, you need to want to be better. We can't want it for you, you need to want to be better. ... I see all the potential that you have, but I can't want it more than you want it.

"That's how it kind of hit me a little bit," she replied.

"Great players want to hear the truth rather than how good they are and getting your ego stroked," Fernandez added. "I go, 'We need to look at how we can make you better and how you can make yourself better.'"

Since the epiphany, no Bull has been more prolific.

Williams notched her sixth double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) of the season -- and third in the last six American Athletic Conference games -- in Wednesday's 62-43 victory at Cincinnati.

Four games remain in the regular season. If USF (14-11, 9-5 American Athletic Conference) is to play its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble, Williams (15.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) must continue elevating to the basket and boards with equal potency.

Fernandez says her ascension may just be starting.

"I think Courtney Williams is probably one of the most talented kids I've ever coached on...the men's side or the women's side," he said.

"The things that she can do athletically, you go 'Wow.' You look at how she can elevate and go up and down, like a guy; how she can just stop on a dime and her body moves north and south."

More than once, however, she contemplated going north -- and not stopping. …

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Bennie Coney leaving Cincy, interested in USF (UPDATED)

Shortly after announcing via Twitter on Wednesday that he's transferring from Cincinnati, former Plant City all-state QB Bennie Coney said he'd be interested in USF if the feeling's mutual.

American Athletic Conference transfer policies, however, would leave him with a maximum two years' eligibility were he ultimately to become a Bull. …

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Pitino: With work, Rudd has an NBA shot

In the wake of Louisville's 80-54 victory Tuesday against USF, Times correspondent Steve Bittenbender had a chance to ask Cardinals (and former Knicks/Celtics) coach Rick Pitino about Bulls senior Victor Rudd's NBA chances.

Rudd scored a season-high 27 points and notched his sixth double-double of the year (10 rebounds) in the loss.

“Victor Rudd is the type of basketball player that the pros like,” Pitino said. “He is long, athletic and only going to get better. Guys like that, love that type of athleticism. He needs to go left better, he need to offensive rebound more. He needs to get inside more.”

Pitino said many prospects too often try to impress scouts and coaches with their outside play. As an example, he cited Rodrick Rhodes, who scored 1,559 points as a collegian, which included three seasons under Pitino at Kentucky.

Pitino said Rhodes could defend, penetrate, pass and play in the low post.

"But he would get in the game, and want to shoot (3-pointers),” Pitino said. …

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Added pounds and all, Herget still hungry

He may not have touched a baseball for roughly sixth months in the offseason, but Jimmy Herget still battled, still dug deep, still found a way to periodically add a little mustard.

Or marshmallows, depending on how many calories he was trying to pile on.

"Just ate more," USF's angular right-handed ace said of his offseason quest to add weight. "Ate as much as I possibly could."

Indeed, metabolism waged a fiercer duel with Herget than the pesky contact hitter fouling off a succession of nasty sliders and cutters. Peanut butter, jelly and marshmallow sandwiches -- tons of them -- were chased by protein shakes.

The grand total of his gorging: 15 pounds. Herget took the mound for last Friday's season opener in Jacksonville at roughly 165.

"It was a battle, definitely," the 6-foot-3 reigning Big East Rookie of the Year said. "I'd get like, 5 pounds up, I'd go back to bed, I'd wake up in the morning and I had lost 7 pounds. It's ridiculous sometimes."

Yet the Bulls are counting on that added mass, as moderate as it seems, to help Herget build on his dazzling freshman season (6-2, 1.72 ERA, 94 IP), when he evolved into the Bulls' Friday night starter.

In Saturday's season opener against 2013 NCAA Tournament qualifier Liberty in Jacksonville, Herget scattered five hits in seven innings, striking out one and walking none in a 2-1 triumph. He's expected to get the ball for Friday's 7 p.m. home opener against Penn State.

"He's bigger, he's stronger, and that's a good thing and a bad thing because he's throwing the ball a little harder," Bulls coach Lelo Prado said.

"So he's gonna think he can just rare back and blow it by guys, but when he's good he's a pitcher, so I'm hoping he continues that streak.

"He stayed here all summer and worked hard on the weights. You don't see it much on his body because he's a real skinny kid, but he's about 12-15 pounds heavier this year." 

The only thing lighter was his offseason workload. Despite some mild resistance, Prado shut down Herget the entire offseason to preserve an arm that never had thrown more than 50 innings in a season at Jefferson High.

Once the 2013 season ended at the Big East Conference tournament last May, Herget said he didn't pick up a baseball again until early November.

"I didn't want to (rest) because I love playing baseball and I just love every bit of it," he said. "At the time, when they told me I needed to stay (home), I was kind of mad and stuff like that, but then I understood and sort of got what they were trying to do."

Since returning, he has refined a change-up he began developing last season, while polishing his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, and his slider. He estimates his velocity is at the fringe of 90 mph.

"Every time he takes the rubber, you're confident behind him," junior shortstop Kyle Teaf said. "He had guys off-balance all year and it was a joy to play defense behind him, because he's got guys rolling over all the time. He's just got that bulldog mentality."

With an appetite to match.    

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Search firm CEO: Outside-the-box candidates in play for AD job

The president of the search firm hired to help select USF's next athletic director told the school's search committee Tuesday sitting ADs, those from schools in similar markets and "out-of-the-box" candidates will receive consideration.

Bob Beaudine, president of Texas-based Eastman & Beaudine, spent Tuesday on USF's campus touring the athletic facilities and meeting with coaches, administrators, boosters and even student leaders.

He also spent 35 minutes briefing five of the six search committee members, who received a formal job description of slightly more than three pages. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was the only committee member absent.

No candidate was mentioned by name, and the school confirmed no one formally has applied for the position being vacated by Doug Woolard, who announced his retirement in January.

Applying isn't necessary for those identified as solid candidates to initially be approached by the search firm.

"This is an outstanding job. This isn't just a good one," Beaudine said. "It's an outstanding opportunity in a vibrant market, in a city with great professional teams, and we have a leadership here that's looking to be something excellent." …

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