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Video: Presenting 'Three and Out'

In what could go down as a landmark day in sports multimedia (or at the very least, another stormy summer day in west central Florida), we are unveiling our weekly "Three and Out" segment devoted to USF football.

Each game week, we'll home in on three potential areas of interest in the Bulls' upcoming contest with a crisp, one-minute breakdown. The first installment can be found here.

Feel free to deride or deliberate, to re-tweet or rebut.

But just remember this landmark day.

 

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Relax, Bulls fans: Anchors away for Vandy

Attention, Bulls fans: You may stand down.

There will be no more "Anchor Down."

That two-word mantra sewn on the backs of Vanderbilt's jerseys in the Commodores' season opener Thursday is going away. Just like USF's thwarted attempts to replace last names with "The Team" on Bulls jerseys, Vandy has been informed it's not permitted by NCAA uniform guidelines.

But why did the Commodores get away with it Thursday? A simple miscommunication per various media reports. But the bottom line is, the school has been informed it faces penalties -- specifically, a timeout per quarter -- if it keeps wearing the jerseys.

Then again, in the wake of a 37-7 home loss to Temple, game-day attire is probably the least of the Commodores' concerns.

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Football: Spencer has broken forearm

Sophomore DB Jalen Spencer will miss the next "few weeks" with a fractured forearm, Coach Willie Taggart said during his weekly teleconference Thursday.

Spencer, who is projected to be a backup, was sidelined nearly all of last season after suffering a shoulder injury in the opener against McNeese State that required surgery.

Taggart said he's optimistic Spencer could return ahead of schedule if everything goes according to plan.

"We heal a lot differently," Taggart said. "He will get in with our trainers and work really hard. He said he's going to be back quicker than the doctor said. ... We anticipate Jalen coming back and helping this football team this year."

MCFARLAND TO PLAY: Taggart said senior TE Mike McFarland (left knee) will play in Saturday's season opener against Western Carolina.

McFarland was limited in on-field drills for most of preseason camp, but Taggart said the former Blake High standout has progressed well. He was seen fully dressed out for practice earlier this week, showing more mobility than he had in the previous couple of weeks.

"He's practiced with us this week and that's our plan, for him to play on Saturday," Taggart said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart declined to comment on whether freshman DL Rohan Blackwood will return in the fall. The Nature Coast Tech alum has been off USF's roster because of academic-related issues. ... The first "Marshall Mayhem" pep rally for students will take place on Friday from noon-12:30 p.m. on campus at the Marshall Student Center. The event will include free food, a limited amount of free USF T-shirts and an appearance by the football team.

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Men's Hoops: Bulls' conference schedule released

For the second consecutive season, the USF men's basketball team will open conference play on New Year's Eve.

Six days later, the defending national champs will help the Bulls formally ring in 2015.

The American Athletic Conference released its full 2014-15 slate Thursday afternoon, formally completing USF's schedule.

Fifteen of the Bulls' 18 league games will be on conventional live TV, either an ESPN network or CBS Sports Network. The other three will be shown on ESPN3. In all, 95 percent of the AAC games will be on national TV, the conference announced.

The Bulls' most daunting stretch -- three games in six days -- arguably occurs at the outset. The New Year's Eve game at SMU is followed by a home contest Jan. 3 against East Carolina, then a visit from Connecticut three nights later.

Another challenging stretch: a trip to Cincinnati (Feb. 7) and a visit from Memphis (Feb. 14) on consecutive Saturdays, sandwiched by a Feb. 11 visit to UCF. In what must be considered a break for the rebuilding Bulls, Cincy and Memphis are the lone two American teams they'll face only once this season.

The conference tournament is slated for March 12-15 in Hartford, Conn.

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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."

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Volleyball: Bulls brace for non-conference odyssey

Armed with the deepest team of her tenure, third-year USF volleyball coach Courtney Draper will learn soon if it's also her most resilient.

The Bulls, picked fifth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, embark on a daunting non-conference stretch when they open their season with two matches Friday at the Mortar Board Premier at Purdue.

The Bulls face Purdue, eighth in the AVCA preseason poll, at 10 a.m.; then play LSU, which received votes in the poll, at 5. They finish the event with a Saturday afternoon match against No. 14 San Diego.

The tournament is the first of three USF will play on the road in the season's first 23 days. The Bulls also will play three matches at Auburn the weekend of Sept. 12-13, and three more at Pittsburgh the following weekend. …

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Football report: Paging 'Mr. Adversity'

After an offseason of initiatives, booster events and pep rallies designed to lure his fan base back to Raymond James Stadium, Willie Taggart has extended a final invitation to Saturday's season opener -- to one prospective visitor.

On Tuesday, the Bulls coach referred to him as "Mr. Adversity."

"I think if there's one area you worry about, for me, it's just how are guys going to respond to adversity?" said Taggart, whose team failed to respond in last year's season opener, a 53-21 drubbing against Division I-AA McNeese State.

"I think they'll go out and play well, I think they'll make plays, I think they'll do those things. But the one thing we haven't capitalized on, really, is adversity. You don't get that until the season starts and it's gonna happen. It's how you're gonna respond to it. I think that's something that got us last year."

Fifth-year senior DT Todd Chandler said the Bulls were looking past McNeese to a Week 2 game at Michigan State in the 2013 season-opening debacle, when the Cowboys scored 40 unanswered points. USF managed only eight offensive touchdowns in the ensuing 11 games.

"Adversity definitely became...one of our relatives last season," TE Sean Price said. "But like with anything, we've built a callous to it, as Coach (Paul) Wulff (offensive coordinator) would say. We definitely know how to handle it now and if it does come we'll be ready for it."

MCFARLAND ON THE MEND? Senior TE Mike McFarland, slowed by a left knee injury in the latter half of preseason camp, suited up for Tuesday's practice and showed more mobility than he has in the last couple of weeks. Taggart said Monday he expects McFarland, a preseason all-conference pick by Sporting News and Athlon, to play against Western Carolina.

"The nice thing is, he's progressing and he's getting a lot closer," Wulff said. "But again, I think that's still down the road for us to know for sure (about his weekend status)."

GET ON THE (REAL) BUS: Starting this season, hopping on Coach Taggart's bus could be a literal endeavor.

On Tuesday, USF announced two student transportation initiatives for home games, including free round-trip bus service from campus to Raymond James Stadium. Buses will arrive in 15-minute increments at two campus sites, the Marshall Student Center bus entrance and Juniper-Poplar Hall.

Additionally, students who become members of the Student Bulls Club (SBC) -- a $10 annual membership -- can purchase reserved parking spaces in the Student Tailgate Zone for $5 per game. For information, go to GoUSFBulls.com.

HUMBLED, THEN PROMOTED: In the wake of a humbling offseason and slow start to preseason camp, freshman OLB Vincent Jackson has performed his way to a No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Taggart said Jackson, a former Jesuit High star, came on late in August once he began digesting the Bulls' scheme.

Regurgitation preceded digestion, however. "He thought (summer conditioning) was gonna be like high school when he first got in here and (strength) Coach 'O' (Irele Oderinde) put it on him in the weight room and made him throw up," Chandler recalled.

"But one thing I can say about Vince, he never quit, he never gave up. He came to practice battle-ready every day."

Jackson is among five freshmen on the Bulls' two-deep depth chart, but Taggart is putting no limit on how many rookies might play in 2014.

"We're not thinking about redshirting anyone right now," he said. "Guys are still working and still competing. It's just Game 1. ... A lot of those guys just got here, but you've seen the growth that they've made in three weeks. You can only imagine where they're gonna be in another three weeks."

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart said sophomore Darius Tice -- the only tailback in camp with a collegiate carry -- will start Saturday, but the position could evolve into a committee approach. ... Saturday's game marks the radio debut of new Bulls sideline reporter (and former linebacker) Kawika Mitchell. ... The Bulls don't play a team they lost to in 2013 until Nov. 1 (Houston).

AUDIBLE: "We're coming out like this is Florida State and we're playing for a national championship." -- Chandler on I-AA Western Carolina

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Know the foe: Western Carolina

A look at Western Carolina, which faces the Bulls on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium

Nickname: Catamounts …

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Six freshmen on Bulls' game-week depth chart

A half-dozen freshmen, including former local prep standouts Devin Abraham (East Lake) and Vincent Jackson (Jesuit), are on USF's updated two-deep depth chart entering the Bulls' first game week of 2014.

The chart, which features the Bulls defense in a 3-4 alignment, was posted on the program's official Facebook page. Abraham, a January enrollee who missed spring drills due to shoulder surgery, is a second-team safety behind another Bulls newcomer, juco transfer Jamie Byrd (Pasco High).

Jackson is a second-team buck (outside) linebacker behind Tashon Whitehurst. Other freshmen on the two-deep chart: RB Marlon Mack, WR Ryeshene Bronson, CB Deatrick Nichols and P Eric Briggs, a walk-on from Fort Myers. All are second-teamers.

The list contains no other notable changes from the preseason depth chart released in late July. As expected, two former offensive players -- ILB Auggie Sanchez and CB Chris Dunkley -- have earned starting jobs. Toledo transfer Rodney Adams earned a spot as a second-team receiver behind surging senior Deonte Welch.

Walk-on Alex Salvato is listed as the first-team long snapper.

 

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Football report: Dunkley earns starting job

Converted WR Chris Dunkley has earned a starting cornerback job, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Converted WR Chris Dunkley has earned a starting cornerback job, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday.

The move of veteran Bulls WR Chris Dunkley to cornerback has evolved from experiment to entrenchment.

Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday that Dunkley has won a starting job at corner and will remain there for the time being. He'll also remain on special teams, where he led the Bulls in kick returns (18 for 406 yards) and ranked second in punt returns (four for 97) last season.

"All I'm concerned about is Chris being the best defensive back he can be for this football team right now," Taggart said on the American Athletic Conference weekly coaches teleconference Monday.

"I feel like we have guys over on offense that can take care of that side of the ball. If there comes a time where Chris is needed over there we can do that. But right now we want Chris to focus on being a great defensive back for us and a great return man for us."

A former five-star receiving prospect who originally signed with Florida, Dunkley said his gravitation toward defense began last spring, when the coaches staged a practice period in which players were allowed to switch positions.

"I switched my position and made a lot of plays at corner," said Dunkley, who totaled 11 catches the previous two seasons.

"I always had corner deep down in me, but I would say finally (secondary) Coach (Ron Cooper) seen it in me and gave me the opportunity. And ever since then the sky's been the limit, and I thank Coach Coop for that every day."

FIVE CATAMOUNTS OUT: Western Carolina announced five players, including 2013 leading receiver Karnorris Benson, have been suspended from Saturday's game against the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.

Benson (51 catches, 834 yards in '13) is serving a two-game suspension related to academic eligibility requirements from the '13 fall semester. Four others, including starting DB Bryson Jordan, have been benched for violations relating to class attendance, tutors and the Academic Enhancement Program or study hall, the school announced.

TE 'EXPECTED' TO PLAY: Taggart said Monday he expects senior TE Mike McFarland to play Saturday. The former Blake High standout has worn a brace on his left knee the last couple of weeks and has appeared limited during portions of practice open to reporters.

Two others, DB Jalen Spencer and LB Nick Holman, won't play Saturday, Taggart said. Otherwise, the Bulls are healthy entering game week.

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Cliett, Davis, Kloss named captains

If Saturday morning's team photo is any sign, the Bulls are following through with their plans for nameless jerseys, though Coach Willie Taggart is hardly shunning name recognition altogether.

On Friday night, he announced via Twitter three seniors -- WR Andre Davis, LB Reshard Cliett and PK Marvin Kloss -- will be the Bulls' 2014 captains. The trio was chosen by its teammates.

"I think it says a lot, especially when we as coaches don't have any influence on who gets picked," Taggart said during the photo session at Raymond James Stadium. "It's all by their peers and like I tell our guys, I think that's the best award you can get."

Davis, a Jefferson High alumnus, is on the cusp of a handful of USF career receiving records. Cliett leads all active Bulls with 101 career tackles. Kloss was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season; he'll rotate his captaincy with other special-teamers during the year, Taggart said.

"For them to think of me as a captain, I really appreciate that," Davis said. "I'm ready for it."

DUVAL EARNS A RIDE: Fifth-year senior WR Jordan Duval, a special teams regular who appeared in all 12 games last season, has earned a scholarship for 2014, Taggart announced. The former Hillsborough High all-county receiver and punter recorded his first two college receptions last year.

"He's been helping us a couple of years now, not necessarily at a position but on special teams, and that's important," Taggart said.

"I think that's one of the coolest things Coach Taggart does, giving walk-ons a chance to earn a scholarship," QB Mike White said. "(Duval) deserves every bit of it. He's out there making plays day-in and day-out whether it's on offense or special teams."

ODDS AND ENDS: Kloss said walk-ons Jake Carlton and Alex Salvato are splitting reps at long snapper. "Both of them have been doing a spectacular job," Kloss said. "They fit the mold perfectly, so there's no drop-off in performance in any way." ... If Saturday's shorts-and-jerseys walk-through is any sign, CB Chris Dunkley -- moved from receiver in the offseason -- has earned a starting spot entering game week. ... TE Mike McFarland (left knee) continues to be limited by a brace. ... We can't resist this anecdote: White, a lifelong Dolphins fan, said he made his debut on the Jumbotron at Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium) as a 3-month-old. "My dad was holding me with one arm, and backing my grandpa away from a fight with the other," White said.

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Taggart: Staff will call the plays

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy (center) and his wife Lauren speak to USF coach Willie Taggart during their visit Friday to the Bulls' practice.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy (center) and his wife Lauren speak to USF coach Willie Taggart during their visit Friday to the Bulls' practice.

TAMPA -- Though still a few days shy of his 38th birthday, Willie Taggart already has served as a head coach, coordinator and position coach for running backs and receivers at the college level.

Starting next Saturday, he'll add a new role to his resume: CEO.

Taggart, primary play-caller his first four seasons as a head coach, confirmed Friday he's delegating that job to his offensive staff. Coordinator Paul Wulff will be on the sideline, with QB coach David Reaves in the box. Taggart won't reveal just how the plays will be signaled in.

"I'll still have some input," Taggart said. "But one thing I thought I could do a better job at is managing the game, and not just offense but the entire football team."

USF scored a Division I-worst 11 offensive touchdowns in 2013 as players acclimated themselves to Taggart's offense, a hybrid of West Coast and power-run principles with some option and zone-read interspersed. Wulff already was highly familiar with it, having spent the previous two seasons as an offensive assistant to 49ers coach and former Taggart boss Jim Harbaugh.

"I'm not gonna get away from (play-calling), but again, I'm gonna have my hands on a little bit of everything and let those guys do their job and make sure we're doing what's best for our football team," Taggart said. "I'm excited about it. I think it's gonna make a huge difference for us."

HUDDLE UP: All USF students are invited to the Morsani Practice Complex Saturday at 5 p.m. to join the Bulls football team for the "Huddle," a free, pep rally-type gathering that promises to be exactly what it sounds like.

Students will form a huge huddle with Bulls players and coaches, hear a few words from Taggart and enjoy some free food in a tailgate setting.

"Another way to get interactive with our students," Taggart said. "It's their football team as well."

BREAKING CAMP: The Bulls formally ended preseason camp Friday with an afternoon practice in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The only significant injuries of the month: freshman LB Nick Holman (torn labrum) and TE Mike McFarland (knee).

McFarland wasn't present at the portion of Friday's practice open to reporters, but Taggart has said he's optimistic the senior will be ready for next weekend's season opener against Western Carolina.

"Really good camp," Taggart said.

"Really excited about the progress where our team is now and the job that our coaching staff has done with their players, and I'm really excited to see our guys go play. I think I'm kind of like everyone else, just anxious to see them go out and perform."

WALK-THROUGH: To refresh the veterans and orientate the rookies, the Bulls will hold a private walk-through Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. After team pictures are taken, the Bulls will simulate their game-day procedure, from the walk to the stadium to getting dressed to running through the tunnel. "We've got to play there (next Saturday) and we want to make sure there are no hiccups," Taggart said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and his wife Lauren attended Friday's practice. Their son, former Plant DB/WR Eric Dungy, is embarking on his first season as a Bulls receiver after transferring from Oregon. ... Converted WR Chris Dunkley, training mainly at cornerback now, said he'll still get some offensive reps in certain situations, and will continue returning kicks and punts. Dunkley led USF in kick returns (18) and return average (22.6 yards) last season.

AUDIBLE: "That's a trick question." -- senior RG Quinterrius Eatmon, when asked if he's glad camp is over  

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Ready for some futbol? Women's soccer opens tonight

For at least one muggy August evening, the anticipation surrounding Bulls football will be upstaged.

By Bulls futbol.

USF's women's soccer team will try to build on its two-year, 18-match home unbeaten streak tonight when it opens the 2014 season against FAU. Kickoff is at 7:30.

The Bulls, picked fourth in the American Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, haven't lost at Corbett Stadium since a 3-1 defeat against No. 12 UCF on Aug. 17, 2012. They return seven starters from last season's 10-4-6 club but will have a rookie in goal.

Rangy rising junior Christiane Endler, a second-team all-conference pick last season, signed a pro contract with the Chelsea Ladies Football Club of the FA Women's Super League this past spring. Freshmen Thordis Aikman, Lydia Cagle and Katarina Elliott spent the preseason competing for Endler's job.

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown hasn't revealed the starter, but Aikman started the final exhibition match, a 4-0 victory against Stetson.

The Bulls close the weekend with a 1 p.m. match at No. 8 Florida on Sunday.

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Football report: '13 opener still stings

Senior WR Andre Davis admits the Bulls lacked concentration entering last season's opener against Division I-AA McNeese State.

The former Jefferson High standout said Thursday a lot of players didn't take the game seriously and it showed. McNeese stunned USF, 53-21.

"I feel like we went into the game kind of lackadaisical; kind of thinking that we had them beat before we stepped onto the field," said Davis, whose team opens at home against Western Carolina a week from Saturday. …

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Football report: Backfield by committee likely

Running backs coach Telly Lockette said Wednesday the Bulls will employ a committee approach to the backfield to start the season.

Lockette said Wednesday he's still looking for someone to separate themselves in the tight derby, which includes sophomore Darius Tice, redshirt freshman Sta'fon McCray and heralded freshmen Marlon Mack and D'Ernest Johnson.

He hopes to name a starter on Monday for the opener against Western Carolina five nights later.

"One day, one guy will have a great practice. Next day, the freshmen will have a great practice," Lockette said. "So, right now we're just trying to get some stability and see who is going to take the bull by the horns."

Tice, the only player with collegiate experience, has taken most of the first-team snaps in practice and earned praise from Coach Willie Taggart for his performance in the team's first live scrimmage on Aug. 14.

Still, Tice acknowledged everyone has been competing at a high level.

"I'm leading it off right now and then you have the other guys behind me, so we're all contributing and doing our part," he said. "When the first game comes, we'll see if anyone stands out."

ROBBINS OKAY: Sophomore DB Lamar Robbins said he suffered a thigh contusion one day in camp, but insisted it wasn't serious.

Robbins appeared in 11 games last season and had one interception.

"Things are going good. ... It was just a minor setback for me," Robbins said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Senior TE Mike McFarland (knee) was not on the field for practice during the 30 minutes of allotted viewing time for reporters. ... Equipment manager J.C. Lees tweeted a picture of another accessory the Bulls have to complement their new gold, chrome helmets: a matching chin strap.

AUDIBLE: "When the University of Miami was on track, they recruited the tri-county: Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach. And that's how they built their program. So we try to take a page out of that also and we try to follow that blueprint." -- Lockette on the strategy USF uses to recruit in South Florida, where he was coach at powerhouse Miami Central for five seasons. USF's current roster features 18 players from that tri-county region.

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