Practice report: Taggart pleased with scrimmage
A day after the Bulls' first live scrimmage of the preseason, Coach Willie Taggart said he saw a number of things during the closed session that were missing most of last season.
Namely touchdowns, offensive self-assuredness and a heightened sense of urgency.
"We had guys catching touchdowns, we had guys getting interceptions, guys picking up fumbled snaps for touchdowns. Some big hits on both sides of the ball from a lot of guys," said Taggart, who holds another closed scrimmage Saturday morning, prior to the Bulls' annual Fan Fest.
Taggart singled out senior WR Andre Davis, sophomore transfer WR Rodney Adams, sophomore RB Darius Tice (who had a 10-yard TD run) and junior transfer LB LeGrande Harley. Compressing a year's worth of stats into one situational scrimmage, Harley had two interceptions including a pick-six, and picked up a fumble for a scoop-and-score
"It's just different guys making plays for us at different times," Taggart said. "You just see when it goes smooth and guys do what they're supposed to, they understand what they're doing now. And now they're scoring touchdowns and getting excited about it and want to do it a lot more often now."
Taggart said Saturday's scrimmage will more closely resemble a real game. Don't be shocked if he names a starting quarterback afterward.
BULLS LAND OL: Several recruiting services reported late Thursday afternoon the Bulls have received a non-binding "commitment" from Island Coast three-star DL Marlon Gonzalez. Ranked the state's 87th-best prospect by 247Sports, Gonzalez (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) already has de-committed once, from FSU.
He becomes the second three-star prospect to give a non-binding verbal pledge to USF in as many days. Miami Northwestern S Khalid McGee reportedly did the same Tuesday night.
LESS IS MORE: The sleeker, slimmed-down version of junior TE Sean Price, first spotted in the spring, continues to elicit raves in August.
Currently 243 pounds (17 less than what he topped out at last fall), Price enjoyed a breakthrough March after coming on toward the end of 2013 (11 catches in his last three games). He said he has kept the weight off primarily by eating healthier. His favorite healthy indulgence: a baked potato with a dab of sour cream or Ranch dressing.
"Definitely there were times when I was on the field (last year) when I felt like I couldn't get out of my break, couldn't get out of my stance," said Price, an Under Armour All-American with 22 career TD catches at North Marion High. "I felt like I was trying too hard to come out. I wasn't quick and explosive like I wanted to be."
Through 11 days of preseason camp, Taggart said Price has shown better movement, has become a mentor to the younger tight ends and, perhaps most importantly, has made a succession of clutch catches on third down.
"He's starting to figure it out, and watching him in the spring, he looked so much faster," Taggart said. "He lost weight ...and his routes were sharper. And now it's like he's doing it without thinking. And again, that's what I know the quarterbacks are excited about. He's gonna be where he needs to be and he's going to make a play for you."
ODDS AND ENDS: Speaking of tight ends, senior Mike McFarland continues to be slowed by a huge brace on his left knee. When asked if he'll be ready for the Aug. 30 season opener, Taggart said, "Mike better be ready for the first game. We heal differently around here." ... Taggart said after a slow start, junior college transfer TE Marlon Pope has come on lately, and not a moment too soon for a team that needs all the pass blockers it can muster: "I'm mostly a blocking tight end," said Pope, who played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "But I can catch a few balls."
AUDIBLE: "They call him 'Freakshow' for a reason. I mean, he's making catches out here that are just different. We're loving it; he's going up and making some big-time catches for us." -- Taggart on Davis' play this preseason
AUDIBLE, PART II: "A successful day is for...everybody that loves the Bulls to come out and be a part of our Fan Fest and get to know our players, get to know our coaches, get to know me. I think a successful day is if I can get around to meet everybody that comes out. That would be a great day for us." -- Taggart, who will be available (with his team) for pictures and autographs Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Corbett Stadium