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