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Spring report: Six days in, offense winning

7

March

On a raw, overcast, windy Friday morning, USF's offense conquered not only the elements, but pretty much every guy on the other side of the ball.

When new WR Rodney Adams wasn't turning a slant pass into a long TD run, Chris Dunkley was gobbling up yards after hauling in a screen pass or the tight ends were making a succession of nifty catches.

Afterward, Coach Willie Taggart and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan confirmed what a modest morning audience witnessed at the public spring workout: The Bulls' once-beleaguered offense is ahead of the defense.

"Right now, we're getting out-physicaled by our offense," Bresnahan said. "And that's probably the thing that makes me use the word 'disappointed.'"

On paper, it stands to reason -- to a degree. The offense not only returns 10 starters, but seems to have embraced the new wrinkles and increased tempo employed by new coordinator Paul Wulff.

The defense lost six starters, including team MVP DeDe Lattimore in the middle, both ends, a tackle and some veterans in the secondary.

"Just the synergy of our offense is better. Guys are on the same page with things," Taggart said. "Now, (QB) Mike (White) doesn't have guys in his face throwing the ball. He's been able to throw the ball with some room to follow through, and he's able to be accurate.

"I think this is the first time as me being the head coach where the offense has been ahead of our defense, so we have some work to do defensively."

Specifically, Bresnahan said the Bulls haven't replenished the leadership, explosion and passion of the departed defensive players. While he said he recognizes some progress, it's not occurring fast enough for his taste.

"I give the nod to the offense right now," he said. "Coach Wulff's come in and they're playing with a tempo, they're playing with an attitude and they've kind of developed an identity. We haven't done that on defense yet."

WRIGHT DISCUSSES DEPARTURE: Redshirt freshman LB Mitchell Wright, a former Plant High standout, said Friday that spinal stenosis and two partially herniated neck discs forced him to give up football.

Wright said the stenosis -- an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal -- was discovered between his fourth and fifth vertebrae. He said the problem first surfaced his senior year at Plant, when he began suffering periodic neck stingers.

It worsened during 2013 preseason camp at USF, when the pain of the stingers intensified. About halfway through the season, team doctors shut him down for the rest of the year. Surgery, he was told, offered no guarantees of eliminating the problem for good.

"Talking to my family a long, long time about it, we just decided I don't think this is something I should do for my long-term health," said Wright, who works with the team's film crew and still attends every practice.

A second-team Class 8A all-state pick as a Plant senior, when he recorded 124 tackles and 10 sacks, Wright said he's optimistic of remaining on scholarship. He said he'll meet with doctors in the next month or so about whether to undergo surgery.

"I've got to think about the future," he said. "As much as I want to keep playing, as much as I want to be out here helping my team and playing the game I love...I had to look to the future at that point."

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart praised the progress of junior TE Sean Price, who has dropped roughly 10 pounds since playing at 255 last year. "He's becoming that player that everyone told me about when I got here," Taggart said. "I think a big part of it is, he's comfortable, he's understanding things more and he's lost some weight." ... Bresnahan said senior DT Elkino Watson possesses the versatility to slide to defensive end in early-down situations. ... For what it's worth, the first-team offensive line Friday was LT Darrell Williams, LG Thor Jozwiak, C Austin Reiter, RG Brynjar Gudmundsson and RT Quinterrius Eatmon. ... The Bulls hold a free public workout Saturday at Bradenton's Manatee High -- Taggart's alma mater -- at 2:30 p.m.

[Last modified: Friday, March 7, 2014 2:43pm]

    

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