USF journal: Scrimmage reveals tackling still an issue
USF’s first full preseason scrimmage Saturday provided a solid initial glimpse of what Coach Charlie Strong hopes will be an improved defense across the board.
While the group certainly passed the eye test on a sweltering morning -- with freshman CB Bentlee Sanders providing arguably the biggest highlight with a would-be pick-six of Brett Kean from the goal line -- that doesn’t mean Strong was content.
“You can’t give up the big plays; you’ve got to tackle well,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of tackling. But just overall, we know the mistakes and they can be very correctable.”
Miscues aside, it was a productive step for a unit that ranked 120th nationally (482 ypg) in total defense in '16. It kept up a constant pressure at the line throughout much of the half-hour period open to reporters, before the offense broke through with a couple of late scores during red-zone drills.
Aiding in that success was the fact the offense was without receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darnell Salomon and Stanley Clerveaux, who were not dressed out. Their absences allowed some younger players such as freshman Kevaughn Dingle to get additional work with Quinton Flowers and the first-teamers.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Strong said. “Just too many penalties with false starts (and) defense lining (up) offsides.
"The thing we have to do is get a rhythm on offense, and then defensively, we just have to disrupt that rhythm.”
FULLWOOD SIDELINED: Senior S Tajee Fullwood was walking with the aid of crutches toward the end of the scrimmage. Strong indicated the former Tampa Bay Tech standout sustained “maybe an ankle sprain or something” after getting dinged up earlier in the day, but did not seem overly concerned.
“I think he’ll be okay,” Strong said.
FEELING GOOD: The scrimmage provided senior MLB Auggie Sanchez the first test of his surgically-repaired right labrum in game-like conditions, which he said “feels good to go.”
“My shoulder held up,” Sanchez said. “I’m a little sore because we’ve been hitting for the past week or so, but it felt good.”
ODDS AND ENDS: When asked about the potential development of an indoor practice facility, Strong said he did not have any updates but thinks “it’s out there in the future.” ... Freshman RB (and Hillsborough High alumnus) Duran Bell turned heads with a long dash early, earning compliments from both Strong and Flowers about his speed in the open field. “I heard that he was fast on the track, and you see he comes out on the field and does the same thing,” Flowers said.
AUDIBLE: “They do a lot of things that I haven’t seen before. ... Sometimes they stand up and they don’t give their defense away. They show that they can do all types of things on defense and that’s what you like to see.” -- Flowers on the progress he has seen while facing the defense.