USF's Sheridan breaks down four-man QB battle
Continuing our position-by-position run through USF football leading up to the start of practice in less than two weeks, we stop today with Nick Sheridan, Willie Taggart's promising young quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator.
Quarterback is arguably USF's most intriguing position in the preseason, with a legitimate four-wide battle for the starting position job. There's not a clear favorite between the two returning scholarship quarterbacks, senior Bobby Eveld and sophomore Matt Floyd, or the newcomers, in Penn State transfer Steven Bench and true freshman Mike White. All but Floyd have a redshirt year available, so it's reasonable to think whoever isn't in the top two is a candidate to redshirt, barring injuries during the season.
-- I asked Sheridan, given the complexity of Taggart's West Coast offense -- play calls are often 10 to 12 words, with multiple options and reads out of each formation and complex pre-snap shifting and motion -- how reasonable it is to think a quarterback could have his first practice in August and be in command of the offense enough to be playing at the end of the month.
"I think it is ambitious," Sheridan said. "For Steven, he's been in college and had to experience a complex offense already, so he has some base football knowledge as far as that goes. It won't be the first time he's gone through a college fall camp. Mike, this will be his first rodeo. They're at different stages in their career, but the information will be brand-new to them, and the things that we'll make them do, certainly, it can be challenging for a quarterback."
Bench ran a pro-style offense under Bill O'Brien at Penn State, and Sheridan said there's a value in that, even if the offenses may have different basic philosophies, they share a common complexity.
"The management and functioning within that offense will probably better prepare him, just because he's gone through it," Sheridan said. "He's had to break a huddle and say a play that's 10-12 words long. This won't be the first time he's had to do that."
-- Sheridan said he was pleased overall with how well Eveld and Floyd picked up the offense that was installed in 15 spring practices, setting an important foundation for a greater level of implementation in the month of August.
"I was pleased with how Matt and Bobby progressed throughout the spring. I certainly thought they got better as spring wore on," he said. "It's a process. Springtime, we're throwing a lot at them. In the fall, we'll have more practices, you can slow things down and really dive into the stuff. At this position, no matter how many years you've played in the system, you're never arrived. You're always trying to get better."
-- Sheridan gave his overall read on Bench and White as newcomers, given that he's had limited interaction with them as they work in conditioning workouts and informal practices with teammates.
"I would say they're eager to learn," he said. "They're around the building a lot. That's an indicator they're trying to get better. You see them walking through the hallways, watching film, stuff like that. That's exciting, to have two guys trying to become good football players and that it's important to them."
-- Is there a desire to find a starter relatively early in camp, so he can get a greater share of the reps and establish himself more completely as a team leader? Sheridan said that's more a decision for Willie Taggart than for himself.
"I really don't ever think like that. We're going 100 miles an hour just to develop the quarterbacks, and that process never stops," he said. "Whether or not someone separates themselves, I don't think in those terms. I just think of trying to get each guy as good as they can be. If we have four guys capable of being starting quarterbacks, we'll be that much better off. ... At some point, those reps will probably have to be cut in half to two guys, then eventually a starter will be named."
-- Bench is the son of a longtime Georgia high school football coach, much the same way Sheridan's father, Bill, is the Bucs' defensive coordinator; David Reaves and Walt Wells both grew up with fathers in coaching.
"He's a coach's son, and that brings some savviness about you and awareness, just by being exposed to the game so long," Sheridan said. "He's just a good football player. He's athletic, he can run, do some of those things. He just plays football. Sometimes that can go unnoticed with quarterbacks. You can think Bobby throws a pretty spiral or he can do this, that or another. At the end of the day, I tell our guys 'You're football players first.' You have four downs to get 10 yards, and however you go about doing that, there's lots of different ways to do it. For (Bench), the thing that's exciting is that he's just a good football player who has a good awareness."
-- I asked Sheridan what, individually, Eveld and Floyd showed him this spring that impressed him the most. His response: "I would just say their willingness to learn, to embrace a new culture. Curl Flat is Curl Flat, no matter what offense it is. The way things are ran, how we go about things, how they're coached and offseason conditioning and academics, all that stuff is new for them. That, to me, can be more challenging than the X-and-O football stuff. They've played football for a long time. Just how they embraced the new culture. I thought they were good leaders, tried to get the team to all buy in and go in the same direction. They had good attitudes and were positive to be around."
-- It looks like USF will take five quarterbacks to camp in Vero, with redshirt freshman walk-on Tommy Eveld as the fifth passer, though that wasn't a final decision yet. We've reported that walk-on Evan Wilson of Sarasota will be on roster this fall as a true freshman; it looks like Aaron Munoz, the senior walk-on transfer from Louisiana-Monroe who got reps at quarterback this spring, might now focus on competing as a punter -- he held the starting punting job at ULM for two years before transferring.