Friday, May 25, 2018
Colleges

Five goals for USF Bulls in spring football practice

TAMPA — After USF's first football offseason without a bowl game in seven years, a month of spring practice starts today, and the lingering theme is the motivation to work now and avoid the close losses that typified a disappointing 2011 season.

"There's no doubt that being as close as we were definitely I think is a motivating factor for our team," coach Skip Holtz said. "To know you're that close, maybe it was that one extra rep, one extra step. It's just how close it is, and it's been a motivating factor for them to realize how close we are to being able to accomplish the goals we want to."

After opening 4-0 last season, the Bulls lost seven of their last eight, going a worst-ever 1-6 in the Big East and consistently losing leads late in close games. With West Virginia gone, the Big East is that much more up for grabs, and this spring is a chance for Holtz to set a new team's identity, helped by the largest senior class in his three seasons. With that, five goals for this spring:

1. Adjust to new defense

Mark Snyder's defenses were statistically solid, but couldn't protect leads late in close games. New coordinator Chris Cosh has a strong linebacker unit, led by DeDe Lattimore and Sam Barrington, but USF needs to establish depth in the secondary and on the defensive line. There are holes in the starting defensive lineup to address: Can Boca Ciega's Julius Forte step in opposite Ryne Giddins at defensive end? Can true sophomore Elkino Watson emerge as a starter at defensive tackle? Who will the third starting linebacker be? And can Holtz identify a cornerback who can start opposite Kayvon Webster?

2. Improve on special teams

Last year's unit was a consistent problem — in the season-ending loss to West Virginia, the Bulls gave up a blocked punt inside their 5 and had a kickoff returned 90 yards for a touchdown, leading to 10 points in a three-point loss. Justin Brockhaus-Kann will be challenged by backup Chris Veron, who didn't attempt a punt last year, and walk-on Mattias Ciabatti, who redshirted in the fall. Maikon Bonani's kicking job is solid, but the Bulls need a long-snapper after losing three-year starter Mike Walsh, and will work to improve the coverage units on punts and kickoffs.

3. Embrace revamped offensive staff

Holtz has four of his five offensive assistants in new positions, with coordinator Todd Fitch moving from RBs to QBs, Larry Scott moving from TEs to RBs and Peter Vaas from QBs to TEs. Holtz believes the new assignments can help the Bulls continue the offensive improvements made last year — improvements in yards, but not as much in touchdowns. Holtz also has a new WRs coach in former NFL receiver Jerome Pathon, so even with senior leaders in QB B.J. Daniels and RB Demetris Murray, there will be a get-acquainted feel to spring drills on offense.

4. Restock the lineup

USF needs to find new starting offensive linemen to replace departing center Chaz Hine and guard Jeremiah Warren; sophomore Austin Reiter will get the first crack at center, with redshirt freshman Brynjar Gudmundsson and January junior college transfer Lawrence Martin among the options at guard. Holtz needs a corner with Quenton Washington graduated, and two more January additions from junior college, Josh Brown and Fidel Montgomery, will get a long look this spring, as will redshirt freshman Kenneth Durden.

5. Find a backup QB

In one of the better battles in camp, junior Bobby Eveld, the backup for the past two seasons, will be challenged by redshirt freshman Matt Floyd. With Daniels a senior, it's the first competition toward the 2013 starting job, though the Bulls will add contenders in the next recruiting cycle. With three solid scholarship quarterbacks, USF shifted junior walk-on Ryan Eppes (Largo) to linebacker, where he'll be in better position to contribute on special teams.

Comments
FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

Former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher should be back in the state next week for the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. It is, to my knowledge, his first big trip back to Florida since leaving for Texas A&M in December.With that in mind, my questi...
Published: 05/25/18
FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

FSU starter Josh Ball faces Title IX suspension over dating violence accusation

Florida State starting offensive tackle Josh Ball faces a university suspension after a Title IX investigation found him responsible for dating violence.The suspension came to light in a Facebook post Monday afternoon by Sandra Sellers, an FSU studen...
Published: 05/22/18
Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

TAMPA — Florida State coach Willie Taggart fielded an interesting question near the end of his Q&A with fans during Sunday's booster stop at Armature Works.Are the Seminoles going to be going for it more on fourth down?"We will be goin...
Published: 05/21/18
Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

One of the first big nuggets from preseason college football magazines is out: Athlon's top 25.The site considers its rankings a prediction of where teams will be at the end of the year, not the beginning.Alabama and Clemson are 1-2 (no shock). Miami...
Published: 05/21/18
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Published: 05/20/18
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," ...
Published: 05/20/18
ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

The ACC has released some kickoff and TV information for the first three weeks of the season:Week 1 (previously announced)Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas): Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABCVirginia Tech at Florida State: Monday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESP...
Published: 05/18/18
Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU pla...
Published: 05/16/18
FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

What had been an open secret for months is now open and shut: Group of Five power Boise State will face FSU at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville in the teams' 2019 opener.A formal announcement is expected Wednesday, but the '19 schedule on Boise's offi...
Published: 05/15/18
RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

TAMPA — He’s the accidental pitcher who can’t be pigeonholed into a defined role. He’s a well-spoken economics major who morphs into fire-breathing intensity on the mound. And he’s one of the biggest reasons why the University of Tampa Spartans are p...
Published: 05/15/18