Thursday, April 19, 2018
Colleges

Turnovers key USF Bulls' turnaround

TAMPA — The long-sleeve shirts, buried beneath drawers for months, are being exhumed. The morning temperatures have evolved from purgatorial to pleasant. Listen closely, and you can hear orbs bouncing and high-tops squeaking.

Yep, roundball season is here. And your resident college football team's in the spirit.

Effective picks, scurrying for loose balls, forcing turnovers and finishing at the other end — coach Willie Taggart's bunch is flourishing in all of the above. As a result, USF football has rebounded. Mightily.

"They create opportunities and they create the turnovers," Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. "And when you can create turnovers and can score on defense, you always give your offense a chance."

Winless only three Saturdays ago, USF suddenly finds itself in position for its first 3-0 start in conference play.

And while much of this two-game win streak can be attributed to Marvin Kloss' foot (6-for-6 on field goals) and Mike McFarland's hands (two blocked kicks), a bulk of the credit must go to the defense's collective nose.

For a change, the Bulls are sniffing out turnovers. Today against 18th-ranked Louisville, USF (2-4, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) will try to score a defensive touchdown for the fourth consecutive game.

"Those are things that we practice … and guys are starting to reap the benefits of that in football games," Taggart said.

"Our guys have confidence, and they're starting to look for those plays now. Before, we were hoping they'd come, and now we're looking for them and we're making them. That's been a treat to see out of our defense."

The transformation has been staggering. Whereas USF seemed downright allergic to interceptions last autumn, the Bulls' defensive opportunism has become contagious.

USF, which managed two picks in 2012, has six this year — by five players. Three Bulls — Julius Forte, DeDe Lattimore and Aaron Lynch — have accounted for the defense's three touchdowns.

That doesn't include freshman safety Nate Godwin's 75-yard return of McFarland's blocked field goal against Cincinnati.

"I really believe turnovers come in bundles," defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said.

"And once you believe in it and practice it every day and learn to scoop and score and not just fall on the ball, once you see it happen the first time, man, things just start to fold in your direction. And I think they're experiencing that."

How did this snowball effect originate? For one, the Bulls go through the "turnover circuit" — tip drills, scoop-and-score drills, etc. — two to three practices a week.

"It's almost like second nature to us," cornerback Brandon Salinas said. "Even on incomplete passes you'll see a ball on the ground where somebody picks it up. If you're watching you're like, 'Well, that was incomplete.' For us, it's a ball on the ground."

Additionally, Taggart says the Bulls have "simplified some things" defensively since the season's outset, resulting in less thinking and more flying around. Bresnahan says it's not so much simplification as it is repetition and refinement.

"We've got a spring ball under our belt, a training camp under our belt, and then the first four or five games up until the last couple of weeks, and now we're sitting where we're starting to understand the entire concept," he said.

"And guys aren't pressing to do too much. They're just doing what they've been asked to do and doing it to the best of their ability, and good things happen that way."

Today, against the best quarterback it will face all season, that opportunism will be a prerequisite.

With USF's offense seeking its first touchdown since the Miami game, Bresnahan's unit must try to confuse Cardinals junior Teddy Bridgewater, a likely NFL first-round draft pick in the spring. In 214 pass attempts this season, Bridgewater has thrown two picks.

"He's unbelievable," Taggart said.

Then again, who would've ever believed the Bulls could become so larcenous?

"We believe in Coach Bresnahan and his plan and we're just executing it now the last two games as you've seen," defensive tackle Todd Chandler said. "Creating turnovers, creating touchdowns, it's just all coming together now."

 
Comments
Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Report: Florida Gators’ Cece Jefferson out four months after shoulder surgery

Florida Gators defensive lineman Cece Jefferson will be out four months after having surgery on his right shoulder earlier this week, according to a report Wednesday evening from the Gainesville Sun.Jefferson, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound senior, injured th...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Florida has signed 15 quarterbacks since Tim Tebow. 10 have transferred

Tuesday evening's news that quarterback Jake Allen plans to transfer from the Florida Gators isn't a surprise.Allen, a former three-star recruit in 2017, was fourth on the depth chart. The St. Thomas Aquinas product didn't seem to fit new coach ...
Published: 04/18/18
Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

Auden Tate will be the third FSU receiver drafted in 11 years. Why so few?

When former Wharton High star Auden Tate hears his name called sometime next week, he'll join a surprisingly small group.Recent Florida State receivers drafted into the NFL.Over the past decade, only two Seminoles receivers have been drafted: Rashad ...
Published: 04/18/18
Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Police suspected FSU’s Deondre Francois intended to sell marijuana

Tallahassee police suspected Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois possessed marijuana with the intent to sell it when they executed a search warrant on his home last week, according to an affidavit.The case — which culminated Thursda...
Published: 04/17/18
Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Florida State takes over No. 1 spot in 2019 recruiting rankings

Even as Florida State was finishing its first recruiting class under Willie Taggart, the Seminoles were already talking about what they could do in the new staff's first full cycle, for 2019."I can only imagine having a year here to be able to recrui...
Published: 04/17/18
Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

Former five-star back Khalan Laborn rejuvenated after FSU coaching change

TALLAHASSEE – Florida State running back Khalan Laborn's breakout 140-yard output in Saturday night's spring game was a sign of what could be for the former blue-chip recruit.It was also a reminder of what almost wasn't for the Seminoles.With a...
Published: 04/16/18
New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

New Orlando football team will welcome Steve Spurrier on Tuesday night

Steve Spurrier will make one of his first appearances in his new role with the Alliance of American Football tomorrow in Orlando.The league will welcome Spurrier as the coach of its Orlando team at an event at Ember (42 W Central Blvd.) at an event f...
Published: 04/16/18
Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

Five takeaways from Florida State’s spring football game

TALLAHASSEE – Judging by the crowd for Florida State's spring game on Saturday, Seminoles fans are excited about the dawn of the Willie Taggart era.The official attendance of 53,974 — a new record for a spring game — inclu...
Published: 04/14/18
Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

Five takeaways from the Florida Gators’ spring game

GAINESVILLE —It took some time, but the offense scored points in bunches, much to the delight of the 53,015 in attendance at Florida's spring game.And the Gators had fun doing it, pulling out all the stops with gadgets and celebrations that bro...
Published: 04/14/18
FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

FSU quarterback Deondre Francois faces marijuana complaint

Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois agreed to a pre-arrest diversion program after police found 17 grams of a cannabis/tobacco blend in his bedroom Thursday afternoon.The Tallahassee Police Department previously received a report of drug activ...
Published: 04/13/18