TAMPA — The bulletin-board battle between North Carolina State and USF added another chapter Tuesday as defensive coordinator Wally Burnham fired back at the Wolfpack for a comment made last week.
USF's defense took a shot from N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien, who told reporters he saw no reason to consult with the Bulls about stopping the spread offense, as Ohio State and Colorado coaches did in the offseason after USF beat West Virginia for the second year in a row.
"Did you watch them against Oregon?" O'Brien asked, referencing the Ducks' 56-21 trouncing of the Bulls in the Sun Bowl. "Go look at that game. That was the spread that they were defending. I'm not saying anything about South Florida's defense, but if they're the gurus, we'd better go somewhere else."
Burnham, asked about the quote Tuesday, laughed for a moment and said he agreed with O'Brien's statement, though he questioned the need for it.
"Here's the way I feel about it: He's right. We're not gurus," Burnham said. "On the other hand, we try to handle things professionally and not say anything … with class, not say anything about anyone else's coaching staff. He can say what he wants to. The other thing, I forget what bowl game they were in. That's all I've got to say."
N.C. State lost its last two games last season to finish 5-7.
HAPPY FOR THEM: Coach Jim Leavitt has been following the success of the playoff-bound Rays and is excited for them.
"To me, it's not really any individuals, it's a team, chemistry," said Leavitt, who won a Big Eight batting title when he played at Missouri. "I don't see any reason why they can't win it all. They probably don't want to hear that, but if they keep the chemistry and keep battling … I love watching them. It's pretty neat."
Leavitt said he's seen the fan interest in the Rays each week when he broadcasts his weekly radio show Thursday nights from Moe's Southwest Grill on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and hears wild applause during his comments.
"I'm watching as I do the show there. … All the screaming and yelling and cheering, it isn't about my radio show," he said. "It's because somebody hit a home run or made a big play."
BASEBALL: Six weeks of fall drills begin Sunday, and coach Lelo Prado already has found new starters at key positions.
Senior right-hander Andrew Salgueiro, who sat out last season after transferring from Louisville, will be the closer, Prado said. Salgueiro played for Prado at Louisville and recorded the final out when Louisville clinched a trip to the College World Series in 2006.
Prado said freshman Sam Mende of Clearwater will start at shortstop, and junior Peter Brotons, a junior college transfer, is likely the starter at second, with last year's starter, Jesuit's Jonathan Koscso, moving to third. Another Jesuit alumnus, Stephen Hunt, a designated hitter and first baseman as a freshman, will move to the outfield.
Freshman OF/P Alex Mendez of Orlando had Tommy John surgery on his elbow and will be sidelined for the season, Prado said.
THIS AND THAT: An incentive program that gives students who attend other USF sporting events a better chance at landing football tickets continues to spark attendance in soccer and volleyball. Volleyball's average home crowd has more than doubled to 780, and women's and men's soccer are up as well. … Former USF baseball player Nick Cardieri is following in his father Eddie's footsteps. Just two years from his playing days with the Bulls, he's the interim head coach at Freedom High. Two other former Bulls new to the coaching ranks are former football players Jeremy Burnett and Josh Balloon, now on the defensive coaching staff at Jefferson High.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.