Saturday, May 26, 2018
Colleges

USF Bulls bulk up for new football season

NEWPORT, R.I. — It has invested coin in a new slogan ("Live Green and Gold") and sleek new helmets. Its coach has spent the summer barnstorming from Atlanta to Miami to help generate hope and booster support. Even its website is getting a facelift.

But arguably nothing has helped foster offseason zeal for USF football quite like the impromptu video that offensive lineman Thor Jozwiak shot last week. As 320-pound teammate Todd Chandler prepared to squat 700 pounds during a team workout, Jozwiak had the presence of mind to chronicle the moment on his iPhone.

Chandler pulled it off, with excruciation to spare. "Just a normal day in the weight room," he said.

More than 70,000 hits later, the video has served as a 55-second testimonial to USF's collective offseason pursuit of brawn. It's anyone guess as to whether the Bulls, sixth in the American Athletic Conference's preseason media poll, will have the record of a bowl qualifier in 2014.

But at least they'll have the look of one.

"Honestly, (the weight room progress) is the best I've ever seen as far as a group of men," linebacker Reshard Cliett said.

A year after being regularly outsized, out-strengthened and outscored in finishing 2-10, the Bulls appear closer to being able to kick some figurative sand in a few faces. If the preseason roster — released at the league media day Tuesday — is to be believed, coach Willie Taggart's team has experienced an across-the-board physical transformation.

"The things we've needed to do in our offseason, we've done," Taggart said.

Eighteen lettermen have added 14 or more pounds of muscle, according to USF's preseason outlook. Rangy sophomore quarterback Mike White is listed at 211, a 25-pound increase from 2013.

Sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris weighs 220, a 30-pound gain. Four of last year's starting offensive linemen, who averaged 287 pounds in '13, are well over 300. The fifth, center Austin Reiter, is at 296 after being listed at 273 last fall.

Meantime, several of the incoming freshmen have made mach-speed transformations since reaching campus. Linebacker Jimmy Bayes of Immokalee, listed at 185 when he signed in February, now weighs 225. Cornerback Tajee Fullwood, who played at 175 at Tampa Bay Tech last season, currently is at 209. Immokalee running back D'Ernest Johnson is listed at 207, a 27-pound gain since his arrival.

"I think a lot of these (freshmen) physically are built to gain weight," Taggart said. "They just needed a good weight program and needed to eat right, and it's made a big difference fast for us."

Apparently, so has the arrival of new strength coach Irele Oderinde, whose resume includes stops at Notre Dame, South Carolina and West Virginia.

A former Western Kentucky nose guard and Kentucky state high school powerlifting champ, Oderinde (pronounced EAR-lay Oh-DARE-n-day) was hired to replace Hans Straub, who resigned in mid May after issuing a disparaging tweet about former Bulls defensive end Aaron Lynch.

While Straub set the groundwork for USF's transformation, Oderinde successfully has built on it by endearing himself to the players in short order.

"He's definitely like another dad, another coach," senior receiver Andre Davis said.

Oderinde, who spotted for Chandler on his viral squat, also watched redshirt freshman defensive tackle Deadrin Senat bench press 475 pounds in late July.

While continuing Straub's efforts to bulk up bodies, Oderinde has also been careful to streamline a few. Senat (6-1, 300) has dropped 18 pounds. Defensive tackle Derrick Calloway (6-2, 285) has lost 43.

"(Oderinde) won't beat you down or dog cuss you if you're not getting there. He'll motivate you and want to help you get there," Chandler said. "It's a different attitude in the weight room and on the field as we condition."

Yet for all the physical strides, the weightiest issue has yet to be resolved.

Will the new mentors, attitudes and bodies yield new results?

"Getting into a bowl game is a must for us in order to rebuild our program," Taggart told the league's media Tuesday. "It's a process; each year brings challenges. You don't build that program in one season. You've got to build it brick by brick. There are no shortcuts."

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