Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Colleges

USF Bulls promote bulked-up Darrell Williams to starting left tackle

TAMPA — On his first day of reviewing video of recruits as USF's new offensive coordinator in 2010, Todd Fitch saw a junior offensive lineman from Orlando named Darrell Williams.

He needed only a few plays to see all he needed.

"Offer him," Fitch said, recalling the moment Sunday at Fan Fest at Raymond James Stadium. "He had great feet, great athleticism, but he was only 240-some pounds. If you had your choice of taking a big and heavy or a little lighter and agile, you take the agile guy. To his credit, he went from 247 to 290 … in about a year's span. Talent-wise, you can't go find a better one."

The 6-foot-5 Williams committed that fall and played as a freshman last season, seeing spot duty in nine games. Now the Bulls are taking another chance on him.

It's still an experiment, but USF moved its returning starter at left tackle, senior Mark Popek, to left guard and replaced him with Williams, giving it three sophomore line starters.

"I had a slight idea something could happen, but I was just trying to play as hard as I could," said Williams, who moved to Orlando from his native Jamaica in ninth grade. "I'm happy it happened. The first year I know is going to be tough with three young guys. But the future looks bright."

Fitch said major schools recruited Williams — he chose USF over Florida State and South Carolina — and the only hesitation was if he could quickly add the weight necessary to compete at a BCS program.

"When I talk on the road to guys that recruited him, they ask how he's doing," Fitch said. "I say, 'Well, he's 290,' and they go, 'Oh, my God.' You roll the dice a little bit, but he's been a good story. He's a very dependable kid, pretty good student, disciplined in his life all around.

"He's a quiet guy. But in high school, what I was impressed with the most when I watched him practice was he was kind of a nasty guy. That hasn't come out here yet because he's still feeling his way around, but that will come with confidence. That's the next phase of what he has."

Offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler remembers his initial excitement in getting Williams as part of a class that includes four linemen on the two-deep depth chart (tackle Max Lang, guard Brynjar Gudmundsson and center Thor Jozwiak). He saw plenty in Williams to overlook the size concerns.

"You have to look for a couple of things: how well does a kid bend, how well does he move his feet, can he weigh 290 pounds or more in the future and does he play his butt off?" Shankweiler said. "Darrell plays hard. The more he gets confidence, the harder he'll play."

Shankweiler considered keeping Popek at left tackle and going with senior Damien Edwards at left guard. But wanting to get his best five on the line, he decided to see what Williams could bring — even if it meant an inexperienced player at a key position.

"I've got all the confidence in the world in those sophomores," Shankweiler said of Williams, redshirt center Austin Reiter and redshirt right tackle Quinterrius Eatmon. "Austin's first game will be his first game. He's going to be a heck of a player.

"Eatmon's first start last year was against Notre Dame on national TV, and he played pretty well. I know experience is important, but I also know kids that are good players and good athletes. Let's go. Let's play."

Williams said playing last year, even as a reserve, will take away much of the nerves he would have if he starts.

"Last year, I wasn't very mentally tough on the field," Williams said. "I tightened up on the mental aspect of it. (A quarterback's) blindside, it's a tough challenge, but I think I'm up for it. I've prepared well. I go against some of the best pass rushers in the nation every day on our defense. Coach Shank is a great coach. He has confidence in me, so I have confidence in myself."

Comments
With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

Florida State's primetime opener against Virginia Tech looks a little tougher now than it did a few days ago.Hokies starting quarterback Josh Jackson has had his academic eligibility resolved and remains on the team, the Roanoke Times reported Tuesda...
Published: 06/19/18
As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

USF's expanded partnership with Yuengling — including naming rights to the Sun Dome — is only the latest part in an evolving relationship between college sports and alcohol, as my colleague, Joey Knight, wrote on the front page ...
Published: 06/18/18
Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida pitcher Brady Singer has won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's player of the year.Singer, who received the award Friday, carries a 12-1 record and 2.30 ERA into the College World Series, which begins Saturday. T...
Published: 06/15/18
Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he w...
Published: 06/15/18
Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

During his question-and-answer session with more than 500 Manatee-Sarasota boosters Monday evening, FSU's Willie Taggart was peppered with the normal inquiries about recruiting, offensive scheme and the Seminoles' quarterback derby.All well and good....
Published: 06/12/18
When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first...
Published: 06/12/18
FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

SARASOTA — He slithered and scrambled his way into the local consciousness in the fall of 1991.Manatee High's Willie Taggart, 145 pounds in a sopping jersey, suddenly found himself with the keys to the Hurricanes' ruthlessly efficient opti...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Florida Gators add West Virginia grad transfer Adam Shuler

Former West Virginia defensive lineman Adam Shuler announced Monday that he plans to join the Gators as a graduate transfer.Shuler, a 6-foot-4, 268-pound Longwood native, started 10 games for the Mountaineers last season. As a redshirt sophomore, he ...
Published: 06/11/18
Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

Florida State’s Jessica Warren lives ‘every senior’s dream’ with Women’s College World Series title

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jessie Warren’s career finished just the way she envisioned it. On Monday night, Florida State’s star third baseman made perhaps the play of her career, a diving catch and throw for a double play that helped preserve a 1-0 win over Wa...
Published: 06/06/18
Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Florida Gators hire former Auburn AD Jay Jacobs

Former Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs is joining Florida as its executive associate athletic director, the Gators announced Tuesday afternoon."Florida Athletics is fortunate to have someone of Jay's caliber joining the (University Athletic Assoc...
Published: 06/05/18