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USF primer: Quick hits leading up to opener at San Jose State

A few notes, quotes and quirky facts as the Bulls kick off one of the most anticipated seasons in program history.

Talk about your hard knocks

Charlie Kaijo | Times

Had HBO's cameras matriculated over to the Morsani Complex, they would have captured one of the most demanding Bulls preseason camps in recent memory.

Because of a Week Zero game (Saturday at San Jose State), the Bulls' start date (July 24) was the earliest in program history. By most accounts, the camp — which spanned 21 practices — was high on physicality and humidity. Fifth-year senior MLB Auggie Sanchez called it "the worst" (aka the toughest) of his career.

RELATED: At his core, Charlie Strong remains unchanged

"That's all I've been used to," coach Charlie Strong said. "I told them I want us to be a physical, aggressive team on offense and a physical, aggressive team on defense, and even in the kicking game. It's just the way we practice, but the players enjoy it."

Streaks alive

The Bulls enter Saturday's season opener on a five-game win streak dating to last October's 52-45 home victory against Navy. The program's longest win streak over two years is eight during the 2006-07 seasons.

Additionally, USF owns a nation-best streak of 17 consecutive games in which it has scored at least 30 points.

Thicker AND quicker?

Charlie Kaijo | Times

Though their offseason program was modified to condition them for coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's breakneck pace, the Bulls' offensive linemen generally are bigger this season, according to official rosters. Here are some weight comparisons between 2016 and 2017:

G/T Billy Atterbury: 295 in 2016; 306 in 2017

LG Jeremi Hall: 340; 323

RG Brooks Larkin: 312; 322

LT Eric Mayes: 284; 294

RT Marcus Norman: 300; 308

C Cameron Ruff (above): 318; 320

By the numbers

14 Players from a bay area high school on USF's latest two-deep depth chart (The bay area is defined as Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.)

9 Bay area players who appeared in Skip Holtz's final game as Bulls coach in 2012

62 Career receptions by senior RB D'Ernest Johnson, six shy of the program record (for a running back) held by Rafael Williams

Octavio Jones | Times

65 Tackles needed by Sanchez (above) to eclipse Kawika Mitchell's USF career record. Sanchez, a Northeast High alumnus who stands at 303 tackles, has led the Bulls in that category each of the past two seasons (120 last year, 117 in 2015).

Rags-to-roster story

New LS Zack Deitz, a 2016 Steinbrenner High graduate, served as a Bulls student manager in 2016. Late last season, he was assisting with the special teams players during a practice when he did a few snaps, impressing the specialists.

RELATED: Jones: Charlie Strong, football program need a cash commitment from USF

"And we were like, 'Wow, you should definitely come out next year,' because we knew we were missing (Alex) Salvato," P Jonathan Hernandez said. Deitz (5-foot-11, 205 pounds), who is actually smaller than his punter (6-4, 234), long-snapped at Steinbrenner but has some huge cleats to fill with the Bulls.

Salvato, who graduated, went three seasons without an errant snap, even earning a scholarship in 2015.

Which list didn't he make?

Octavio Jones | Times

Senior QB Quinton Flowers, who owns no fewer than 10 school records, added an 11th in the offseason when he became the first Bulls player to be named to five preseason national award watch lists. In no order, they are:

Maxwell (best all-around player)

Walter Camp (top player)

Davey O'Brien (top quarterback)

Manning (top quarterback)

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm (outstanding senior/fourth-year quarterback)

Revamped radio team

Veteran bay area journalists Joey Johnston and Rock Riley join the official USF radio team this season, with 820-AM serving as the flagship station.

Johnston, a former USF beat reporter for the Tampa Tribune who has covered virtually every sport during a 36-year career, will be a sideline reporter.

Riley, a fixture on Spectrum Sports (formerly Bright House Sports Network) and an afternoon host on 1040-AM, joins veteran Jim Lighthall on the pre- and postgame shows.

Jim Louk and Mark Robinson return for their 21st season handling play-by-play and analyst duties, respectively.

Longtime WDAE producer/personality Darek Sharp also joins the team as executive director for digital broadcasting


Octavio Jones | Times

To prove they're serious about shoring up their tackling issues, Bulls coaches have slid two-time all-conference CB Deatrick Nichols inside to nickel back. Nichols has totaled eight interceptions each of the last two years, and registered 8.5 tackles for loss (with a sack) two seasons ago.

"Deatrick has been I think one of our best players, not just on defense but on the whole team, this preseason camp," defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said. "So I think we can highlight some of the things that he does well because he's a very good tackler, obviously he's a good cover guy and he's an aggressive blitzer."

Back in the 'swing'

After missing the last four games of 2016 with a leg injury, senior PK Emilio Nadelman has mostly sparkled in the preseason, drawing raves from coaches and peers alike. At the time of his injury last year, he was 7-for-7 on field goals (including a pair of 42-yarders) and 52-for-53 on PATs.

"Mentally, I feel great," Nadelman said. "I'm confident in myself, I'm confident in my swing. I feel good just about kicking in general, kickoffs and field goals."


"I don't think I'll sleep Friday night at all. Have you seen the quarterback from South Florida?" — San Jose State's Brent Brennan, who makes his collegiate head coaching debut against the Bulls' fringe Heisman Trophy candidate

"I told them I want us to be a physical, aggressive team on offense and a physical, aggressive team on defense, and even in the kicking game," coach Charlie Strong said. "It's just the way we practice, but the players enjoy it." [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]

"I told them I want us to be a physical, aggressive team on offense and a physical, aggressive team on defense, and even in the kicking game," coach Charlie Strong said. "It's just the way we practice, but the players enjoy it." [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]

USF primer: Quick hits leading up to opener at San Jose State 08/25/17 [Last modified: Friday, August 25, 2017 11:56am]
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