VERO BEACH — USF football coach Willie Taggart has made it clear to his players that if they want to show him something, they need to do so here, during the team's eight days of training at the Vero Beach Sports Village.
"We told them before we left Tampa that when we leave Vero, we're going to have a pretty clear understanding of who we're going into the season with, who is going to pretty much help us or not," Taggart said. "We need each one of those guys individually to come here and have the best camp they can have. … We've got a lot of competition at a lot of positions."
Perhaps the most key competition remains at quarterback, where sophomore Matt Floyd looked to be working with the first-team offense for the second day in a row, ahead of senior Bobby Eveld, who worked with the starters in the first few days of camp. Two newcomers, Penn State transfer Steven Bench and freshman Mike White, will try to show they've picked up the offense enough to compete for the starting job as well.
Taggart has praised several true freshmen who are making a case to play in the fall, potentially in key roles. RB Darius Tice and cornerbacks Lamar Robbins and Hassan Childs have received consistent praise at positions where the team doesn't have established depth.
The Bulls will have their first two-a-day practices today, but as much as the competition, Taggart wants the week in Vero Beach, isolated from distractions, to forge a chemistry and closeness among the players for his first season.
Defensive players have offensive players for roommates with a good mix of veterans and newcomers. In meetings, players might be quizzed about their roommate's siblings' names or other personal information to help make sure they're getting to know each other.
"It's just the coaches and the guys, just us, out here and working," said Taggart, who hasn't taken a team off campus for camp as a head coach but experienced it as an NFL intern with the Raiders and Eagles. "We want to come together as a football team, become a lot closer as a football team. … When we leave here, we understand each other, so when we do go to battle, we know what we're battling for and that we care about each other."
THIS AND THAT: Sophomore Thor Jozwiak, competing for a starting guard spot on the offensive line, was not with the team for Saturday's practice. A reason for his absence was not immediately available. … True freshman RB Sta'fon McCray was among the players lining up deep for kickoff returns, and freshman FB Auggie Sanchez (whose brother Armando was a special teams standout at USF) was working as a blocker on the return unit.