TAMPA — USF opens its first spring practice under coach Willie Taggart today, with 15 practices leading up to the spring game April 13 at Raymond James Stadium. There's much to learn — players learning new systems, coaches new players — and Taggart expects to find out a lot about his team. Five things the Bulls want to accomplish:
1 Create an atmosphere of competition: "All those guys understand that nobody has a job right now," said Taggart, who goes into spring without a firm depth chart. "Everybody's competing. They have to prove to us they can play football how we want it done." So starters from the Skip Holtz era have to be ready. Consider the offensive line, which has seven returning players who started games in 2012. Defensive end should also be a great battle, with returning starters Tevin Mims and Ryne Giddins trying to hold off Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch.
2Find best option at running back: Taggart is used to having a dominant primary ballcarrier, and USF's top returning rusher, senior Marcus Shaw, had 248 yards in 2012. "I've been really impressed with Marcus Shaw working this offseason," Taggart said. "He's training really hard, and he's been accountable." Other options are junior Mike Pierre, who redshirted last season, and sophomore Willie Davis, who rushed for 7 yards in 2012.
3Seek a starting quarterback: Senior Bobby Eveld is healthy after a non-throwing shoulder injury ended his season after one quarter. Sophomore Matt Floyd struggled in three games, with no touchdown passes and five interceptions. Taggart likes the leadership he has seen from both. To understand and execute his offense, they need to be smart and instinctive.
4Establish toughness: "We're going to have contact (in practice), as much as the NCAA allows us," Taggart said. "I want tough football. Soft and football don't mix well. I want tough guys."
5Find reliable cornerbacks: The Bulls totaled two interceptions as a team in 2012 and struggled in late-game situations, and starters Kavyon Webster and George Baker graduated. Sophomore Kenneth Durden and senior Josh Brown played sparingly last fall. Junior college transfer Torrel Saffold, who enrolled in January, is another option, and more help should come in the fall.
Mitchell suspension: The indefinite suspension of Terrence Mitchell, the Bulls' second-leading receiver last year, likely is connected to a Monday court date on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Mitchell, 22, was stopped by Temple Terrace police at 11:54 a.m. March 2 about four miles from campus, the arrest report said. The officer making the traffic stop smelled marijuana, and when Mitchell took out his wallet to show ID, a bag containing "a green leafy substance was observed," the report said. Mitchell said he had the bag in his pocket and was arrested. He was released on his own recognizance.