Sunday, January 21, 2018
Colleges

USF's Andre Davis piles up big numbers

TAMPA — The YouTube collages capture No. 7 in all his raw brilliance. At that time, a few years backward and a couple of zip codes westward, Andre Davis mostly outclassed his coverages.

With his slinky 6-foot-1 frame, soft hands and clairvoyant alliance with quarterback Quentin Williams, the Jefferson High wideout regularly created separation from his defenders.

A nickname, "Freakshow", was conceived. Eventually, so was a state title. Davis signed with USF and made a beeline for the Big East, where the coverages were more complex, the defenders more athletic. His first two college seasons, his numbers (68 catches, 807 yards, eight TDs) were solid if not striking. His film-study habits were casual.

"Maybe like once a week, once or twice a week voluntarily," Davis said.

Midway through his third autumn on campus, a message became clear: The Freakshow needed to spruce up his act. While USF's instability at quarterback attributed to Davis' inconsistency, the junior also needed to intensify his study habits.

"Actually, my position coach (David Reaves) told me that I could take my game to another level by preparing better and watching film on a daily basis and just doing extra things," Davis said.

"Coach (Willie Taggart), he instilled that as well, so that's basically what I did to get better."

The ensuing transformation has been, well, freakish.

In a year of foundation setting, the Bulls (2-9, 2-5 American Athletic Conference) can build upon the prolific kinship forged between Davis and freshman quarterback Mike White.

Since averaging 2.5 catches for 39 yards over his first seven games, Davis has evolved into one of the conference's top receivers. In his past four games, Jefferson's three-time all-state wideout has 28 catches for 444 yards.

With today's game at Rutgers remaining, Davis has set a USF season yardage record (721). He also can extend his mark of consecutive games with at least one reception to 30.

"We started getting comfortable in the pass game and we were able to throw the ball more," said Davis, who recently became the first Bull to post at least 100 receiving yards in three consecutive games. "So that's what I see it as, me preparing and the quarterback play."

In contrast to White's well-documented nocturnal film sessions, Davis can be found in the Selmon Athletics Center around lunch on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Those don't include the mandatory sessions with his position group.

As a result, he says he has learned how to better dissect coverages, expose their weak spots and identify exotic schemes. The more he slows the film, he has discovered, the more the game slows on Saturdays.

"We only get 20 hours with our guys, and nowadays in football that's not enough time," Taggart said. "There's time where, rather than go play PlayStation, you can go watch film. Use the other controller; not the PlayStation controller, but our controller."

Perhaps not coincidentally, the White-Davis connection occasionally produces video game-type proficiency. Davis' resurgence began when White was named starter four games ago.

By all accounts, the ensuing chemistry was forged through extensive lab work.

"Now they're starting to develop a little rapport, so (White) knows he's going to be there, how long it takes him to get there, different things like that," offensive coordinator Walt Wells said. "I think all that combined has really helped our passing game."





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