Saturday, June 23, 2018
Colleges

USF linebacker Sanchez finding his rhythm on the field

TAMPA — The spontaneous, celebratory dance craze sweeping across victorious locker rooms (see Swinney, Dabo) found its way into the nether corridors of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium late Saturday night.

Immediately after dispatching of East Carolina, the Bulls juked, gyrated or jeered those attempting to brandish rhythm. By most accounts, coach Willie Taggart was comical ("They caught me in the moment," he explained Tuesday), with MLB Auggie Sanchez similarly left-footed.

"I'm at the bottom of the totem pole," Sanchez acknowledged. "I'm right there next to Coach T."

At least the once-beleaguered Bulls have reason to dance these days. Besides, odds are generous Sanchez — a two-time all-state pick at Northeast High — will get more chances this season to develop a groove off the field.

He definitely has found one on it.

In the last two Saturdays, Sanchez has totaled 25 tackles, including three for losses. The de facto quarterback of coordinator Tom Allen's 4-2-5 scheme, Sanchez needs 19 stops in the last three games to become the program's first triple-digit tackler since Kion Wilson (105) in 2009.

"He's our bell cow over there," Taggart said.

The youngest of four kids (older brother Armando lettered three seasons at linebacker for USF), Sanchez has achieved such bovine acclaim with a style as old-school as the electric slide.

While he credits the consistency of USF's defensive line — by far the surprise of the unit — for allowing him to get into his fits and develop a flow, he still must ensure everyone on his side is lined up properly.

"I'm the quarterback, yep, and if I make a mistake Coach Allen lets me hear about it," he said.

Then, he must make the tackle when the opportunity's presented. To that end, Sanchez — a fullback in his redshirt year of 2013 — is widely considered one of the Bulls' weight room and film room junkies. The bond he has developed with position coach Raymond Woodie is so profound, Taggart says they're like "father-son."

"The beauty is, he's consistent in what he does," Taggart said. "You don't ever hear him blame anyone or make any excuses. … I think the way he plays and carries himself daily inspires our other guys to want to do the same thing."

Some day, they may even emulate him after a game. As it stands, a bell cow might have more rhythm.

"I should probably … break out some new moves or something or have somebody teach me how to dance," Sanchez said, "because I'm not a dancer."

SPEAKING OF BIG DANCES: A day after losing to Cincinnati in the penalty-kick round of Sunday's American Athletic Conference tournament final, the Bulls women's soccer team found Selection Monday to contain far less tension or suspense.

Less than five minutes after the selection show began on ncaa.com, the Bulls (15-3-3) learned their postseason fate: They'll host Atlantic Sun Conference champion Florida Gulf Coast (13-5-2) in a first-rounder Saturday at 1 p.m. The Bulls are 6-0-1 at home this season, allowing only two goals on the Corbett Stadium pitch.

The men play host to No. 3 seed Connecticut in Friday's conference tournament semifinals.

ODDS AND ENDS: Bulls senior guard Courtney Williams received arguably her most sparkling autumn accolade Tuesday when she was named an honorable mention on the Associated Press' preseason All-America women's basketball team. … Six-foot-11 senior Jaleel Cousins was perfect from the floor (4-for-4) and free-throw line (6-for-6) while flirting with a double double (14 points, nine rebounds, five blocks) in the men's basketball team's 78-64 exhibition win Monday against Division II Eckerd. … The Bulls women and men open the season for real Friday night in a rare Sun Dome doubleheader starting with the women against Jacksonville at 6 p.m.

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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