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Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

Joey Knight

A fourth-generation Floridian, Joey Knight was born in Tampa and raised in Zephyrhills, where he still resides. He moved to the Times in July 2006 after 15 years at the Tampa Tribune, which included a seven-year stint (1997-2004) as University of Florida beat writer. He began covering the University of South Florida athletic department for the Times in 2013. A married father of three, he enjoys running, classic television and classic heavy-metal music.

Phone: (813) 310-6328

E-mail: jknight@tampabay.com

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  1. Taggart: Flowers doesn't have to lead

    Blog

    He'll be summoned to sprint out and set his feet, to zone read or zip one downfield in play-action. He'll have to improvise, even audible on occasion.

    But one thing new Bulls starting QB Quinton Flowers won't be asked to do is lead. Coach Willie Taggart said that responsibility won't be heaped upon the sophomore's plate. At least not yet.

    "We're not asking Quinton to be a leader," Taggart said after Friday morning's practice, the last before the Bulls convene at some point Sunday to begin normal game-week preparations.

    "What we're asking Quinton to do is be the best football player he can be, be the best student he can be and have fun. We have a lot of other guys around here that can lead this football team. We're not asking him to do that."

    Flowers, named the starter Monday night, is expected to be among only three true sophomores (RB Marlon Mack and WR Ryeshene Bronson are the others) to start when the Bulls open their season next weekend against Florida A&M. 

    While his leadership initially won't be required, his legs will. On Friday, Taggart and his tailbacks reiterated Flowers offers the dimension of a full-time wildcat QB with the ability to throw, suggesting the offense will be more of a run-based spread than a four-wide fling-fest.

    "It's better with Quinton back there," Mack said." He's more athletic and he reads just like us, like he's a running back. And he can throw the ball, too, that's the good thing about it."

    ODDS AND ENDS: LG Thor Jozwiak (left ankle) was out of the walking boot he wore the day before and appeared to engage in Friday's full practice. ... Taggart said his staff likely will decide on the starting kicker -- sophomore Emilio Nadelman or Tarpon Springs alumnus Michael Hill -- this weekend. ... Following a trend of many programs nationwide, the Bulls will signal in plays with large flash cards. Among them is one bearing a photo of horror-movie icon Freddy Krueger, TB D'Ernest Johnson said. ... Mack said he likely will take the field next weekend at 205 pounds. He weighed around 192 when he ran for 275 in the 2014 opener against Western Carolina.

    AUDIBLE: "I feel good about those two. I mean, when I come out, those guys come in and replace me like I never left." -- Mack on his backups, Johnson and Darius Tice...

    "What we're asking Quinton (Flowers, 9) to do is be the best football player he can be, be the best student he can be and have fun,'' says head coach Willie Taggart, left.
  2. Tampa Bay Times 2015 college football Top 25

    College

    The Tampa Bay Times preseason ranking as selected by staff writer Joey Knight, a voter in the Associated Press poll. His AP ballot will be available each week during the season on his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.

    1. Ohio State

    What's that adage about a team with two quarterbacks really not having any? With the talent level arguably at an all-time apex in Columbus, the reigning national champs could buck both conventional QB wisdom and every Big Ten foe on their slate. Ezekiel Elliott — a 1,800-yard rusher last season — returns, as do two all-conference linemen and one of the nation's top linebacker corps. The starter behind center? That's just details....

     Ezekiel Elliott - a 1,800-yard rusher last season - returns for the defending national champions. [AP photo]
  3. Late-bloomer Mak Djulbegovic emerges on USF Bulls' line

    College

    TAMPA — Twelve games remain in his football career, maybe 13. Each day, Big Mak's eligibility hourglass loses sand as his practice efforts gain steam.

    "I think he's done a fantastic job since I've been here," USF first-year offensive line coach Danny Hope said. "I think he's getting better."

    It's a heck of a time to be peaking. Then again, for Bulls fifth-year senior right tackle Mak Djulbegovic, the twilight has never seemed so radiant. Isn't it all about how you finish? Big Mak will finish as a starter....

    On Saturday night, at a team meeting, Mak Djulbegovic was among three veteran walk-ons awarded a scholarship by USF head coach Willie Taggart. [USF Athletics]
  4. USF safety Hassan Childs tears ACL, out for season

    College

    TAMPA — While injuries haven't reached pestilent proportions at USF this month, the Bulls hardly are entering their inaugural game week of 2015 unscathed.

    Reserve rover (strong safety) Hassan Childs sustained a torn right ACL at a recent practice and will miss the season, coach Willie Taggart said Wednesday. A junior with three career interceptions, Childs becomes the Bulls' second ACL casualty this month, joining redshirt freshman receiver Stanley Clerveaux....

    Hassan Childs, a reserve strong safety for the Bulls shown here as a freshman in a game against SMU, has a torn right ACL sustained during a recent practice.
  5. DB Hassan Childs out for season

    Blog

    While injuries haven't reached pestilent proportions at USF this August, the Bulls hardly are entering their inaugural game week of 2015 unscathed.

    Reserve rover (strong safety) Hassan Childs sustained a torn right ACL at a recent practice and will miss the season, Coach Willie Taggart reported Wednesday. A junior with three career interceptions, he becomes the Bulls' second ACL casualty this month, joining redshirt freshman WR Stanley Clerveaux.

    "It (stinks) for the kid, but it's part of the game," Taggart said after Wednesday morning's workout at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bulls essentially ran through their game-day routine in shells.

    "We heal differently around here, so we expect for him to be back sooner than what the doctors say, but to be back stronger than what he is now too."

    Fortunately for Taggart, the secondary remains one of the Bulls' deepest areas....

  6. USF suspends two weakside linebackers for two games

    Colleges

    TAMPA — From a game-experience perspective, USF's weakside linebacker spot will be especially weak at the season's outset.

    Coach Willie Taggart announced his top two "stingers" (aka weakside linebackers), junior Nigel Harris and senior Tashon Whitehurst, have been suspended for the season's first two games for an unspecified violation of team rules this past spring.

    Harris, a Hillsborough High alumnus, led all of Division I-A in forced fumbles (0.55 per game) in 2014....

    South Florida Bulls linebacker Tashon Whitehurst (51) tackles UCF Knights wide receiver Jackie Williams (3) during the game between South Florida Bulls and UCF Knights at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Friday, November 28, 2014.
  7. Reilly not ready...yet

    Blog

    Though he's getting closer to returning to a normal practice schedule, OL Reilly Gibbons likely won't play in the Sept. 5 season opener against Florida A&M, Coach Willie Taggart said Tuesday.

    Gibbons, a Stanford transfer granted an NCAA waiver that allows him to play immediately, is recovering from an unspecified knee procedure. He spent virtually all of preseason camp rehabbing the knee and observing full-team work.

    "I’d say in about another week or so, you’ll probably see him out doing more drills with our offensive linemen," Taggart said.

    Taggart reported nothing new on the status of another offensive lineman, junior college transfer Glen Bethel, who hasn't appeared this preseason. Taggart said earlier this month Bethel was completing a class.

    LEAN SNAPPER: A year after an error-free season, junior LS Alex Salvato was among three veteran walk-ons awarded a scholarship by Taggart at a team meeting Saturday night. Salvato is listed on the official team roster at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds -- highly generous on both counts.

    On Tuesday, he said he weighs 165, making him the Bulls' lightest down lineman (offensive or defensive) by nearly 70 pounds.

    "Undersized my whole life, but it just kind of makes you have to work harder a little bit," said Salvato, who played at Lakeland's Victory Christian. "It makes you really have to earn what you get. You kind of get overlooked, you've got to kind of get people's attention back toward you."...

  8. Tough background keeps things in perspective for USF QB Quinton Flowers

    College

    TAMPA — The starting quarterback job now is his to cement. The resolve was hardened long ago.

    Such is worth remembering as Quinton Flowers embarks on his first full season as USF's No. 1 guy. Conventional logic suggests that, before Flowers nails the job down, he might get nailed himself. At some point on this journey, be it in Tampa or Tallahassee, he'll likely get stuffed and sacked, flushed or perhaps even flustered....

    Quinton Flowers, hitting a hole against N.C. State, can be a weapon for the Bulls with his running ability.
  9. While Flowers starts, linebackers will sit

    Blog

    Roughly 15 hours after naming Quinton Flowers his starting quarterback, USF coach Willie Taggart indicated the 21-year-old sophomore's mobility gave him a mild edge in his duel with senior Steven Bench.

    "I think both of 'em can run with their legs. Quinton is unique," Taggart said after Tuesday morning's practice. "He can make guys miss. He can do some things the average Joe can't do, and I think that's what makes him different."

    Tuesday's workout -- Flowers' first as the announced starter -- came 11 days before the Bulls formally unveil their new zone-read, spread-style scheme in the season opener against Florida A&M at Raymond James Stadium. The high-tempo system is similar to what Flowers operated at Miami Jackson, where he totaled more than 8,000 yards in four seasons....

    USF coach Willie Taggart indicated Quinton Flowers' mobility gave him a mild edge in his duel with senior Steven Bench.
  10. Quinton Flowers named Bulls' starting QB

    Blog

    USF will puts its spread-style, up-tempo offense in sophomore Quinton Flowers' hands to begin the 2015 season.

    The school announced Monday evening Flowers, a 21-year-old Miami native with eight career completions, edged senior Steven Bench for the starting job in a duel that spanned the Bulls' entire 17-day preseason camp.

    Coach Willie Taggart, who has had three different opening-day starters in as many seasons, is expected to comment on the decision after Tuesday morning's practice....

    Sophomore Quinton Flowers has been named USF's starting quarterback.
  11. CDS alumnus Mak Djulbegovic earns a scholarship

    Blog

    USF fifth-year senior Mak Djulbegovic, who ended the Bulls' preseason camp as the starting right tackle, is among three veteran walk-ons who have been awarded a scholarship by Coach Willie Taggart.

    Junior LS Alex Salvato and senior DL Daniel Awoleke, both of whom hail from Lakeland, are the other recipients. Salvato started in 2014 and had no erroneous snaps. Awoleke.

    A Carrollwood Day alumnus, Djulbegovic appeared in 10 games each of the last two seasons, starting two. He worked his way onto the first-team offensive line this past spring and has remained entrenched their since preseason drills began Aug. 6.

    "He's done well," offensive line coach Danny Hope said recently. "I thought he did outstanding in the spring, and...when spring ended he was probably playing the best out of all our offensive linemen."...

  12. USF's quarterback derby in home stretch

    College

    TAMPA — For all practical intents, USF's preseason camp has concluded. The ongoing two-player quarterback derby hasn't.

    After Saturday morning's closed scrimmage, coach Willie Taggart said the duel between sophomore Quinton Flowers and senior Steven Bench will end "when our coaches tell me, 'Coach, this is the guy we think should be our quarterback.'

    "We're gonna rely heavily on our coaches, all of 'em," added Taggart, whose team opens Sept. 5 at home against Florida A&M. "They've all seen 'em throughout this training camp, and we'll rely heavily on the film that we've seen."...

    “We’re gonna rely heavily on our coaches, all of ’em,” coach Willie Taggart says of deciding on USF’s starting quarterback.
  13. Taggart: Starting QB will be staff decision

    Blog

    For all practical intents, USF's preseason camp has concluded. The ongoing two-player quarterback derby hasn't.

    Following the end of Saturday morning's closed scrimmage, Coach Willie Taggart said the duel between sophomore Quinton Flowers and senior Steven Bench will end "when our coaches tell me, 'Coach, this is the guy we think should be our quarterback.'

    "We're gonna rely heavily on our coaches, all of 'em," added Taggart, whose team opens its season at home against Florida A&M two weeks from tonight. "They've all seen 'em throughout this training camp, and we'll rely heavily on the film that we've seen."

    Taggart said Saturday's scrimmage, which preceded USF's annual Fan Fest at the Sun Dome, was devoid of turnovers. Flowers accounted for the lone TD, checking down and finding walk-on Chase Whitehead on a zone-read play for a 25-yard scoring pass.

    Taggart reiterated the QB decision will be based primarily on who makes the fewest mistakes.

    "Oh, no doubt, by (all) means," he said. "If we take care of the football, like I said, I think they're all good enough athletically to play the position. Just got to be smart and take care of the ball."

    DAWN PATROL: Starting next week, the Bulls will practice almost exclusively in the mornings, a modification from previous years. Taggart said several colleagues -- and the area weather pattern -- were influential in the decision. USF practiced in the mornings this past spring and fared very well academically, he said.

    "Weather, I think we all know what that's like around here," said Taggart, who had to cut short Friday afternoon's practice due to lightning in the area. "But also I think our kids just do better overall when they get up and get going."

    AUDIBLE: “I feel like I had a good camp. This is our last scrimmage – this is our second one. I think I performed well. I got a lot of help from my offensive line. They’ve been blocking their butts off all camp. The receivers are making plays for me, the backs are making plays for me. I feel like I’m seeing the defense very good and just doing what a quarterback’s supposed to do. So, overall, I feel good about it." -- Bench

    AUDIBLE, PART DEUX: “I feel like I’m playing really good. I got my weight down, I’m moving a little faster. I ran the offense in high school. So, I’m feeling really good about it.” -- Flowers...

  14. USF Fan Fest set for Saturday

    Blog

    USF Fan Fest

    When/where: Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, Sun Dome

    Admission: Free

    Need to know: Players and coaches from all of USF's fall sports (as well as cheerleaders and Sun Dolls) will be available for autographs and pictures. The event also will feature a Kids Area, interactive games, a raffle and a surplus sale of USF athletic gear and apparel from past teams. Fans are encouraged to use the Sun Dome parking lot. Entrance is through Gate A....

    Players and coaches from all USF fall sports teams will be available for autographs and photos at the Bulls' annual Fan Fest on Saturday.
  15. Full disclosure: My preseason AP football ballot

    Blog

    While I normally enjoy going against the grain, I can't deny Ohio State its rightful spot atop the ballot.

    The Buckeyes, who likely will be No. 1 when the inaugural '15 rankings are released Sunday, have the dual benefit of a stacked roster and soft schedule (no Wisconsin or Nebraska, Michigan State at home).

    But I'm sure my rankings elicit anger in many other spots. I'll explain a bit of my thinking.

    I think people are being way too presumptious about Auburn, believing (among other things) that Will Muschamp will transform a mediocre defense into a monstrous one overnight. Maybe he will, I'm just not sold...yet.

    I had UCLA ranked high at the outset of 2014 and they didn't disappoint (10-3, Alamo Bowl win vs. Kansas State). I like the Bruins again.

    I'm favorable toward physical teams with established run games, hence the reason Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin are in my top 14. (Disclaimer: Our ballots were due Aug. 10, well before Arkansas RB Jonathan Williams was lost to a season-ending foot injury).

    Notre Dame down at No. 19? A Music City Bowl win against an uninspired LSU team doesn't sell me on Malike Zaire, and questions abound along the defensive front and at kicker.

    And you read the ballot correctly -- no American Athletic Conference representation. Again, I believe Cincinnati to be the AAC's premier team, but neither the Bearcats nor Houston nor Memphis warrant consideration until they knock off a Power Five program (and the opportunities are there).

    1. Ohio State
    2. TCU
    3. Baylor
    4. Michigan State
    5. Oregon
    6. Alabama
    7. Auburn
    8. UCLA
    9. FSU
    10. USC
    11. Arkansas
    12. Clemson
    13. Georgia Tech
    14. Wisconsin
    15. LSU
    16. Georgia
    17. Arizona State
    18. Arizona
    19. Notre Dame
    20. Missouri
    21. Ole Miss
    22. Tennessee
    23. Oklahoma
    24. Boise State
    25. Kansas State

    ...