TAMPA — In one screwy weekend two autumns ago, Mike White earned a scholarship from USF, only to presume he had lost it.
As the Skip Holtz era segued from dusk to darkness, some Bulls coaches crossed the Courtney Campbell to observe White — a gangling Fort Lauderdale University senior — in a Class 3A playoff game at Clearwater Central Catholic. Before kickoff, they told White, in not so many words, that a solid performance would warrant an offer....
While USF's fan base seemed divided -- based on social media reaction -- on the Bulls' nixed attempt to stitch "THE TEAM" on the back of each jersey, the Bulls' veterans said they warmed up to the idea long ago.
C Austin Reiter and DT Todd Chandler, both fifth-year seniors, said coaches brought up the idea during the spring. It was quashed by an NCAA rule limiting the contents of jerseys to player names, numbers, authorized logos, etc....
After consultation with the NCAA -- and serious social media backlash -- USF has announced it has ditched the idea of replacing last names with THE TEAM on the back of jerseys this season.
With the exception of the numbers, they'll simply remain blank, team spokesman Brian Siegrist said Tuesday.
Responding to a circulating rumor, Coach Willie Taggart confirmed Monday evening the Bulls were planning to go with THE TEAM moniker for all jerseys, a violation of NCAA Rule 1-4-5 governing the design of football jerseys....
TAMPA -- In an otherwise innocent effort to create unity, Coach Willie Taggart also may have created a firestorm among his fan base with his confirmation Monday the Bulls will not have names on the back of their jerseys this season.
Instead, two words -- THE TEAM -- will be listed above the numbers.
"We're going to represent the Bulls," Taggart said before Monday evening's workout. "That's not to say that (the names) won't come back some time, but our football team is focusing on the team. That's where it needs to be."
The announcement triggered social media hubbub, with Twitter reaction ranging from hearty approval to astonishment to embarrassment. Taggart said the move was necessitated by last year's 2-10 effort.
"That was one of the things we thought as a coaching staff that we could do better, is becoming a team," Taggart said. "If we became a football team that was all about USF and not individuals, good things can happen for us. And we've seen that throughout the offseason and I feel like it'll translate into the season as we get going."
WHITE NO LONGER GREEN: A day after being named starter for the Aug. 30 season opener, sophomore QB Mike White said he matured greatly during his competition with junior Steven Bench, walk-on Evan Wilson and freshman Quinton Flowers.
White was informed during a position meeting Sunday night, and was immediately congratulated by Bench, whom he called "a class act."
"I feel really confident, I feel like I'm seeing the field well," said White, an 18-year-old with no college spring practices when he became the starter for the last five games of 2013....
USF's men's soccer team, seeking its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, is second in the American Athletic Conference's preseason coaches poll released Monday.
The Bulls, 8-4-9 last season, received one the league's eight first-place votes and 48 points overall. Connecticut, which lost to the Bulls (via penalty kicks) in last year's conference tournament final, got the other seven first-place nods and 56 points.
Bulls sophomore midfielder Lindo Mfeka and senior forward Edwin Moalosi, each of whom collected five goals and four assists in 2013, earned spots on the preseason all-conference team.
USF hosts two 7:30 p.m. exhibition matches this week, Tuesday against Saint Leo and Saturday against the University of Tampa. It opens the regular season Aug. 29 at Florida Gulf Coast....
TAMPA — USF sophomore quarterback Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, will retain his starting job for now.
White will start the Bulls' Aug. 30 season opener against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium, the Bulls announced on their Twitter account Sunday night. The youngest QB in camp, White, 19, was informed at a Sunday evening team meeting.
The announcement follows a two-week competition that also included junior Steven Bench, Sarasota walk-on Evan Wilson and freshman Quinton Flowers. ...
TAMPA -- USF sophomore quarterback Mike White, who started the final five games of 2013, will retain his job for now.
The program announced on its official Twitter feed Sunday night that White will start the Bulls' Aug. 30 season opener against Western Carolina at Raymond James Stadium. The youngest QB in camp, White, 19, was informed at a Sunday evening team meeting.
The announcement follows a two-week competition that also featured junior Steven Bench, Sarasota walk-on Evan Wilson and oncoming freshman Quinton Flowers. On Saturday, following the Bulls' second live scrimmage of August, Coach Willie Taggart said a decision was forthcoming.
"We want to go into next week being pretty sure on who we're gonna work with and who we'll continue to bring along with us," he said.
The first commitment of the Taggart era, White was a 186-pound rookie with two college pass attempts when he became USF's fourth starting quarterback of 2013 in an Oct. 31 game at Houston. Statistically he delivered his best performance (26-for-41, 311 yards, two TDs, one INT) in that 35-23 defeat.
In the ensuing four games -- all losses -- he threw eight picks and one TD. Now 25 pounds heavier, White -- and Bench, for that matter -- have been lauded by Taggart for their overall accuracy and command of the offense.
"After the Houston game, I felt the need to kind of make more plays," White said last Monday. "And being a quarterback, you've got to realize that not every play is gonna be a 15-yard completion. There's gonna be some times you need to throw it away and live to see another down.
"And I think I kind of got away from that toward the end of the year. And that's one thing I've been working on (in camp). ... I think that was the biggest thing, I tried to push too much instead of just letting the playmakers make the plays." ...
TAMPA — The Bucs' top draft pick received a formal coronation with cannon blasts Saturday night. Fittingly, they were blanks.
Instead of celebrating his first pro touchdown, receiver Mike Evans had to deal with the fallout from a touchback.
"It was a rookie mistake," he said.
And it shaped up as Tampa Bay's most electrifying offensive play of the night, for a few moments. Evans leaped for a Mike Glennon pass on an intermediate route on third and 15, bounced off safety Jimmy Wilson and dashed down the left sideline for what was initially declared a 42-yard second-quarter touchdown....
TAMPA — The first diagnosis, during a mandatory physical before his senior season at Lakewood High, was overridden by second opinions. Turned out, no hole existed in Rodney Adams' heart.
"He had to go through all those specialists to tell him there was nothing wrong with him," Adams' maternal grandmother, Ruth Cooper, said. "He was just freaking out."
Fifteen months later, though, a hole did appear, and it was gaping. This time there was no mistake, nor was there medicine to fix it. In time he'd learn to function with it, but on Nov. 3, 2013, the hole rendered him helpless, disconsolate and angry....
For the second consecutive year, the Associated Press has afforded me the privilege of being derided, disparaged and decried by many of you on a weekly basis.
Small price to pay for being among the 60 or so voters in the AP football poll. The preseason top 25 is set to be released Saturday. Not sure how closely it will resemble my ballot listed below but I'm eager to find out.
A few points (or disclaimers) about my top 25: First, I don't subscribe to the philosophy (shared by more than you might think) that the reigning national champ remains No. 1 until someone knocks it off. Every team is different.
But FSU isn't that much different....
TAMPA — A day after USF's first live scrimmage of the preseason, coach Willie Taggart said he saw a number of things during the closed session that were missing most of last fall.
Namely touchdowns, offensive self-assurance and a heightened sense of urgency.
"We had guys catching touchdowns, we had guys getting interceptions, guys picking up fumbled snaps for touchdowns. Some big hits on both sides of the ball from a lot of guys," said Taggart, who holds another closed scrimmage Saturday morning, before the annual Fan Fest at Corbett Stadium....
A day after the Bulls' first live scrimmage of the preseason, Coach Willie Taggart said he saw a number of things during the closed session that were missing most of last season.
Namely touchdowns, offensive self-assuredness and a heightened sense of urgency.
"We had guys catching touchdowns, we had guys getting interceptions, guys picking up fumbled snaps for touchdowns. Some big hits on both sides of the ball from a lot of guys," said Taggart, who holds another closed scrimmage Saturday morning, prior to the Bulls' annual Fan Fest.
Taggart singled out senior WR Andre Davis, sophomore transfer WR Rodney Adams, sophomore RB Darius Tice (who had a 10-yard TD run) and junior transfer LB LeGrande Harley. Compressing a year's worth of stats into one situational scrimmage, Harley had two interceptions including a pick-six, and picked up a fumble for a scoop-and-score
"It's just different guys making plays for us at different times," Taggart said. "You just see when it goes smooth and guys do what they're supposed to, they understand what they're doing now. And now they're scoring touchdowns and getting excited about it and want to do it a lot more often now."
Taggart said Saturday's scrimmage will more closely resemble a real game. Don't be shocked if he names a starting quarterback afterward.
BULLS LAND OL: Several recruiting services reported late Thursday afternoon the Bulls have received a non-binding "commitment" from Island Coast three-star DL Marlon Gonzalez. Ranked the state's 87th-best prospect by 247Sports, Gonzalez (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) already has de-committed once, from FSU.
He becomes the second three-star prospect to give a non-binding verbal pledge to USF in as many days. Miami Northwestern S Khalid McGee reportedly did the same Tuesday night.
LESS IS MORE: The sleeker, slimmed-down version of junior TE Sean Price, first spotted in the spring, continues to elicit raves in August.
Currently 243 pounds (17 less than what he topped out at last fall), Price enjoyed a breakthrough March after coming on toward the end of 2013 (11 catches in his last three games). He said he has kept the weight off primarily by eating healthier. His favorite healthy indulgence: a baked potato with a dab of sour cream or Ranch dressing.
"Definitely there were times when I was on the field (last year) when I felt like I couldn't get out of my break, couldn't get out of my stance," said Price, an Under Armour All-American with 22 career TD catches at North Marion High. "I felt like I was trying too hard to come out. I wasn't quick and explosive like I wanted to be."
Through 11 days of preseason camp, Taggart said Price has shown better movement, has become a mentor to the younger tight ends and, perhaps most importantly, has made a succession of clutch catches on third down.
"He's starting to figure it out, and watching him in the spring, he looked so much faster," Taggart said. "He lost weight ...and his routes were sharper. And now it's like he's doing it without thinking. And again, that's what I know the quarterbacks are excited about. He's gonna be where he needs to be and he's going to make a play for you."
ODDS AND ENDS: Speaking of tight ends, senior Mike McFarland continues to be slowed by a huge brace on his left knee. When asked if he'll be ready for the Aug. 30 season opener, Taggart said, "Mike better be ready for the first game. We heal differently around here." ... Taggart said after a slow start, junior college transfer TE Marlon Pope has come on lately, and not a moment too soon for a team that needs all the pass blockers it can muster: "I'm mostly a blocking tight end," said Pope, who played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "But I can catch a few balls."
AUDIBLE: "They call him 'Freakshow' for a reason. I mean, he's making catches out here that are just different. We're loving it; he's going up and making some big-time catches for us." -- Taggart on Davis' play this preseason
AUDIBLE, PART II: "A successful day is for...everybody that loves the Bulls to come out and be a part of our Fan Fest and get to know our players, get to know our coaches, get to know me. I think a successful day is if I can get around to meet everybody that comes out. That would be a great day for us." -- Taggart, who will be available (with his team) for pictures and autographs Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at Corbett Stadium...
If it hopes to again become an NCAA Tournament team, USF's women will have to play like one right out of the gate this fall.
A rugged early slate, a partial reason for their banishment to the Women's NIT last season, highlights the Bulls' 2014-15 schedule. Many of the matchups were previously reported, but the school confirmed the entire non-conference schedule a couple of weeks ago....
Based on information provided by USF, transfer LB LeGrande Harley had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the Bulls' inaugural live scrimmage of the 2014 preseason Wednesday at the Morsani Practice Complex.
The scrimmage was closed to the public, but the school provided a smattering of updates on its official football Twitter feed. Harley, who played the last two seasons at Georgia Military College, is among a gluttony of linebackers vying for playing time in the Bulls' new 3-4 scheme.
Other highlights included an 80-yard scoring drive engineered by sophomore QB Mike White and capped by sophomore RB Darius Tice's 10-yard TD run on a cutback. Freshman WR Tyre McCants made a diving TD catch in the corner of the end zone on a pass thrown by classmate Quinton Flowers.
The Bulls are expected to scrimmage again -- in a closed setting -- Saturday.
10-4 ON THE 3-4: Based on the initial eye test and various player sound bites, the Bulls have transitioned solidly to a 3-4 defensive look, but coordinator Chuck Bresnahan noted a more definite conclusion would be drawn after the first two live scrimmages.
The switch from a four-man front maximizes the Bulls' gluttony of outside linebackers and speed rushers while employing the athleticism of their down linemen. Senior Elkino Watson, who began his career as a three-technique, is capable of lining up anywhere along the front.
"What I like most about the 3-4 is how every other play we're stunting around and moving, so nobody's really standing still," Watson said. "It makes it hard for linemen to block you when you're moving across their face a lot."
ODDS AND ENDS: No update on the condition of TE Mike McFarland (knee), who continued to wear a brace and stretch with the other injured players at the start of Wednesday's practice. ... LT Darrell Williams, sidelined by some unspecified soreness last week, appears fine now. ... Bresnahan continued praising the transition of former Northeast High star Auggie Sanchez from fullback (last fall) to inside linebacker. "He's really going about it as a professional and it shows on the field," Bresnahan said. ... Bresnahan also lauded the transition of former WR Chris Dunkley to cornerback. "He has a ton of confidence but he backs it up with his play," the coach said.
AUDIBLE: "Devin is a chip off the old man's block...and Devin's a smart football player. He grew up in a football family and some of the things he does right now at the safety and nickel positions, just intelligence-wise, is way ahead of the game. So we're trying to take advantage of his knowledge and his instincts." -- Bresnahan on freshman S (and East Lake High alum) Devin Abraham, son of former Buccaneers CB Donnie Abraham...
TAMPA — When music's not blaring over the mobile sound system at the Morsani Practice Complex, the mantra is.
At USF, it's all about moving forward. Buzz and banter resonate about turning the page, about flicking away the fall of 2013 and stamping on it as if it were a smoldering cigarette butt. Amid this outcry, Marvin Vincent Kloss stands as a husky aberration, a specialist in a safety's body....