08/28/15 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — Friday night's Tropicana Field promotion, billed as the World's Largest Mustache Party, was replete with Rollie Fingers references and "Rays Rally 'Staches" handed out at the door.
But the home team might have exited the building with more egg than stubble on its collective countenance after its 3-2 loss to the Royals before an announced crowd of 13,622.
Say this for the club rapidly losing ground in the AL wild-card race: The Rays (63-65), who have dropped four of their past five, left it all on the field. Or more specifically, the basepaths....
08/28/15 The Heater
Rays vs. Royals
When/where: 6:10 tonight, Tropicana Field
TV/radio: Sun Sports; 1250-AM, 94.5-FM, 105.9-FM, 680-AM (Spanish)
Tickets: $5-$140, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time
Promotion: Kevin Kiermaier "Outlaw" action figure to all fans.
TAMPA — 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 at times.
But one thing new Bulls starting quarterback Quinton Flowers won't be asked to do is lead. Coach Willie Taggart said that responsibility won't be heaped upon the sophomore. 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 Sunday to begin game-week preparations for their Sept. 5 opener against Florida A&M.. "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."...
08/28/15 The Heater
ST. PETERSBURG — Rays OF Kevin Kiermaier will be immortalized in a sense tonight when "Outlaw" action figures bearing his image are distributed at the Tropicana Field gates.
But the figure the 25-year-old has carved for himself lately — as a more judicious hitter not trying to do too much — is the one most impressive to manager Kevin Cash.
Three weeks after jamming a thumb on a hard slide into second base, Kiermaier has simplified things at the plate and taken his foot "off the gas pedal a little bit," Cash said Friday....
The Rays lineup for tonight's series opener against the Royals, owners of the best record in the American League (78-49):
LF Grady Sizemore
RF Daniel Nava
3B Evan Longoria
DH John Jaso
2B Logan Forsythe
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B James Loney
CF Kevin Kiermaier
C Rene Rivera
RHP Erasmo Ramirez
And the Royals:
SS Alcides Escobar
2B Ben Zobrist
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eris Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
3B Mike Moustakas
C Salvador Perez
RF Alex Rios
LF Paulo Orlando
RHP Edinson Volquez...
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...
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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
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."...
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....
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 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....