Four practices into spring camp, the only apparent slow element of USF's high-tempo offense has been the installment of the edited playbook. Coach Willie Taggart's approach: Have his team master a handful of plays at a time.
As a result of this spoon-fed philosophy, coupled with the fact three quarterbacks are splitting reps, no apparent front-runner has emerged behind center. On Saturday, amid a steady, cool afternoon drizzle, senior Steven Bench, freshman Quinton Flowers and junior Mike White all took snaps -- often in that order.
"With four practices, and you've got three guys competing for a job, they don't get as many reps as one guy would like, but all of them are important...and they understand what it's gonna take to be the quarterback," Taggart said following the two-hour workout.
"I told them before, they're gonna pick who the quarterback is by the way they play; by the way they come out here and practice daily and lead our team and lead our offense and command our offense. That's gonna be the guy we're gonna go with."
Each had their respective moments Saturday.
White seemed to elicit praise from the offensive staff for noticing a defensive alignment at the line of scrimmage, then tucking the ball and scrambling to his right for a nice gain. Bench found sophomore WR Ryeshene Bronson for a couple of deep completions. Flowers threw a high pass over the middle that former QB Evan Wilson pulled down and converted into a 60-plus-yard TD in seven-on-seven work.
"Everyone's waiting on (the starter to emerge) and those guys know that," Taggart said. "And we're challenging them: 'Hey, you've got to come out and step up and be the guy we all know you can be.'"
SPEAKING OF WILSON...: Count Taggart among those who have been impressed by Wilson, a redshirt sophomore walk-on from Sarasota's Out-of-Door Academy who didn't take a snap his first two seasons on campus.
Taggart said Wilson expressed a desire to change positions, and teammates urged the staff to oblige him. "They just kept coming up to me like, 'Coach, I'm telling you, Evan's gonna be a player for us. He makes plays,'" Taggart said.
"With our numbers being limited at the receiver position, that's something Evan wanted to do, to come out and help the football team. And I tell you what, every day that we've been out here he's made a play."
DEFENSE BY A NOSE: The offense's installment of very few plays, combined with the defense's installment of very few checks, has resulted in the defense holding the upper hand in scrimmage situations after Week One.
"But I wouldn't say it's far (apart)," said Taggart, clearly pleased by the fleetness and energy displayed in new defensive coordinator Tom Allen's 4-2-5 scheme.
"It's easy to have a lot of energy when you're not thinking much. ... They can see things and now go play and don't have to think about a lot of checks and a lot of different things, and that's how it should be. ... And then the kids can play. They can play football."
ODDS AND ENDS: The Bulls adjourn for a week in observance of USF's spring break, and resume camp March 9 at 9 a.m. ... Another previously unheralded Bull shining so far in camp -- junior DL Clavion Nelson, whom Taggart singled out for his effort during the post-practice team huddle. ... Backup RB Darius Tice, listed at 206 pounds on the spring roster, said he's actually up to 215. ... Sophomore TB D'Ernest Johnson, addressing the media for the first time in his college career, indicated he's a first cousin of former NFL Pro Bowl RB Edgerrin James. The most significant piece of advice James imparted: "Pass-blocking is the first key to being a running back," Johnson said.
AUDIBLE: "I think Reilly Gibbons is gonna be a great one when it's all said and done. There's just something about the kid. He's really smart and he just understands the position. ... He's fast but he's not in a hurry, and that helps, especially up front. He rarely gets himself in a bad position and that's going to help big-time." -- Taggart on the former St. Petersburg Catholic star (and Stanford transfer)...
USF vs. Houston
When/where: 3; Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston
Records: USF 8-20, 2-13 AAC; Houston 9-18, 1-14
Notable: The American Athletic Conference's most short-handed teams meet in an effort to escape the league basement. … A victory by USF, 69-67 winner against the Cougars 12 days ago, locks up the 11th (last) seed for Houston in the league tourney. … USF will be without top scorer Corey Allen (six-game suspension) and PF Chris Perry (unspecified health issue). Houston, which suited up nine players in the first meeting against USF, will be missing PG L.J. Rose, who had a career-high 25 points in that game. … Bulls PG Anthony Collins (7.2 ppg, 5.1 assists) guided Houston's Westbury Christian to a pair of state titles....
TAMPA — USF senior guard Corey Allen, the Bulls' leader with 15.4 points per game, has been ruled ineligible for six games by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits at a previous institution.
The school announced the suspension in a three-paragraph statement Saturday morning. The announcement means the collegiate career of Allen, who arrived at USF in 2013 after two seasons at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., essentially is over....
For all practical intents, the college career of USF senior G Corey Allen Jr. is over.
The school announced Saturday morning that Allen, the Bulls' top scorer (15.4 ppg), has been ruled ineligible for six games by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits at a previous institution. Allen arrived at USF in 2013 after two seasons at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif.
The NCAA's decision does not affect USF's won-loss record this season or last. Whether Allen will be honored as an outgoing senior at next Saturday's home finale against Tulane remains unclear....
USF women vs. UCF
When/where: 4; CFE Arena, Orlando
Records: USF 23-5, 14-2 AAC; UCF 9-18, 5-11
Notable: This rivalry contest would have the makings of a trap game for USF if the series weren't so one-sided. The Bulls, who host top-ranked UConn on Monday, topped the Knights by 23 on Feb. 3 and have won the last 16 meetings dating to 1981. USF is tied for first nationally (with four other schools) in defensive rebounds per game (31). With 23 points, junior SG Courtney Williams (20.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg) passes Shantia Grace (593) for third on USF's single-season scoring list. Alisia Jenkins (12.3 ppg, 11.6 rpg) needs two rebounds to supplant Jessica Lawson (327) for third on USF's season ledger....
A fresh terminology has accompanied a fresh defensive scheme to USF's spring camp. For the most part, Mike, Sam and Will have been supplanted by Husky, Bull and Stinger.
While some of the changes in first-year coordinator Tom Allen's 4-2-5 attack are in name only, a few Bulls are adapting to noticeably new roles. In time, Allen's defensive glossary will become clearer (and probably longer) to us observers. For now, here's the abridged version.
Husky: The de facto fifth DB in the 4-2-5, a hybrid safety/edge rusher that replaces the strong-side (Sam) linebacker in a conventional 4-3 system. Senior Jamie Byrd appears the starter here, but you're also likely to see Jalen Spencer, Devin Abraham and Deatrick Nichols in this role.
Stinger: This would be the weakside (Will) linebacker in a 4-3. Veteran Nigel Harris was born for this role, Allen suggests.
Bull: This appears to be one of the two defensive ends, with the other simply called an end. "The stature or the frame of the Bull is kind of maybe an outside linebacker-type deal, whereas the end is a true end," said senior Eric Lee, who will play both.
Rover: Pretty much another name for strong safety, albeit with some nuances. "It's more of an aggressive safety," said junior Nate Godwin, currently lining up at the spot. "We play on the line a lot, but we also have coverage responsibilities. I like it."...
The once-proud women's basketball program, the one seemingly running on fumes, suddenly was fuming.
Louisiana Tech coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who as a player led the school to a national title during the Reagan administration, had been fired in the wake of a 20-loss season. Team reaction ranged from bitter to boiling. Athletic director Tommy McClelland's meeting to inform the players had the soothing effect of peroxide....
BOCA RATON — The terrier-like tenacity remains intact. Pat Summitt abhors math, always has. Yet the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history cues up arithmetic on her iPad daily in revolt against her relentless neurological affliction.
To this point, her son says, it's working.
"I really think she's just as sharp as she was a year ago," first-year Louisiana Tech women's coach Tyler Summitt said recently....
The defensive line's transition this spring from a 3-4 base to four down linemen continued Wednesday without one of its veterans.
Rising senior DE Demetrius Hill, a junior college transfer who collected 25 tackles and two sacks in his first Division I season last fall, hasn't appeared at spring camp and isn't listed on USF's spring roster.
If or when he'll return is unclear.
"He's got to go through some things that he's taking care of personally," Bulls DL coach Eric Mathies said after Wednesday morning's workout, staged amid light fog and cool temperatures. "We're kind of a wait-and-see right now with him."
Hill's absence leaves the Bulls with precious little experience -- but plenty of depth -- at defensive end. USF's switch to a 4-2-5 alignment means most Bulls projected for a weakside linebacker role are putting their hands in the dirt.
Among them: former local prep standouts Josh Black (Sickles), Juwuan Brown (Jefferson) and Vincent Jackson (Jesuit). All are sophomores.
"All those guys are now with me," Mathies said. "The way we play them, you're putting them in space a little bit, but they just have to be more physical now. That's the biggest part. ... You've got to bang every play, so that's a little different for 'em."
STING IN HIS STEP: New defensive coordinator Tom Allen said rising junior LB Nigel Harris, who led all of Division I in forced fumbles per game (0.55) last season, is a natural for the "stinger" position that replaces the weakside 'backer in the 4-2-5.
Harris, who arrived at USF from Hillsborough High weighing around 190 pounds, said Monday he's now close to 220.
"I think he's a perfect fit, I really do," said Allen, who recruited Harris when he was Ole Miss linebackers coach. "When I first put the film in, I got excited just thinking this guy is what you want. He's got the athleticism, the savvy, the moxie to get to the ball, and he's a great finisher once he gets there."
ODDS AND ENDS: Defense appeared to prevail during 11-on-11 sessions Wednesday, with quarterbacks and receivers often struggling to get on the same page even on short routes. ... Veteran OL Brynjar Gudmundsson, expected to be sidelined until after spring break while recovering from ankle surgery, practiced Wednesday. ... Strength coach Irele Oderinde mentioned former Countryside High standout Mike Love, a sophomore defensive end, as one of the Bulls who have made noticeable strides in the weight room. ... Walk-on Evan Wilson, a quarterback his first two seasons on campus, has switched to receiver and had a couple of nifty catches Wednesday. ... Weather permitting, the Bulls' next workout is slated for Friday at 9 a.m., with Saturday's practice -- the first in full pads -- set for 2:30.
AUDIBLE: "The way I envision it is guys that play extremely fast. And it doesn't mean they have to be the fastest guys on the team, but playing fast is confidence. It's your preparation, it's knowing exactly where my eyes are supposed to be and where my feet are supposed to go. ... And the second part is guys just flying around. I want the opposing team to think that we've got 12 on the field." -- Allen, when asked how he envisions the Bulls defense...
TAMPA — They can't align themselves horizontally without succeeding vertically. The Bulls' aspirations of spreading the football field hinge on their ability to stretch it.
Flip the ball to playmakers in the flat without flinging it downfield, and the space you're trying to create suddenly shrivels. Defenses creep up, and total yardage creeps down. A brisk tempo means little without some brisk wideouts on the edge....
USF women at Cincinnati
When/where: 7; Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati
Records: USF 22-5, 13-2 American Athletic Conference; Cincinnati 6-20, 3-12
Notable: USF pummeled the Bearcats 75-36 in Tampa on Feb. 7. The Bulls have secured the No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament that begins March 6, but still have plenty of motives. Among them: a favorable NCAA tournament seeding and the program's single-season victories record (27). Freshman G Laura Ferreira, named AAC freshman of the week Monday, averaged 14 points and nine rebounds in last week's routs of Tulsa and Temple....
TAMPA — Former St. Petersburg Catholic four-star OL Reilly Gibbons made his public debut in USF practice attire Monday, but his first appearance in a Bulls game-day uniform won't arrive for another 20 months.
Coach Willie Taggart announced Monday that Gibbons, who transferred from Stanford last fall after appearing in two preseason workouts for the Cardinal, can practice with the Bulls but won't be eligible until 2016....
Former St. Petersburg Catholic four-star OL Reilly Gibbons made his public debut in USF practice attire Monday, but his first appearance in a Bulls game-day uniform won't arrive for another 20 months.
Coach Willie Taggart announced Monday that Gibbons, who transferred from Stanford last fall after appearing in only two preseason workouts for the Cardinal, can practice with the Bulls but won't be eligible until 2016. Gibbons joined the Bulls for Monday morning's initial spring workout of 2015.
"Why (is he ineligible)? You have to ask the NCAA that," Taggart said.
Gibbons signed with Stanford last February and took a pair of summer courses at the school but none in the fall. His family's request for a waiver of the NCAA's transfer rule, requiring players who move from one Division I program to another to sit out a year, initially was denied. That decision had been on appeal.
Gibbons' father, Shannon, didn't immediately respond to a phone message from the Tampa Bay Times.
DENSON OUT, KINNAN IN: Running backs coach Autry Denson's reported move from USF to Notre Dame still hasn't been confirmed by the Fighting Irish, but Denson was a no-show at Monday's practice, where Taggart worked with the ball carriers.
Denson, hired to replace Telly Lockette as Bulls running backs coach in January, was on the job barely more than a month when reports indicated he would take the same job at his alma mater, where he remains its career rushing leader. Taggart said no replacement for Denson would be sought until after spring drills.
"We have enough guys to get through the spring," Taggart said. "I don't want to hire just anybody for our guys. ... We're gonna make sure we get someone in here that's gonna be with us and be all in and help us get better."
Meantime, Taggart's high school coach, Joe Kinnan, has joined the staff as a volunteer offensive consultant. Kinnan won five state titles, including one with Taggart at quarterback, in 29 seasons at Manatee High. New Bulls offensive line coach Danny Hope was a Kinnan assistant at Manatee from 1981-84.
AU REVOIR, HUDDLE: As expected, the Bulls offense employed a much brisker tempo during non-padded 11-on-11 work Monday. In lieu of a huddle, calls were made at the line in an effort to get the ball snapped in 15 seconds or less.
All three returning scholarship quarterbacks -- junior Mike White, senior Steven Bench and sophomore Quinton Flowers -- took reps. Among the highlights: White's completion to sophomore Ryeshene Bronson on a deep sideline route....
The numerical rosters typically handed out to those observing USF's spring workouts likely won't suffice this time around.
Name tags might be necessary, also, at least for the coaches.
Today marks the formal debut of three Bulls assistants brought aboard in the wake of coach Willie Taggart's offseason staff shakeup. A fourth, running backs coach Autry Denson, reportedly has left for the same position at Notre Dame (his alma mater) after only a month on the job....
A team shaping up as the best in USF women's history is proving it can win with more than one style, tempo or nationality.
On Sunday, the Bulls (22-5, 13-2) got a career-best 17 points from Portugal-born freshman guard Laura Ferreira in a 79-53 rout of Temple at the Sun Dome, securing the coveted No. 2 seed in next month's American Athletic Conference tournament.
USF wouldn't face top-ranked Connecticut until the tourney final. The Bulls play host to the Huskies a week from Monday in a nationally televised prime-time game.
"We really didn't talk about (the seeding)," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. "We knew we needed to play really well at home today because of what Temple just did to Tulane (a 77-63 win on Feb. 7) and Tulane's a very good basketball team. ... That's great, but we've got a lot of basketball left to play."
Ferreira scored 12 in the first half, when the Bulls shot 53.3 percent from the floor (16-for-30) en route to a 39-22 lead. She added five during a 15-2 run to open the second half that gave the hosts a 54-24 lead.
"I was just ready to play," said Ferreira, who had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in Wednesday's 33-point rout of Tulsa. "They were a good team and I was just like, 'We're gonna get this win.'"
The Bulls, whose roster features six European-born players, got 30 total points from that contingent including nine from 6-foot Denmark native Maria Jespersen. Junior power forward Alisia Jenkins notched her 19th double-double (13 points, 13 boards) for the Bulls, who held the Owls (13-15, 9-6) to a 26.9-percent effort (18-for-67) from the floor.
"We needed to do a great job defending the arc," Fernandez said. "I thought we did that in the first half. For us, I was happy how we defended. ... I liked how we came out of the gate at halftime -- that was big -- and extended that lead."...