TAMPA — The most accomplished receiver on USF's roster was nearly thrown off his route.
Andre Davis had executed this pattern seemingly thousands of times: west on Fowler Avenue, south on I-275, past the bustle of downtown and Dale Mabry, and into the Carver City neighborhood where he still works at the rec center that spawned him. The journey had long since grown stagnant.
On this day, it became surreal....
USF's handful of public spring practices apparently were so well received, the Bulls are delivering an August encore.
The school announced Thursday that Coach Willie Taggart will open the first week of preseason drills to the public. Players report for camp Aug. 3 and begin practice the next day. All workouts will be held on campus.
The opening-week schedule:
Monday, Aug. 4, 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 10 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 6, 10 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 7, 8:30 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 8, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 9, 2 p.m.
The annual Bulls Fan Fest, to be held at Corbett Stadium -- home to USF soccer -- is Aug. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. The season opener, against Western Carolina, is Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium....
For all the crunches and cardio work, all the max-outs and military presses, the most excruciating part of Irele Oderinde's sessions may be the drill not included in his normal curriculum.
If you're late to one of Coach O's workouts, the whole team hits the field for up-downs -- dozens of them.
"It's a reminder," USF's new strength and conditioning coach said. "As men, we all need to do right. As young adults they need to do right. It's kind of one of those things where it was instilled in me with my mother; when I didn't do right she gave me a reminder."
By all accounts, the tough love has been embraced. It's the pronunciation the Bulls still are struggling to master.
Raised by a single mom but Nigerian on his dad's side, Irele Vinegar Oderinde says his first name (EAR-lay) means "peace" and his last (oh-DARE-in-day) means "ruling house." Vinegar? It's his mom's maiden name.
"He brings energy; he's a great guy," Bulls senior WR Andre Davis said. "He's definitely like another dad, another coach."
A former fleet, undersized (245 pounds) nose guard at Western Kentucky, Oderinde arrived earlier this summer from West Virginia, where he served as the Mountaineer football team's strength and conditioning coordinator. His predecessor at USF, Hans Straub, resigned in mid-May, three days after issuing a disparaging tweet about former Bulls DE Aaron Lynch.
Less than a month later, Coach O -- not to be mistaken with new men's hoops coach Orlando 'Coach O' Antigua -- was brought on board.
“My relationship with Irele goes back a long way," said Bulls coach (and fellow WKU alumnus) Willie Taggart, a Hilltoppers assistant during Oderinde's playing career. "He is terrific at what he does and has had the opportunity to be part of many outstanding programs and gain a wide range of knowledge in his field.”
A member of WKU's 2002 Division I-AA national title team, Oderinde harbored aspirations of being a college position coach, but found few openings upon graduating in '03. The Hilltoppers, however, did have a graduate-assistant vacancy in their weightroom, and Oderinde had been a two-time state powerlifting champ at Scott County High in Georgetown, Ky.
"So I got in the weightroom and after a week I was like, 'This is it. This is what I want to do,'" said Oderinde, married with no kids. "And ever since, I've fallen in love with it. I don't go to work; every day is a great day and fun day."
His GA gig was followed by stops at Notre Dame, South Carolina, West Virginia and one other stint at WKU. His objective: To craft workouts for each kid in an effort to make them a better player. If they happen to become powerlifters in the process, that's gravy.
Sometimes, the gravy oozes. On Wednesday, Oderinde spotted for DT Todd Chandler when the fifth-year senior squatted 700 pounds.
"He's just a very good guy," Davis said. "He's a guy that, you can get in there with him and...he just brings it all out of you. He makes you want to grind for him and for the team."
His long-term impact remains to be determined. The Bulls made tangible strides under Straub, with the average weight of their five starting offensive linemen rising from 297 to 310 pounds over the winter. In his two months on the job, Oderinde says the team's overall work ethic has been stellar. If the Bulls can maintain a high level of hunger, strength will come, he indicated.
"This is not a knock on anybody that was here before, but we needed to get stronger," Oderinde said.
"Strength-wise, we're not at the top, but we're not at the bottom now either. We have a chance to be okay for sure, especially (considering) where we started from. We could be okay, especially with guys wanting to get better, and that's the main thing. I've been to places where they didn't
really want to work, and here it's been contagious."...
Another fan-friendly USF football function is being moved to the intimate confines of Corbett Stadium.
The school announced Thursday the 2014 Bulls Fan Fest will be held Aug. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. at Corbett, home to USF soccer. The event, annually held at Raymond James Stadium in the past, will be staged less than four months after the Bulls held their spring intrasquad game at the same site.
Admission is free.
This year, Bulls football players and coaches will be joined by counterparts from every other USF fall sports team, as well as Rocky the Bull, cheerleaders and the Sun Dolls. In addition to autograph and photo opportunities, fans can participate in various contests with a chance to win prizes. Old USF apparel, athletic gear and collectors' items also will be on sale.
The football team reports for preseason camp Aug. 3. USF opens its season Aug. 30 at home against Western Carolina....
Though he has earned a reputation for his culinary chops during his tenure at USF, Todd Chandler pulled off something Wednesday at breakfast time that few might find tough to digest or even swallow.
Fortunately for him, it was corroborated by witnesses and documented on an iPhone.
The 320-pound fifth-year senior defensive tackle squatted 700 pounds. Whether that's a USF football record couldn't immediately be determined. The clip can be seen here.
"That's a lot of weight on a man's back," said new Bulls strength coach Irele Oderinde, who spotted Chandler. "First, he did 600 and said, 'Coach, that was easy; put some more weight on it.'"
Oderinde, who had watched Chandler squat 585 three times the previous week, obliged. Chandler then squatted 635 with relative ease.
"He said, 'Coach, put 700 on the bar; I'm gonna do it,'" Oderinde recalled. "I said, 'Okay.'"
While Chandler's feat may not necessarily be a microcosm of the Bulls' across-the-board strength at this point, Oderinde said the overall weightroom commitment has been exceptional since his arrival earlier this summer.
"They work, and that's one thing I can't complain about at all since I've been here," said Oderinde, a former Western Kentucky nose guard who was serving as West Virginia's football strength coach before being hired to replace Hans Straub in mid-May.
"These guys have busted their tails to get better. I believe we're tired of losing so we're trying to do something about that. ... I'm not saying we're the strongest team out there, but we've improved a little bit. That's a step in the right direction."...
Less than two weeks before the start of preseason camp, the odds of USF winning the 2014 national title are reaching Powerball-type probability.
At least according to one online betting service.
The Bulls are a 500-1 shot to capture college football's inaugural playoff, according to bovada.lv, which offers a variety of online wagering services including a sports book. While those odds may not seem unrealistic for a team in a non-power conference coming off a 2-10 season, they're five times longer than they were six months ago, before Willie Taggart signed the American Athletic Conference's top recruiting class.
On Jan. 7, USF's odds -- according to the same site -- were 100-1. So what happened?
"When we open odds in January, there is a lot of speculation on our part on how we expect our bettors to bet certain teams and we did feel that since they may be an improved team we would open them at 100-1 initially and take a few bets," Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley said through a publicist.
"After months of taking no money on them, they kept drifting off to 250-1 to 300-1 and now at 500-1, we still cannot write a bet on them. That said, we are always weary (sic) of going over 500-1 on teams, especially with the new playoff format, and considering (national title runner-up) Auburn was 500-1 preseason last year, we can really expose ourselves."
Alas, a sports book bound with silver lining.
USF's national title odds are the same as Auburn's last season.
Former USF men's and women's soccer coach Logan Fleck, who led both teams simultaneously at one point in the mid-1990s, died Sunday of complications from diabetes.
Mr. Fleck, the men's coach at Stetson at the time of his death, was 54. He was preceded in death by his dad -- a former Lehigh University soccer coach -- and a younger brother, Derek, who died in 2003.
"Probably the three of them are playing a little one-on-one up in heaven right now," said Mary Beth Fleck, Mr. Fleck's younger sister....
The following is my projected order of finish in the American Athletic Conference, submitted upon request to the league office earlier today. The official preseason poll will be released at the conference's media day July 29 in Newport, RI (Yes, football is here.).
To elicit debate, I've added a one-sentence rationale for each team's position in the standings.
'Cats are loaded offensively, and Tommy Tuberville's defenses are traditionally rugged
I waffled here because of the Knights' uncertainty at QB, but nine starters return on defense
3. East Carolina
For my money, Shane Carden's the league's best QB, and Justin Hardy's the top wideout
Lost amid the Cougars' pass-happy style is a defense that forced a nation-best 43 turnovers in '13
The Green Wave, who made a bowl game last year, possess an outstanding secondary and promising freshman QB
Stronger, speedier Bulls will at least double their '13 win total. I just don't know if they'll triple it.
Mustangs have some replenishing to do, but the newcomers are promising and June Jones knows his stuff
My sleeper team in the league. In their last five games of '13, Owls tied or led entering fourth quarter
All signs suggest new coach Bob Diaco will get it done in Storrs. But offseason loss of workhorse TB Lyle McCombs hurts
Tigers made defensive strides in '13, but the offense scored more than 21 points only three times
The Golden Hurricane, 3-9 last year, must replace virtually their entire offensive backfield...
After consecutive bye weeks, your friendly neighborhood USF beat writer is no longer beat. To the contrary, the figurative battery power has been restored to full capacity.
Time to brief you on the latest, and recap what transpired locally in July's first half"
* Apparently, the speculation about USF basketball coach Orlando Antigua facing old boss John Calipari has segued into reality. USF spokesman Steven Schoon confirmed Saturday he Bulls will face Kentucky as part of a doubleheader at Miami's American Airlines Arena on Nov. 27, 2015.
USF never has faced Kentucky in men's basketball. Antigua spent the past five seasons on Calipari's UK staff, and served with him one season (2008-09) at Memphis. ESPN first reported the event, which also will include a Memphis-Ohio State matchup, earlier Saturday.
* Former USF ace Sara Nevins came within two outs of a complete game in Team USA's 5-2 triumph against Canada in the final of the General Tire World Cup of Softball IX last weekend in Irvine, Calif. Nevins, who totaled four appearances in Team USA's seven games (all victories), notched a club-best 0.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings.
The team currently is competing in the Canadian Open, where it has won six of its first seven through Saturday afternoon. Nevins has worked four tournament innings, striking out six and allowing a run on three hits.
* Bulls OL Thor Jozwiak, sidelined all of last season with a heart condition, is among 182 nationwide nominees for the AFCA Allstate Good Works Team. The team, composed of 11 Division I players and 11 total from the lower divisions, recognizes those who distinguish themselves with
charitable involvement and community service.
A member of USF's football unity council and student-athlete advisory committee, Jozwiak has spoken at area schools, visited with ill kids at local children's hospitals and spoken with veterans injured in combat. The 22-player Good Works team will be announced in September.
* The American Athletic Conference Football Summer Kickoff and Media Day will be held July 29 in Newport, RI. Each league coach, and players from each school, will attend. WR Andre Davis and LB Reshard Cliett are believed to be the Bulls' representatives, but that hasn't been confirmed by
USF. Players report for preseason camp Aug. 3 and begin practice the following day....
07/17/14 Human Interest
Bulldog Boxing and Fitness occupies part of a warehouse complex on a remote rural patch where east Tampa nudges against Brandon. A gym still in its crawling stage, it remains more tidy than dingy.
None of the chains bearing the weight of the nine heavy bags squeal. The floorboards of the gym's lone ring emit nary a creak. The three semitrailer truck tires, which patrons use for flipping, appear factory fresh. The place is devoid of grime....
The Florida Gators have the latest equipment for reviewing game film, while Florida State gets an edge by using expensive GPS technology to track the most efficient movements for football players at practice.
Schools in the SEC, ACC and other major conferences seemingly have all the advantages, multimillion-dollar practice facilities for football and basketball and chartered planes for travel. Money pours in from television networks, including branded entities such as the Big Ten Network....
They staged this early June USF booster luncheon in a Lakeland clubhouse overlooking a golf course. A fitting venue, considering the series of gimme putts comprising the question-answer session.
New Bulls athletic director Mark Harlan and his entourage, including football coach Willie Taggart and men's basketball coach Orlando Antigua, had all the standard inquiries lobbed their way. They were asked about conference affiliations and on-campus stadiums, the potential of incoming freshmen and progress of returners....
Proposed NCAA legislation would revamp how the schools in the most prestigious conferences are governed.
In a nutshell, what is "autonomy"?
As it relates to college athletics, it's the desire of the schools in the "Power Five" conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) to create their own legislation that would provide their student-athletes with unprecedented benefits and resources. Among those benefits: full cost of attendance....
Take in a movie. Finish that novel. Prune the plumbagos. Trust us, you won't miss one pitch, putt or post route.
Today, there aren't any.
This is when the unofficial 24-hour dead period for American sports is observed. The NBA and NHL seasons have ended. The World Cup is over. NFL camps haven't yet begun, and Major League Baseball — on the back end of the All-Star break — has no games....
Barely a week into July, USF already has three blips on the nation's preseason radar, with more likely to materialize.
Two Bulls seniors -- WR Chris Dunkley and C Austin Reiter -- and junior TE Sean Price have been named to preseason awards watch lists. Dunkley, one of the American Athletic Conference's top return specialists, is among 47 players on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in college football.
Meantime, Reiter is on the Rimington Trophy watch list -- presented each year to the nation's top center -- for the second consecutive season. Price is on the list for the Mackey Award given annually to the country's top tight end.
Dunkley, who has changed his number from 88 to 1 this season, averaged 22.6 yards per kick return and 24.2 per punt return in 2013. His junior-year highlights included 171 all-purpose yards at Houston, a 50-yard TD on a punt return against SMU, and a 13-yard TD on a reverse play at UCF.
Reiter, who has added more than 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame (to 295) this offseason, has started every game the last two years. In 2013, he tied for the team lead with 735 snaps played....