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Skill guys impress Jeff Scott on first day of USF spring practice

The Bulls go through their first workout at a crisp pace, but Scott wants it crisper.
New USF football coach Jeff Scott runs through drills during spring practice at the Morsani Complex on Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
New USF football coach Jeff Scott runs through drills during spring practice at the Morsani Complex on Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

TAMPA ― Because new USF coach Jeff Scott purposely refused to watch a Bulls game ― or even a practice ― from last season, Tuesday’s inaugural spring workout offered the chance for a fountain of first impressions.

His prevailing one, following his initial two-hour glimpse of the 2020 Bulls: He inherited and recruited some pretty sleek skill guys.

“It’s hard to judge just off what you’re doing in mat drills or weightlifting,” Scott said. “But when you get a ball in the air and see guys throwing and catching and those type of things, I could tell that the skill guys have put in some work on their own before we got out there.”

Related: Five quick observations from USF's first spring practice

With high-decibel hip-hop music (via a mobile P.A. system) serving as the soundtrack, the Scott era dawned beneath a cloudless Tuesday morning sky. Yet the only mild component was the mid-60s temperatures.

In accordance with Scott’s meticulous attention to detail and pace, the Bulls ― bedecked in shorts, jerseys and helmets ― jogged out to the Morsani Practice Complex and ran from drill to drill. To the casual observer (reporters had a one-hour observation window), things appeared crisp.

Scott prefers extra crispy.

“He focuses on the little things,” veteran center Brad Cecil said. “If he tells us to run through the sideline, we’re running through the sideline. He’ll make us go all the way back and then go run through the sideline if we don’t.”

Embedding that mindset arguably is Priority One during the 15 spring workouts (culminating with the April 18 spring game on campus). Scott said the initial plan for the spring is to install 65-70 percent of the offense and defense, and 100 percent of his philosophy on how to approach practices.

“Getting on and off the field, not walking off the field,” he said. “Chasing the ball when the ball’s thrown or the ball carrier breaks the pocket and having 21 people chase in that direction ― that’s the biggest thing that, after one day, we need a lot of work on.”

USF running backs coach Pat White (white hat), left, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., right, watch their players during spring practice Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Because he wished to enter spring with no preconceived assessments of his players (hence the reason he watched nothing from 2019), Scott left early depth-chart decisions up to his assistants, who did watch last year’s games.

Team periods were shut off to reporters, but seniors Michael Wiggs and Jarrett Hopple lined up at right guard and right tackle, respectively, with what appeared to be the first-team offensive line. Scott must replenish the right side following the graduation of Marcus Norman and Billy Atterbury.

Meantime, Oregon transfer tailback Darrian Felix got some work with the receivers, where Scott indicated the fleet Fort Myers native could provide matchup problems as a slot guy. At quarterback, North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin and ’19 starter Jordan McCloud logged reps with two walk-ons.

Scott has indicated the depth chart could fluctuate greatly over the next month. Tuesday was more about first impressions.

For coach and players, they seemed favorable.

“Great day,” senior cornerback KJ Sails said. “Coach Scott has definitely changed the culture here, and we’re bought in.”

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