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What we’ve learned from USF football preseason camp

Here's what we've heard and observed after nearly a week of practices
USF's offensive linemen work through a drill during practice Tuesday morning on campus.
USF's offensive linemen work through a drill during practice Tuesday morning on campus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 12, 2020

TAMPA — Now that the 2020 USF football preseason is nearly a week old, the goal before the Bulls has become clear.

Get to two weeks. Then three.

During this tenuous juncture in college football, taking things day by day has evolved from platitude to prerequisite. Until the season stabilizes or stops, it’s all the Bulls can do.

Related: Veteran USF football players say they feel safer on campus preparing for season

“You can’t look too far into the future, because the future is unknown,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said Tuesday. “It’s just live where our feet are planted that day.”

So far, we’ve been privy to three of the Bulls’ five workouts, none of which have come with a tomorrow attached. Here’s what we’ve learned so far about Jeff Scott’s inaugural team.

* As expected, the sophisticated pro-style attack of former offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell has been supplanted by wunderkind Charlie Weis Jr.‘s brisk, modernized system. A protege of Lane Kiffin (among many others), Weis’ FAU offense ranked 14th nationally in scoring (36.4 ppg) and averaged 5.96 yards per play in 2019.

“Both had explosive playbooks, but I’ll say this (offense) is a mixture between a Clemson-Alabama, Lane Kiffin-type of offense, and Coach Bell was more of a pro-style type of deal,” quarterback Jordan McCloud said.

“This is like, go fast, we’re trying to score every play, tempo, lot of plays throughout the game.”

USF Bulls running backs coach Pat White (wearing a white hat), left, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., right, watch their players during spring football practice Tuesday at the USF Frank Morsani Football Complex in Tampa.
USF Bulls running backs coach Pat White (wearing a white hat), left, and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., right, watch their players during spring football practice Tuesday at the USF Frank Morsani Football Complex in Tampa. [ Times ]

* The delayed start to the season — if there is a season — benefits the Bulls like few other teams. Tuesday morning’s workout (in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads) was the team’s first in any kind of pads since Scott took over.

“It was the first time we could actually strike and meet and defeat a block and thud up on a tackle,” Spencer said.

“I’ve got a lot of concerns based on what I saw today, but to be honest with you, that should’ve been the first day of spring ball. That was the first time we had to play ball — implement our system, our scheme, our coaching style — in pads.”

USF offensive lineman Troy Fields (61), left, works to defend a rush by linebacker Dwayne Boyles (11), center.
USF offensive lineman Troy Fields (61), left, works to defend a rush by linebacker Dwayne Boyles (11), center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

* Defensive tackle Thad Mangum, a graduate transfer from Wofford, appears fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him nearly all of 2019. Spencer even singled him out Tuesday as one of the guys having a solid camp so far.

* Aesthetically, things aren’t terribly different from the previous coaching regime. Music still blares at practice, and a massive white tent on the south end of the Morsani Complex serves as a makeshift shelter/rehab area. Perhaps the most noticeable change: the offense now wears the green practice jerseys, while the defense wears white.

* While Spencer’s “30-float” scheme will feature a ton of variations on the back end, look for his corners to remain in man coverage. The veteran coordinator, like most peers, deems it a necessity in the era of dual-threat quarterbacks, freeing up other defensive backs to pursue a quarterback who breaks containment.

“Me and KJ (Sails), we’re pretty much man-to-man 95 percent of the time,” senior cornerback Mike Hampton said. “So anything gets past us, it’s pretty much a touchdown, so we’ve got to be on our P’s and Q’s every play.”

Related: USF football coach Jeff Scott, wife welcome second child