TAMPA — USF coach Jeff Scott announced Thursday that five more players have opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, raising to seven the total number of Bulls to make such a decision.
The latest: freshman defensive end Thomas Nance, senior receiver Eddie McDoom, senior linebacker Devin Gil, redshirt freshman tailback Josh Berry and sophomore defensive back Eugene Bowman. McDoom transferred from Michigan in 2018 and had 13 catches for the Bulls last season; Gil is a Wolverines graduate transfer who played in 40 games for UM and was expected to contribute significantly this season.
Gil and Bowman have young children. Nance, who has shuffled between tight end and defensive end during his brief Bulls tenure, lost both his parents before entering his teens.
They join senior receiver Jernard Phillips and sophomore defensive tackle (and Admiral Farragut) alumnus John Waller, who previously informed Scott they had chosen not to play this fall. The American Athletic Conference has indicated all athletes who opt out of fall sports because of COVID-19 concerns will have their scholarships honored.
“I fully support them,” Scott said after Thursday’s practice, the Bulls’ first in full pads.
“I think in order for us to have a chance for us to move forward safely and play, it’s very important that all of the players have an opportunity to opt out if they don’t feel comfortable playing, for whatever reason.
“Each young man has different situations. Some of our players maybe have a young child, maybe they have a family that has some certain underlying conditions, so everybody has their own situation.”
Thursday’s announcement coincided with the Bulls’ first full-pads practice of the preseason, and arrived in the wake of news that a handful of Division I-A conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, won’t compete in football this fall due to COVID-19 concerns.
Additionally, USF’s first three games — at Texas (Sept. 5), home vs. Bethune-Cookman (Sept. 12) and home vs. Nevada (Sept. 19) — all are off, the latter two due to fall sports being called off at those respective schools.
Nonetheless, American commissioner Mike Aresco has said his league is forging ahead for now.
“The way I’ve tried to stay focused with our staff and our players is, No. 1, let’s enjoy every day and every opportunity,” said Scott, who plans to hold a closed scrimmage Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“And then No. 2, let’s just worry about today, being great today. Like I’ve said before, it’s much better to prepare without an opportunity than to not prepare and have one. So that’s really what our mindset is.”