Even as he lauded his program’s new arrivals and holdovers Tuesday, second-year USF coach Jeff Scott saved some of his graciousness for those who chose to move on.
As divorces go, Scott indicated, they were amicable across the board.
“Every single one of the young men came in, sat down, had a conversation with me, and I supported each one of those,” said Scott, whose team begins spring practice next Tuesday and concludes it with a March 27 intra-squad game at Raymond James Stadium.
“There wasn’t any of those guys that left that I tried to change their mind or convince them to stay, because at the end of the day, they’ve got to do what’s best for them, and we as a program have to make decisions and changes that are best for us.”
Befitting a program in transition, no fewer than 10 prominent Bulls players — including quarterback Jordan McCloud, tailback Johnny Ford and defensive back Bentlee Sanders — chose to enter the NCAA transfer portal following the turbulent 2020 season. Scott, whose inaugural USF team finished 1-8, said the number of departures was “probably about what I expected.”
To help offset the transfers and add immediate quality depth, Scott has tapped into that same portal. On Tuesday, he confirmed five Division I-A transfers, including former Miami starting quarterback Jarren Williams, already are enrolled and will participate in spring drills. So will nine high school seniors from the recently completed signing class who chose to enroll early.
“It’s all about how you handle that situation, and those young men (who transferred) handled it the right way,” Scott said. “I wish them nothing but the best, and I think they probably feel the same way about us here at South Florida.”
Other subjects addressed during Scott’s state-of-the-program session Tuesday:
• The Bulls’ spring game returns to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since 2013, Willie Taggart’s first season as Bulls coach. Scott said the decision to move it from the school’s on-campus soccer stadium was based on allowing fans to stay socially distanced and to heighten the game’s significance.
“I’m just a big believer in making that a big deal and separating the teams and having a game. Obviously we didn’t get to do that this past year,” said Scott, who held only one spring practice last year before the coronavirus forced the school and program to shut down for an extended period.
“We’ve got a great venue there at RayJay, and not many people can say they’re going to have their spring game in the stadium where they just played the Super Bowl.”
• Scott indicated the school is getting very close to breaking ground on the USF Football Center, the plans of which were first announced in November 2017. He added a $5 million donation toward the facility (which had an original price tag of $40 million) was secured just last week.
“So I feel like we’re really closing in and getting really close,” he said.
• Shortly before Scott addressed reporters Tuesday, USF announced another two-game home-and-home series with Brigham Young. After traveling to Provo, Utah, on Sept. 24 this season (to close the initial two-game series), the Bulls will host the Cougars on Sept. 3, 2022 and return to Provo on Oct. 28, 2023.
• In addition to Jarren Williams (Miami’s opening-day starting quarterback in 2019), the other transfers cleared for spring practice include defensive end Jamari Stewart (Mississippi State), safety Matthew Hill (Auburn), cornerback Christian Williams (Miami) and defensive back Will Jones II (Kansas State). Christian Williams was a consensus four-star prospect out of Daphne, Ala., and once was ranked No. 174 in the ESPN300.
• Scott confirmed new additions to his coaching staff following a handful of departures: Cam Aiken (running backs) worked with Scott at Clemson, while veteran George Barlow (cornerbacks) most recently worked at North Carolina State. Former Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels — a program legend of sorts — will be an offensive analyst, and former FSU/NFL linebacker Ernie Sims will coach his old position.
Additionally, Xavier Dye moves from receivers to tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator. Scott said a verbal agreement has been reached with a new receivers coach (whose name wasn’t released), but that person can’t begin until July. As a result, Scott will coach Bulls receivers this spring.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.