In terms of experience, the USF football on-field staff assembled by new coach Alex Golesh possesses a balance of green and grizzled.
Three coaches will be making their debuts as FBS on-field assistants in 2023 alongside well-known veterans Todd Orlando and Kevin Patrick. Collectively, the staff’s background is more rooted in the Midwest than Miami. And unlike recent Bulls staffs, this one features precious little NFL playing experience.
All of which will matter little if Golesh and Co. can resuscitate a program that has managed four wins over the past three seasons. One might say the group already has achieved a victory of sorts, winning over local prep coaches who have felt ignored to a degree by previous regimes.
A scan of social media reveals a staff that has been combing the bay area landscape, acquainting itself with high school coaches from Seffner to Seminole. Armwood coach Evan Davis said Golesh spent roughly two hours with him recently, discussing everything from strategy to vision. Seminole coach Auggie Sanchez, still the Bulls’ all-time tackles leader, already is sold on Golesh.
“You know I’m a pretty critical guy when it comes to USF, but I think they got it right this time,” said Sanchez, who has received on-campus visits from two Bulls coaches including Golesh.
“I think Coach Golesh is what you want. I spoke to him the other day for a while, and he’s a tireless worker. He respects the job, which I think has been a huge issue. He has a plan, and the biggest takeaway I took from him is, he’s not trying to pitch you anything or have the coach-talk. He’s a real genuine dude.”
With that favorable first impression in mind, here’s a further breakdown of the staff, which holds its first spring practice March 6.
Youngest staff ever?
With an average age of 39, this group might possess the fewest varicose veins of any staff in the American Athletic Conference, if not the nation. At 51, Orlando and Patrick are the oldest by far. Offensive line coach Tyler Hudanick, who turns 26 on Wednesday, might be the youngest on-field assistant in USF history, edging former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. (26 when he came aboard in December 2019).
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Minimal Miami ties
The days of the Bulls staff boasting a strong south Florida heritage (see Willie Taggart era) are gone, and perhaps that matters less in the portal age. Nonetheless, this group doesn’t appear to possess a substantial Miami/Dade connection outside Patrick, a West Palm Beach native and former University of Miami defensive star who played on the Hurricanes’ 1991 national title team. Orlando had separate coaching stints at Florida Atlantic and Florida International, but no one else has played or coached in south Florida.
NFL experience not necessary
Unlike recent Bulls staffs that typically included one or two former NFL players (Da’Quan Bowers, Pat White, Ernie Sims, Shaun King, Kerwin Bell, etc.), this group’s collective NFL playing experience is virtually nonexistent. The only one who got a sniff of the NFL was Patrick, who clearly was talented enough to play at the next level but had any hope of a pro career derailed by shoulder injuries.
Rowe rounds for home
Safeties coach James Rowe’s return to his alma mater is an improbable full-circle story. A three-sport star and all-state defensive back at Cocoa High, he played baseball at USF (primarily as a left-handed pitcher), and began his football coaching odyssey at NAIA outpost Bethel (Tennessee) University in 2011. After stints at three more colleges (including a graduate-assistant year at Florida), Rowe became an assistant defensive backs coach in the NFL for Washington and Colts cornerbacks coach in 2021. He spent last season as Bears defensive backs coach before returning to Tampa.
Odds and ends
* Golesh, whose fascinating backstory begins with his birthplace (Russia), is one of two coaches born outside the U.S. Running backs coach Matt Merritt was born in Germany and spent roughly the first decade of his life in that country.
* Tight ends coach Clay Patterson spent four seasons in the same position at Minnesota, where his players included 2022 Bucs rookie Ko Kieft.
* Hudanick made nearly 30 career starts at left guard at UCF and was a member of the Knights teams (2017-2018) that won consecutive American Athletic Conference titles.
* Patrick, of course, was the first defensive ends in coach in Bulls history, serving in that capacity on Jim Leavitt’s inaugural staff that held a fall practice (with no games) in 1996. He left in 1998 to enter the private sector but returned a decade later and served five more seasons under Leavitt and predecessor Skip Holtz (2008-2012).
2023 USF coaching staff
Alex Golesh, head coach
Matt Merritt, associate head coach/run game coordinator/running backs
Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Joel Gordon, pass game coordinator/quarterbacks
Matt Birkett, cornerbacks
Chad Creamer, special teams coordinator/outside linebackers
Tyler Hudanick, offensive line
Matthew Middleton, receivers
Kevin Patrick, defensive line
James Rowe, defensive pass game coordinator/safeties
Clay Patterson, tight ends
George Courides, strength-and-conditioning coach (technically not an on-field assistant)
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