TAMPA — First-year USF football coach Alex Golesh was blunt about the challenge awaiting his Bulls after Friday’s sloppy spring game.
“It’s the biggest summer in the history of this football program for us,” Golesh said.
It sounds hyperbolic. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Though the Bulls aren’t at a crossroads, exactly, they sit at a pivotal point in their relatively young history. Golesh has brought a new-coach buzz to campus. That was obvious by a crowd so large that fans had to be turned away from Corbett Stadium.
Granted, filling a soccer stadium is different than packing Raymond James Stadium or the proposed on-campus stadium a short walk away. But that, too, is part of why the next four months are so big.
“We’ve got to validate the investment that’s being made in this program,” Golesh said.
That investment, eventually, has to translate onto the field in a way it didn’t Friday night.
The Bulls looked like a 1-11 team with a first-time head coach. There are extenuating circumstances, and it’s risky to make major proclamations after a glorified scrimmage. But the Bulls have a lot of work ahead of them.
Golesh said his offense was down five receivers who would be on the two-deep. The unit was so thin that running back Kelley Joiner moved to slot receiver Tuesday, then led the team with seven catches on 10 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Golesh, rightfully, praised Joiner for the selfless switch. But the fact that a coach who coordinated Tennessee’s top-10 passing offense last year needed USF’s leading rusher in 2020 to switch positions is a sign of where his roster stands. And what’s ahead these next four months.
Golesh said he and his staff will have to have difficult conversations over the next 72 hours about players’ futures. Translation: expect a lot of attrition over the next few days.
Expect a lot of additions, too. He joked (?) that there were some alumni who played in the halftime flag football game that he wished he could have added. When asked how active the Bulls will be when the transfer portal opens Saturday, Golesh had a one-word answer: “Very.”
“We’ve got to put a team together that’s going to win as fast as we can,” Golesh said.
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As this staff assembles that team, the remaining players will have to continue to build the kind of culture Golesh believes is necessary. One, Golesh says, that isn’t focused on individual success but on getting USF “back to where it belongs, which is certainly at the top of this conference but in the national conversation.”
It’s unrealistic to expect the Bulls to get there this season. If Friday night was any indication, this looks more like a Year 0 reset than a Year 1. Golesh tacitly acknowledged as much when he said the validation won’t necessarily come in the standings but in “laying a foundation for a sustainable program with a sustainable culture and a sustainable vision.”
“How we come together over the next four months,” Golesh said, “is going to, I think, set this program one way or the other for the next — eternity’s probably too infinite of a term, but for the foreseeable future.”
Two other takeaways:
Nay’Quan Wright was a great pickup
Nay’Quan Wright ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run and had 24 yards on his other three carries. That’s not a surprise. He was an effective back with the Florida Gators but simply found himself in a crowded room behind two stars (Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne). His transfer looks as if it will pay off for him and his new team.
The Bulls’ quarterback competition remains ongoing
Byrum Brown had a better showing (14-of-22 for 121 yards and a touchdown) than Coastal Carolina transfer Bryce Archie (8-of-13 for 41 yards and two interceptions). But Gerry Bohanon remains in the mix; he didn’t play but has started to throw a football again as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Golesh said he isn’t leaning toward any passer yet.
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