TAMPA — The development of the USF offense is occurring in spurts, just as Alex Golesh forecast. This was never expected to be a steady, streamlined evolution. Quite the contrary.
The pace is more efficient than the protection at this point. The run game appears to be ahead of the receivers.
And Golesh seems ahead of the game in every component. Which is to say, he saw the struggles — particular among his receiving corps — coming.
“I’ve been through it,” said Golesh, whose 1-2 team enters Saturday’s American Athletic Conference opener against Rice 118th in the country in passing offense (162.3 yards per game) and 120th in yards per completion (9.6).
“I went through it two years ago (at Tennessee). Very, very similar situation where it’s just taking them time to gain confidence. I’ve tried every Jedi mind trick I’ve had; we’re going to continue to work through it. I’m confident that that group of (receivers) is really, really talented, and at whatever point it clicks for them, we’ll be able to be really, really efficient in this offense.”
Myriad factors have played into the pass-game struggles so far, including the fact Golesh’s system still has the new-car smell.
Quarterback Byrum Brown, who turns 19 next week and has five career college starts, still has a periodic knack for hastily scurrying from the pocket. Shaky pass protection — the Bulls have allowed the second-most sacks in the nation (15) — also is complicit in Brown’s tuck-and-run tendency.
Moreover, the receiving room consists primarily of former walk-ons, Football Championship Subdivision transfers, Power Five transfers and/or players who were dinged up in the spring.
Most still are trying to develop confidence and timing.
“It’s just timing with the quarterback,” said junior Sean Atkins, the former walk-on whose 16 catches are more than twice as many as any other receiver.
“A lot of guys didn’t get a lot of reps (in spring), and we did get some guys after the spring. A lot of guys were hurt in the spring, too, myself included. So it’s just kind of getting the timing down with Byrum and just kind of getting full-speed reps. It’s easy to go out and run routes on air, but whenever you have somebody in front of you it’s a lot different.”
Golesh concurs. In a rundown of his receiving roster, he notes second-leading pass-catcher Naiem Simmons (seven receptions) transferred from FCS program Wagner. Additionally, Texas transfer Jaden Alexis (two catches), appeared in one game the previous two seasons with the Longhorns.
And while junior Khafre Brown (six receptions) appeared in 27 total games the past three seasons at North Carolina (totaling 20 catches), he never has come close to serving as a No. 1 or 2 option in a passing game.
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“There’s a bunch of guys in there that are uber-talented,” Golesh said. “There’s a bunch of guys in there that are still learning what it is to play football at this level.”
All part of the evolution that never was going to culminate by mid-September.
“I told our staff on Sunday, when we actually truly believe that we’re confident out there at receiver, we’re going to light this thing up,” Golesh said.
“We’re still not there. I thought (Tuesday’s practice) was a step forward, I think we’ve got to continue to take steps forward there. For us to do what we want to do on offense, those guys have got to be really confident out there.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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