NEWPORT, R.I. — In a sense, he's a brawny microcosm of his own program: a flash of dazzle followed by a stretch of disappointment. A momentary flourish, then futility. Each apparent surge of momentum short-lived.
Now, much like his peers and coaches, USF senior tight end Sean Price brims with hope while standing at the threshold of a critical season.
For the onetime Under Armour All-American, and perhaps this particular Bulls regime, it's now or never.
"I think every senior gets the mind-set it's your last year," Price said Tuesday at the American Athletic Conference's media day at the Hyatt Regency Newport. "So you put everything on the line."
Urgency beckons at 10 a.m. today, when Price and the Bulls formally begin preseason camp at the Morsani Complex.
The former North Marion High dynamo, a three-time all-state pick once ranked among the nation's top prep tight ends, enters his final college season with 56 career receptions and one touchdown catch.
Fifteen catches came in the last four games of his freshman season, all against quality opposition (UConn, Miami, Cincinnati, Pitt).
Last year, he totaled 14. He has trudged through adversity both external and self-inflicted. Staff overhauls and scheme changes have been accompanied by nagging injuries (groin, neck) and weight fluctuations (as low as 245, as high as 260). He's on his third tight ends coach.
And last opportunity.
"I think I've left some plays out on the field, but as it's often said, you must fail before you succeed," said Price, who reports to camp with what he deems an ideal weight (250) for his 6-foot-4 frame.
"My career has been what it has been, but it could be a lot better. I've taken advantage of this offseason, along with my teammates helping me out, pushing me and coaches … believing in me. So I think this is the season where that inconsistency becomes consistent."
By many indications, Price, among 33 players on the watch list for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, finally could be on the cusp of a personal planetary alignment.
To remain at 250, he has shunned most red meat and fried foods this offseason, even bypassing the steaks served at Monday night's AAC-sponsored clambake at the Hyatt (Full disclosure: He engulfed two lobsters instead.). He has withstood the allure of social media; you won't find Price on Twitter.
The attitude he projects is laced with far more excitement than excuses. And the Bulls' new offense — an up-tempo system with more spread principles — seems designed to feature him.
"I think Coach (Willie Taggart) understands my abilities now; we've talked about this," Price said.
"I think he'll flex me out. I'll still incorporate some blocks, motion out and do some power blocks, zone things like that. But for the most part, he'll definitely air me out and showcase my skills."
Taggart agrees that the renovated offensive approach, which includes simplicity among its buzzwords, could maximize Price's skill set.
"This offseason he has been working his tail off, and I think some of the things we're doing offensively really are going to help him as well," Taggart said.
"It was hard for a lot of guys to individually just be what they needed to be (in the past). I think just getting better as a football team is going to allow him to be better as an individual, just getting guys around him, getting some consistency."
This morning, the Bulls embark on their latest consistency quest. For the team and its tight end, all reboots have been exhausted. Time for simplicity and urgency to commingle.
Price believes the concoction will fizz instead of fizzle.
"I had a really good spring and shout-out to Coach T for that," Price said. "I'm really looking forward to this season; I think I'll definitely do great things."
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.