ST. PETERSBURG — Florida State fans who saw how new coach Mike Norvell took Memphis from a good program to a great one might want to take a deep breath. That transformation from top-50 team to top-20 team didn’t happen overnight, according to one of his former Tigers players.
“It takes time to build up a program,” said defensive end Bryce Huff, who is playing for the West in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. “A lot of people when they get new coaches, they want it to be instant. It could be in that case at Florida State. But with the new scheme and new positions, you need the correct characters coming in and playing those roles accordingly.”
Huff said that process happened gradually at Memphis under Norvell. Huff, a two-star prospect in Norvell’s first recruiting class (2016), said it was a culture shock for some Tigers when Norvell took over.
But Norvell gradually established the right culture there based on accountability. Whether players followed team rules like no earrings in the building was a sign of how they did other things when no one was looking.
“How you do anything is how you do everything,” said Huff, who totaled 34 ½ tackles for loss and 16 sacks over his final two seasons. “I feel like when I work hard in the weight room, work hard in the classroom, come out on the field and work just as hard, it really helped me get to where I am today.”
Former Navy star trying receiver
While the NFL isn’t expected to trend toward the triple-option any time this millennium, it still has room for sleek, versatile athletes cerebral enough to operate it at maximum efficiency at the college level.
Hence the reason Navy dynamo Malcolm Perry is suiting up for the East this week.
The first Division I-A quarterback to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, Perry is getting a look at slot receiver during practice. Bucs assistant Antwaan Randle El, who successfully transitioned from college QB to NFL receiver, is helping tutor him this week.
“Anything that gets the ball in my hands, anything that gets me on the field, I’m more than happy to play it,” said Perry, who alternated between slotback and quarterback for most of his first three seasons at Navy before his record-shattering season (3,101 total yards) behind center in ’19.
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“Wherever the coaches throw me in, I’m gonna try my best, I’m gonna enjoy it and just give it all I got.”
The fast get faster
Proving that one is never too fast to get more speed training, UCF tailback Adrian Killins Jr. is working out at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, Texas.
His routine at the facility includes some tutelage from Johnson, who won four Olympic gold medals and once held the world record in the 200 and 400 meters.
“He’s a world-class sprinter and he has a lot of great techniques that he knows from his sprinting days,” said Killins, who finished his Knights career with 1,753 rushing yards and owns the UCF career record for yards per carry (5.75).
“The people that’s working with him in that building as well, they’re very smart. They bring the technology side to it and link it up to real-life situations that we’re doing in there.”
Odds and ends
North Carolina left tackle Charlie Heck, one of three East offensive linemen who stand 6-7, is the son of Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck, an All-America tackle on Notre Dame’s 1988 national title squad. Charlie Heck started the last 35 games of his Tar Heels career. … Killins said he has no regrets about skipping the Gasparilla Bowl to begin NFL preparations. UCF topped Marshall 48-25 on Dec. 23 at Raymond James Stadium. “I don’t feel like it hindered the team whatsoever,” he said. “We came out with the victory, and I was just as happy as my teammates in that locker room as if I were there.”
East-West Shrine Game
Team practices: Through Thursday (East, 9:20-11:20 a.m.; West. 2:404:40 p.m.) at Tropicana Field. General public can attend.
Player experience: 1-3:30 p.m. Friday at Tropicana Field. Free and open to the public.
Game: 3 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field
Tickets: $15 general admission. Purchase here