By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, MARCH 28, 2014 – The Bulls have made huge strides on the field since last season and they’re anxious to show the fan base the new and improved squad during Saturday’s spring game at Corbett Stadium.
“I want to show everyone all the hard work we’ve accomplished,” quarterback Mike White said. “Everyone is not at every practice, they’re not in meetings and they haven’t seen how much we’ve developed. That’s one thing I really want to show the fan base and show the community what we’ve been doing.”
Action is set to get started at 4 p.m. and USF Athletics is making the spring game experience one to remember by offering plenty of activities for fans at the on campus home of the USF men’s and women’s soccer teams.
There will be a USF student tailgate with a Cornhole tournament and free food and drinks (with a valid USF student ID) just outside Corbett Stadium near the Sycamore lot. T-shirts will be given out to the first 500 students passing through the gate when the stadium opens at 3:00 p.m. A Kids Zone inside the stadium gates will feature a bounce house, air brush tattoos and other activities and fans are encouraged to join in on a postgame autograph session with coaches and players on the field. Parking and admission are free and the USF community is encouraged to come early and enjoy a nice afternoon on campus.
“I think it’s going to be really cool. I like that idea instead of having everybody drive down to Ray Jay for a scrimmage essentially,” quarterback Steven Bench said. “All the students can come, it’s free and you watch football. Hopefully, it’s going to be a nice day Saturday and we’re going to have fun putting on a show for them.”
The game will feature the annual battle between the Green Team and the White Team with a normal first half with two timed quarters and timeouts followed by a running clock in the second half after the break. The halftime show also will be a can’t-miss event as former USF football players are coming back to campus for an Alumni Flag Football Game that features big names like Matt Grothe, B.J. Daniels, Sam Barrington and many more. Coach Willie Taggart will welcome the alumni football players back on Friday night with catered social in the team’s locker room at the Selmon Athletic Center.
“Opportunities like this are truly a joy coming back to a place where I spent very significant period of time in my life, and as an alum, who would have ever thought?” Barrington said. “I’m definitely looking forward to seeing all of my former teammates and meeting older players. I think it’s really great what Coach (Willie) Taggart is doing with the program.”
USF is continuing its effort to bring the program closer to fans and all signs are pointing to a highly competitive game for the current Bulls squad. Players have bulked up thanks to a grueling offseason conditioning program directed by strength coach Hans Straub and head coach Willie Taggart has noticed a day-and-night difference in the team’s production on the field this spring compared to USF’s first under the new coaching staff.
“I’d say we’re a lot further than we were last year at this time. Our guys have a really good understanding of what we’re doing. Our guys have a really good understanding of how we’re practicing. The plays we’re running, the kind of stuff we’re doing, they understand them a lot better,” Taggart said. “By them understanding them we’re making football plays, things we weren’t doing before, and that’s part of the whole process. Now, we’ve got to carry it over into the summer and into training camp.”
USF wrapped up its final practice of the spring at the Morsani Football Complex on Friday and players walked off the field talking a little trash to each other about Saturday’s festivities.
“We feel really confident,” said senior defensive tackle Todd Chandler, who will suit up for the Green Team in his final spring game. “We’ve got a pretty good defense; we’ve got me, (Derrick) Calloway, Sean Hill on the defensive line. We’ve got Rahmon Swain, who has just been incredible this spring in practice. We have (safety) “Angry Bird” Jamie Byrd behind us. On the offensive side of the ball, we’ve got the amazing Mike White, I can’t say enough about that guy.”
Senior receiver Andre Davis will continue his run with the White Team after racking up 90 yards on three receptions with two going for scores in the White squad’s 14-11 victory last spring at Raymond James Stadium.
“They said we couldn’t do it last year and we came out and made it happen,” Davis said. “We’re taking it again this year.”
Taggart, who served as commissioner for the spring game draft, didn’t make a prediction but said, “I’m on the winning team,” and noted he’s looking forward to the Bulls as a whole performing in front of a large crowd at Corbett Stadium, located next to the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center and across from the Sun Dome.
“I want to see our guys go out and compete in front of people. You go over last season and you try to think about things and what went wrong and how they went wrong. Again, we practiced well last year, it felt good going into games and when we got out there we didn’t play as well,” Taggart said. “I just felt we were a little stage shocked. It’s a big reason why we opened practices this spring is to get our guys to perform in front of folks and be comfortable with that. Tomorrow I’m excited to see our guys go out and see if they can do it in front of people and continue to execute and continue to get better.”
Fans can listen to the spring game live on 98.7-FM The Fan or streamed on GoUSFBulls.com. The broadcast will kick off with a pregame show starting at 3:30 p.m. Look for highlights from the game and post-game interviews with Coach Taggart and selected players on GoUSFBulls.com Saturday night.
“At the end of the day it’s white versus green, but we’re still on the same team,” Chandler said. “I judge success by the offense moving the ball and the defense getting stops when it needs to. We’re taking on competition and just getting better.”