BullsVision: 2011 USF Football Practice Report: Aug. 24
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The cuts are crisper. The passes are more on target. The kicks travel further down the field.
Watch USF football practice this week and you can get a good sense that the season opener at Notre Dame is right around the corner.
"You see the focus level go up a little bit, especially when you watch film," defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said Wednesday.
"It's giving me chills in my stomach just thinking about it," said linebacker Sam Barrington of the Sept. 3 game in South Bend.
Notre Dame, ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press preseason poll, is back on the rise and the Bulls know focus is going to be key if they want to pull off an upset.
"You have to go into this game well prepared," Barrington said. "You can't be slipping. You'll get upset real quick."
While USF has had B.J. Daniels in a firm position as the team's No. 1 quarterback, Notre Dame has used the preseason to figure out who will be the top guy. The Irish waited until this week to name senior Dayne Crist the starter.
"They're going to do the same things with both the quarterbacks," Snyder said. "I assume they'll probably go with Crist because he's a little bit older and a little bit more experienced. That doesn't shock me much. It wouldn't shock me again to see two or three of their quarterbacks."
USF hasn't opened the season against highly ranked teams in past years, but Barrington said preparation for the opener is the same no matter how good the opponent is.
"For that first game, you're always going to prepare like it's the No. 1 team in the country," he said. "You have to because you don't know what you've been doing in the offseason compared to another program."
Regardless of the opponent, forcing turnovers always is a key to victory and the Bulls have been practicing the art often this preseason.
"It has been a big point of emphasis this camp and I know (Notre Dame) coach (Brian) Kelly preaches holding onto the ball," Snyder said. "We're going to have to take the football away. He's not going to turn it over to us."
USF defensive backs coach Rick Smith has been working hard with his players on pressing the issue, and the team has been dialed in.
"Coach Smith emphasizes it a lot," cornerback Kayvon Webster said. "We run after practice if we don't have a certain number of turnovers and I think that's real good."
Notre Dame Memories
Speaking of Smith, the veteran football coach remembered his past trip to Notre Dame in 1977 when talking to the media Wednesday.
"We were up 14-0 at the half," Smith said. "One of our coaches grabbed a tight end that he had recruited that went to Notre Dame and shook him and said, 'We're going to kick their you know what.'
"It wound up 60-something to 14," Smith said of the loss with a chuckle.