By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – Depth charts have yet to be formulated but players have been catching coaches’ eyes five practices in this spring. One name that’s been brought up quite a bit is Luke Sager and it’s for a special reason.
“I really like his energy and the way he plays,” head coach Willie Taggart said before Wednesday’s practice. “You watch that kid on film and he plays like he loves the game. I really, really like that as a coach.”
The regular season is still a long ways away but USF’s redshirt senior defensive tackle is acting like its game week every day to motivate everyone around him. Sager wants USF to be a winner again and knows it all starts with the right attitude from day one.
“I want to mainly be an example to the younger guys – how to practice and how to carry that over to the games,” he said. “Leadership has been something we’ve lacked in the past. I think a lot of guys have stepped up and taken a leadership role.”
Defenders Must Be Versatile
USF’s main objective at this point is learning new systems on both sides of the ball and the Bulls’ defenders are expected to do a little bit of everything this spring.
USF is running mainly a 4-3 but defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is adding some 3-4 ingredients to the mix to see how the Bulls can adapt to situations.
“As a football coach, there’s not a big difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3. There is for an offensive line that has to make different changes in their run-blocking schemes and their protection calls,” Bresnahan said. “But to me, when you run the under defense and you run the 3-4 defense there are a lot of similarities. So in the spring, we’re going to primarily be a 4-3 but we’re going to expose them to 3-4 principles so we can see if we’ve got those types of people.”
Bresnahan didn’t want to single out standout performers so early into things but he’s been impressed with what the defensive unit brings to the table as a whole.
“The one thing that’s stood out right now is we are athletic and we can run, but we still have a big learning curve to go over as far as a new system,” he said.
Sophomores Stepping Up on Offense
Marcus Shaw continues to make a great first impression on coaches but the running back isn’t the only one stepping up on offense. New coordinator Walt Wells brought up junior receiver Andre Davis’ name and really likes what he’s seen from sophomores Sean Price and D’Vario Montgomery.
Price got off to a great start as a freshman, catching 21 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown, and the former prep Under Armour All-American continues to prove that he’s not your average tight end.
“He’s an athletic guy that can get open and be a mismatch on backers, even on safeties with his athletic ability,” Wells said. “But what surprises me is how quickly he’s learning our system and that’s what we really have to have.”
Montgomery gained 11 games of experience as a freshman and the receiver Taggart calls “a special talent” is gaining confidence in his pursuit of being a go-to guy in the fall.
“I’m learning most of the plays pretty well. Last year I got into the offense and I kind of knew it, but I wasn’t really rolling. I feel like this year I’m going to get rolling and get really good at what we do,” he said.
Montgomery’s ability to grasp USF’s new system early on is a welcomed sight for Wells, who said getting all the verbiage down is no easy task.
“Defense can have 10 guys go the wrong way and have one guy make a play because one guy on offense messed up,” he said. “We’re kind of there right now but we’re getting better and better. Our walkthrough this morning was the best one we’ve had as far as mental reps.”
Taggart Has High Expectations for the Quarterbacks
As expected, Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd have been the standouts at quarterback so far this spring while they undergo the most difficult learning process of all in the new system. Taggart, a former quarterback, wants things to be difficult on USF’s signal callers for a specific reason.
“We’re putting a lot on them right now and I think it’s important to put a lot on the quarterbacks. He’s going to have a lot on him during the game to execute at a high level,” Taggart said. “I tell those guys every day, ‘Just don’t make the same mistake twice. You come out here every single day and make a new mistake if there is going to be one and you’ll find yourself getting better.’”
A Look Ahead
USF is back on the practice field 8:30 a.m. Friday to prepare for the first scrimmage of the spring that starts 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Morsani Football Complex.
“We’ll start to formulate a depth chart later in the week and get a much better evaluation after Saturday’s scrimmage,” Bresnahan said.