USF Receiver Group Becoming a 'Monster'
POST PRACTICE INTERVIEWS
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, MARCH 30, 2016 – It’s a good time to be a quarterback at USF with all the weapons signal-callers have to work with this spring.
Record-breaking senior Rodney Adams is preparing for his final run with the Bulls and the receiver group is as deep as it’s ever been since fourth-year head coach Willie Taggart took over the program.
“Any one of those guys we can get the ball to and they can go the distance for us. It’s only going to help us out offensively,” Taggart said after practice Wednesday.
Adams is sprinting downfield as a confident No. 1 threat after setting new USF season records with 822 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2015.
Adams has plenty of help at receiver this spring with a talented cast of 15 players that includes newcomer Marquez Valdes-Scantling and returners Chris Barr, Tyre McCants, Ryeshene Bronson, Jordan Reed and A.J. Legree.
“Each receiver brings their own different type of technique, different type of background,” McCants said. “I think each of them combines together to make what we call in the receiver room a ‘monster.’ We’re just a big monster because each person brings their own style.”
The man in charge of making the group into even more of a beast is new co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach T.J. Weist. The former interim head coach at UConn has coached receivers at eight programs including Western Kentucky, where he worked alongside Taggart for six seasons.
“Coach Weist is very detailed,” Adams said. “If you’re one inch off he’s going to tell you because he knows. He’s a really good coach. He’s teaching us a lot and he’s going to have us prepared for this year.”
Weist was instantly impressed with the deep roster of players he has to work with when he arrived at USF. Five practices into spring, Weist has been happy with the production from his group that’s equipped with valuable experience.
Valdes-Scantling started to learn USF’s fast-paced Gulf Coast offense on the scout team last season and the junior has been thriving with the main group this spring. The NC State transfer has used his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to make tough catches for first downs along with several deep receptions for touchdowns. Valdes-Scantling has been doing it all alongside Adams, his former teammate at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg.
“If you watch the film on him, he’s a playmaker and he knows what he’s doing,” Weist said. “Now he’s just got to get into the groove of catching balls from our quarterbacks and learning our offense, which he’s doing a good job at.”
Valdes-Scantling can get pointers on USF’s up-tempo offense from a number of returning receivers that helped the program set new season records with 5,741 total yards and 54 touchdowns in 2015. Adams, McCants, Barr, Bronson, Reed and Legree all have a full year of experience in the Gulf Coast offense and it’s showing with more precision in practice this spring.
“If we continue to get better and continue to keep moving in the right direction, it’s going to be really dynamic out there,” Taggart said.
Healthy McCants Ready to ‘Do Something’
Tyre McCants accounted for two of USF’s 26 touchdown receptions last season as a redshirt freshman after coming back from an ACL injury.
“Last year there were a lot of times where cutting and planting, that kind of bothered me a little bit,” he said. “But this year I feel a lot stronger. I feel I can come out of my breaks better. I feel I can burst down the field more.”
The former three-star recruit from Niceville, Fla., has emerged as one of USF’s top deep threats this spring by catching TD passes from all three of USF’s quarterbacks. McCants showed the nation his ability last season with 88 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Miami Beach Bowl.
“This year I’m just trying to find ways to fit into the system and going out there and making plays,” he said. “Like coaches say, ‘Do something,’ every time I come out. Every time I wake up, every time I come out, that’s what I think about.”
‘Bull Sharks’ Deliver for Taggart
USF’s “Bull Sharks” defense delivered just what Taggart asked for with several interceptions during team work on Wednesday.
Nate Ferguson, Malik Dixon, Mazzi Wilkins and Lamar Robbins each had a pick in the red zone. Defensive tackle Juwuan Brown also got into the act with an interception on a pass he deflected at the line.
“We want to be known for taking the ball away from the offense,” Taggart said. “We stressed that a lot Monday and it was good to see these guys come out and get a lot of turnovers. I want them to get excited about it.”
Former Players Continue to Support the Bulls
USF has had at least one former player at each practice this spring and Taggart is all about it.
“We’ve been trying to do this since Day 1 when we got here,” Taggart said. “We’re such a young program and I think that’s another way that we’re going to help build our program here.”
“Getting them back, our guys see them and get to know them,” Taggart said. “That’s so important in building a program and we want them all to come back. It’s their school, they helped build it, and it’s something they can be proud of as well.”
Other receivers made an impact with touchdown catches at practice Wednesday. Sophomore Chase Whitehead caught a 45-yard TD pass from Asiantii Woulard during 11-on-11 work. Redshirt freshman Deangelo Antoine hauled in a short pass from Brett Kean and took it the distance.
USF returning trio of running backs Marlon Mack, D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice accounted for 13 rushing touchdowns last season. Johnson continues to show great field vision this spring and scored on a 15-yard run during team work Wednesday.
A Look Ahead
USF is back on the practice field 9 a.m. Friday at the Morsani Football Complex. Fans are welcome to watch all of USF’s spring practices and the April 16 spring game at Corbett Stadium on campus. Check out the full schedule HERE.
Coming off the program’s first bowl appearance in five years, USF returns school season record holders at quarterback, running back and wide receiver and four all-conference selections. The Bulls return 98 percent of rushing, 93 percent of passing and 86 percent of receiving yardage from a record smashing offense that posted school-records of 5,741 yards and 54 offensive touchdowns in 2015.
While the Bulls averaged 33.6 points and 441 yards of offense per game, the defense ranked in the Top 25 in the nation in interceptions (14th), turnovers gained (24th), and tackles for loss (13th), and in the top 35 of seven statistical categories. The Bulls return five of their top six tacklers (seven of the top 10) and players that accounted for 12 of their 17 interceptions and 16 of 25 turnovers gained.
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