Bulls Ready to Put on Show for Fans at Spring Game
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA, APRIL 14, 2017 – USF has made great strides in all aspects of the game under new head coach Charlie Strong through 14 productive spring practices.
Now it’s time for the Bulls to put on a show.
Proven stars and potential breakout playmakers will showcase their skills during Saturday’s spring game at Corbett Stadium, the on-campus home of USF soccer. Action begins at 4 p.m. and the Bulls are anxious to show fans how far they’ve come since capping off last season’s 11-2 run with a Birmingham Bowl victory. Learn about all the fun festivities surrounding the game HERE.
“I’d love for the crowd to come out tomorrow and just give us the support,” Strong said after Friday’s practice. “They players here, they really deserve it. They’ve had an outstanding spring, they’ve worked very hard and their attitude is right. It’s a team that won 11 games last season and a team that right now is looking to get better. There’s no complacency here right now.”
Players instantly bought into Strong’s philosophy when he arrived in December and the result has been steady progress throughout the spring. All of that was accomplished while the Bulls got to know an almost entirely new coaching staff that brought fresh approaches to both sides of the ball.
“It was a great opportunity to get a feel for the coaches and understand what they want from the team, and what we want from the team as players,” said senior running back Darius Tice (Miami).
Fans that got used to USF’s up-tempo attack on offense better buckle up because things have gotten even faster with new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s style that features more downhill running and deeper passes. Defensively, a group full of veteran talent is playing with more of an edge under new coordinator Brian Jean-Mary.
“The defense wants to make the big plays over here this year,” said all-conference cornerback Deatrick Nichols (Miami).
Regardless of what side of the ball shines most Saturday, the Bulls as a whole are happy with what they’ve done since Strong took over the program.
“We came out this spring and we accomplished our goal to get better,” Tice said. “We had fun and got better every day.”
Spurrier Attends Practice
USF’s memorable week of practice started with visits from Tony Dungy and former associate head coach Dan McCarney on Tuesday. Read more about that HERE.
Star power continued on the sidelines Friday with a special appearance from Steve Spurrier.
“Whenever you can have someone like coach show up, the players and everyone knows who he is,” Strong said. “It’s just good to have him at practice.”
Friday served as a reunion of sorts for Strong, who coached Spurrier’s outside linebackers at Florida from 1988-89. After a season at Ole Miss, Strong continued his working relationship with Spurrier for four more seasons and was promoted to associate head coach of the Gators in 1994.
While Strong did his thing with the defense, he continued to marvel at Spurrier’s ability to “change college football” with his pass-happy Fun ‘n’ Gun offense.
“If you think about it, it was 3 yards and a cloud of dust. It was third-and-1 and he gets out there and spreads people out and gets the ball into athletes’ hands,” Strong said. “The passing game really evolved and he was behind all of it. I just have a ton of respect for him.”
Spring Game Rosters Set
Make sure you pick up a program Saturday because stars and emerging talent have been split up into two separate teams.
Much to the players’ delight, Strong has continued allowing USF to draft teams prior to the spring game.
“That’s like a tradition here,” Deatrick Nichols said. “I appreciate Coach Strong keeping it for us because we like it. The draft is a kid’s dream and we just keep living the dream.”
Especially the biggest Bulls on the roster.
Offensive and defensive linemen were a big part of the draft process that consisted of teams picking 14 players apiece before the rest were assigned to a squad. Draft day took place in the team’s state-of-the-art meeting room and the speakers bumped music after each name was called.
“Anybody getting drafted, we were just getting hyped,” Darius Tice said. “It was really fun to see the O-linemen go off the board and the jokes and the celebrations when someone gets drafted.”
Like the draft, USF is making sure another spring game tradition continues – trash talking - and the Bulls were just getting warmed up Friday evening.
“There’s been a little noise talking but not enough,” Tice said. “I’m going to instigate some of that and get that going a little more.”
USF finished the 2016 season ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll with a school record 11 wins following the program’s fifth-ever bowl victory in the Birmingham Bowl. The Bulls’ 11-2 record marked the fifth-best winning percentage in FBS football in 2016 and one of just 11 teams to reach 11 wins. USF set nearly 40 team and individual records in 2016, including team records for total yards (6,650), rushing yards (3,714), touchdowns (77) and scoring (569). Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and led a school-record 10 players named to the all-conference team, six of which, including Flowers, will return in 2017.
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