TAMPA, Fla. – The USF football team hit the fields at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex on Saturday, about 20 minutes behind schedule due to a lightning delay. On the Bulls’ sixth day of training camp and second session in full pads, the team headed back to the locker room an hour later for 40 minutes with a second weather delay. Despite the postponements, Head Coach Willie Taggart said the squad got in what they needed, introducing a 7-on-7 period in addition to live tackling.
“We had a lot of guys step up and make plays. Young guys made plays, [freshman cornerback] Devin Abraham once again making plays, [freshman cornerback] Tajee Fullwood making plays for us back there on the secondary. Saw some of the other young guys, [freshmen] Juwuan Brown at linebacker making plays in there, D’Ernest Johnson at running back had some nice runs in there,” Coach Taggart noted.
Taggart likes the competition between the secondary. During the 11-on-11 play at the end of practice, Abraham grabbed a tipped pass off of redshirt-freshman quarterback Evan Wilson, and ran it back 50 yards for the pick-six. Fullwood intercepted a pass from freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers, running back a 70-yard touchdown.
As far as whether junior Steven Bench or sophomore Mike White will land the starting signal-calling job, Coach Taggart said that won’t be decided any time soon.
“Both those guys are getting reps with the ones and the twos. What we’re looking for is consistency and a guy that’s going to take care of the football. Athletically, I think they both can do it. I want to see someone who can lead our offense down the field, and we need to see that on a daily basis,” said Taggart.
White connected with senior receiver Deonte Welch for a touchdown. Coach Taggart said Welch and senior receiver Andre Davis have shown they’re big play makers. Eric Dungy, who graduated from Oregon in May and will play his final year of eligibility at USF, also impressed coach Taggart with his physicality, blocking and making a few catches on the day. Dungy, son of NFL legend Tony Dungy, was part of Plant High School’s three-time state championship squad that amassed a 17-1 postseason record across four seasons.
Davis, meanwhile, is poised to break several records this season. Last year, the receiver posted a USF season record with 735 receiving yards on a team-high 49 receptions, tying for a fourth-best all-time record. Davis also became the first Bulls player to post three-straight 100-yard receiving games. And first-year USF Wide Receivers Coach Ron Dugens’s expectations for Davis are very high.
“[He’s a] great player. He’s made some really good catches in the spring and he’s done some really good things here in camp,” said Dugens. “[But] there’s a few things he needs to work on. He’ll get a good catch, [then] get tackled. But now I’m trying to get him to work on some of the technique and fundamental stuff at the line of scrimmage, so he can catch it and score touchdowns.”
Coach Dugens played at the wide receiver position for Florida State and the Cincinnati Bengals and previously coached for those two teams as well as at Georgia Southern and Louisville. His detail-oriented philosophy includes working on release drills, saying the first part of a route starts at the line of scrimmage. Coach Dugens stresses using both hands and eyes.
For Davis, he said the main thing he wants to accomplish this season is to be a leader and positive influence on the younger guys both on and off the field, and to get USF football back on track.
“What I’m really focused on is coming out here, having a winning season, going to a bowl game. I feel like the seniors deserve it. Things haven’t been as good as I want, and I feel like the records are going to come but I’m really not worried about them,” Davis said.
After each practice, Coach Taggart said he likes to pick out a specific element for the team to learn from. Saturday’s lesson came when sophomore running back, Darius Tice, ran in a score through traffic from 15 yards out; Coach Taggart threw a flag for excessive celebration, loudly scolding Tice.
“When we do it in practice, I’m going to make a big deal because the official’s going to make a big deal about it this season. They’re putting a big emphasis on celebrating and we can’t do that. We’ve got to learn how to score touchdowns and find our teammates and celebrate together.”
The Bulls meet for their first two-a-day on Sunday. The remaining training camp practices are closed to the public.