Sports

Bulls Linemen Making Strides, Embrace “The Team” Mentality

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O-Line drills at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex on Tuesday evening

O-Line drills at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex on Tuesday evening

Suzy Stark (photo: used with permission) Suzy Stark
Suzy Stark comes to Tampa Bay from the New York City market, where...
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TAMPA, Fla. – While USF won’t wear “The Team” on the backs of their jerseys, they still embrace a team-first mentality.

“It’s the rule. Our goal this whole offseason was to come together as a team and we’re still going to have the team mindset,” said Head Coach Willie Taggart. “Everything we do is as a team.”

A Bulls mock-up jersey emblazoned with “The Team” was revealed Monday, with Coach Taggart saying, “We’re all Bulls.” The original plan was to reveal the jersey the day before their season opener at home against Western Kentucky on August 30. After a USF equipment manager and the compliance office looked into it, they found “The Team” violates NCAA rule 1-4-5, Appendix E, which governs the design of jerseys. According to a memorandum sent to NCAA coaches and administrators on August 6, a jersey may only contain a player’s number or name, school name, the American or state flag, sleeve stripes, or a logo for the following: NCAA, school, conference, mascot, postseason-game, memorial or the military.

The Bulls instead will go without any name on the back of their jerseys.

Coach Taggart said he knows that a big part of taking over a program that’s been struggling is having the team come together, playing for and believing in one another. He said he not only doesn’t hear complaining anymore, but that he now sees the team working and having fun.

“If I need to go find a kid, I can go to the locker room and find him now, where in the past I couldn’t. I see a defensive back playing ping pong with a kicker, and not only is he playing ping pong with the kicker, he knows the kicker’s name,” Coach Taggart said.

Coach Taggart noted that some of those leading the team both on and off the field have been quarterback Mike White, receiver Andre Davis, center Austin Reiter and defensive tackle Todd Chandler.

The offensive and defensive lines have really come together since the spring and into training camp. The O-Line has impressed coaches by opening up lanes for the backs, and Reiter is playing like he’s in the NFL, calling out the defensive players whom his teammates need to take.

“We have a lot of great guys on the defensive line, so when we get to go to work against those guys every day, that just makes us better. And their pass rush right now is really good; that’s something we can get better at,” said Reiter.

“Every day we’re coming out competing,” Chandler said. “Coach’s made it very clear that there’s no starting roles right now. Everybody needs to compete for a job. Just to see everybody come out with high emotions, just getting after it is great.”

Chandler also echoed Coach Taggart’s sentiments, noting that the growth of both lines can be traced back to bonding off the field.

“The real relationship and the real brotherhood goes on in the locker room,” Chandler added. “That’s where the greatest moments happen.”

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