SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF BULLS TRAINING CAMP : AUGUST 3
By Leo Haggerty

Are you ready for some football?  Today marks the opening of fall practice for the USF Bulls and It’s Sports Magazine is in the house.

Today we get a chance to talk to Head Coach Charlie Strong along with Offensive Tackle Eric Mayes plus defensive back Ronnie Hoggins.  Below are their responses to my questions after the initial workout.

All pictures throughout the entire article are provided for your enjoyment by Photojournalists Trace Crisp and Matt Crisp. Go Bulls.

HEAD COACH CHARLIE STRONG

LH : You may have the toughest job in all of college football this year when it comes to replacing a player.  How is “Life after Flowers” going so far?

CS : We can’t think about that now.  We lost a good player but now it’s time for another player to get their opportunity.  You are going to have some really good players pass through your university and there are going to be other good players behind them.  I’d like to think that we recruited well enough.  We may not be able to replace him this year but we just want guys to go out and execute.

LH : Where is the one position on offense and defense where you expect to see the most competition for playing time?

CS : You always think about receiver with all the guys that we get involved.  Also, at running back you’re going to have some good battles.  We are going to have some competition on defense as well.  The great thing about defense is on our defensive line.  We lost three guys but we have lots of guys fighting to get in there.  There’s Bronson and Livingstone and Price and Boyce and Pinckney.  You have to control the line of scrimmage.  If you can win that battle, then you have something.

LH : Does getting to a bowl game and winning set the tone for the following year?

CS : Yes especially the way we played in that bowl game.  We get behind and then we’re able to make a play or two at the end to win the game.  That carries over.  You get 11 wins two years ago and that leads to 10 wins last year.  That’s exciting and we’re excited to see where that leads the program to this year.

LH : Do you expect your defense to have to carry you through the first few games until your quarterbacks get their sea legs?

CS : Now, we have a pretty good offense.  If you look at running back, you have Mack and Cronkrite.  At wide receiver, you have McCants and Bronson.  At tight end, you have Wilcox.  On the offensive line, you get three guys back.  We are going to be pretty solid on offense.  We still have a good nucleus there.  Defensively, we took a hit.  We lost three guys up front.  Lose a bunch of guys in the secondary and you second leading tackler.  It time for us to step up.  I never want to look at us and say we’re rebuilding.  I look at it now that we have guys in place and it’s your turn now.

LH : Last year, with the devastation of Hurricane Irma and the passing of Mike Radamski, your program still found a way to succeed in a big way.  What did you learn about your players by the way they reacted to those obstacles?

CS : That was a special group last year.  You’re right.  We had the hurricane and then lost a young man who was very special to this program.  We go to the first game and we get down 16-0 right away.  Expectations were so high for us and this happens. I told our coaches let’s just stay calm.  Stay calm and let’s come back.  We didn’t panic.  There was no panic in us and then the way we battled all throughout the year.  We worked so hard and we had a couple of games that could have went either way for us.  With that group of guys, it was just special.  Now, with the seniors we have returning, I look for them to step up and lead.

LH : God calls you up tonight and says 10-2, do you take that or roll the dice?

CS : Right now, if he says 10-2, then I would have to take it.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE ERIC MAYES

LH : Have you got used to not seeing #9 extending plays yet?

EM : It’s different.  He sat me down at the end of last year that he was gone to move on to the NFL. It’s the next man up.  I feel we have a great group of players behind him.

LH : You’ve been a big part of the growth of USF into a Top 25 program.  Now, being a senior, how important is it for you to be that leader by example?

EM : I think we need to raise it even higher.  We still need to win our first conference championship.  That’s huge.

LH : The last two years, you’ve had double-digit wins and two bowl victories.  Is that the expectation again this year?

EM : Yes I am.  When I first came here, Coach T (Taggert) sat me down and told me what the plan was.  What he was trying to do here.  Then Coach Strong comes in and has kept the program moving forward.  I have a great relationship with Coach Strong.

LH : You think you could show a little more emotion next time you talk with the media?

EM : Come on.  I’m just an excited kind of guy.

You run plays at a ridiculous speed.  As a offensive lineman, how hard is that to get us to?

EM : It’s all about repetitions.  You get your body used to it.  You get a play in the huddle and then run it.  It’s just repetitions and your body adjusts to the speed.

CORNERBACK RONNIE HOGGINS

LH : Last year, as a team, USF had 20 interceptions. That ranked 2nd nationally, one behind Iowa.  Is the goal to lead the nation in interceptions this season?

RH : Absolutely.  That’s our goal. To be number one.

LH : You’re entering your senior year.  How important is it to continue the success that USF has enjoyed the last two years?

RH : That’s always the goal.  We want to win the conference championship.  That’s our goal every year and we need to get it done.

LH : The offense has to deal with the loss of QB Quinton Flowers.  The defense has to deal with the loss of Auggie Sanchez.  Have you got use to not seeing #43 on field with you yet?

RH : Yes, we miss those guys but we have guys now that are stepping up.  Guys come here and play ball and move on.  Now, we have another bunch of guys that are here and ready to play ball.