SHOOTING THE BULL – CINCINNATI – OCTOBER 3
By Leo Haggerty
South Florida hits the road again to start their American Athletic Conference campaign. USF heads north to play Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT.
The Bulls come into the contest at 1-1 on the season with their last tilt a road lost to Notre Dame. The Bearcats are 2-0 in 2020 with their latest game being a home win over Army.
Had a chance to catch up with the Green & Gold’s HC Jeff Scott. Below are his answers to my three questions concerning how South Florida plans to come away with a win against one of the toughest programs in the AAC.
One thing the media has learned about Coach Scott is that, when you ask a question, you won’t get a one-word answer as you will see when you read his comments. Enjoy.
LH :There were reports that Luke Fickell turned down the Michigan State job. He must think he has a heck of a program there at Cincinnati. What are you seeing on film?
JS : He may have better players at Cincinnati than he would at other jobs. He’s done an excellent job. I’ve admired his work for years when I was at Clemson and he was at Ohio State. He has a great reputation as a ball coach. Also, now as a head coach and a leader. To someone like myself, who is just joining the American Conference in my first-year as a head coach and getting our program going under my leadership, I’ve taken some time to study some of the coaches in our league especially the ones who have been very successful. Coach Fickell is right up there at the top. Back-to-back 11 win seasons the last two years in this conference is very impressive. When you turn on the video, you see that. You see a program that’s in year four of a championship-winning culture that does all the little things right. He’s recruited extremely well either guys from high school or adding quality transfer guys. When I look at their team, it’s something that I want our program to look like one day. Coming off multiple 11-win seasons would be a vehicle for myself and our program.
LH : Because of the situation with Covid-19, has the AAC allowed you to travel with an expanded roster to away games?
JS : As far as I know, we have one of the highest limits of all conferences. Maybe some of the other conferences may have changed but our limit is 72. I think all of our coaches felt comfortable with that decision that was made. As far as I know, we didn’t actually have a limit for travelling in our conference. I think, that with everything going on with Covid, we needed to have a number on it so we could keep control of certain things. So, we went with going with the highest limit at the time which was 72. Maybe, the ACC I might have heard, went up to 80. I’m just trying to find 72 guys to put on the plane that know what we’re doing. That’s not an issue for us right now.
LH : Normally, you get your team together at a pregame meal or after practice at training table or study table. Now you don’t have that. How much of a problem is that just from a standpoint of staying in touch with your players?
JS : Yeah, like you said, it’s unique. We don’t get to do a lot of things that we typically get to do. When you come from a spot, for maybe two-and-a-half or three months, where you didn’t get a chance to see them in person at all, right. The only time we got to see them was behind a computer screen. So just being able to see them at practice and in the meetings and, obviously, when we travel, you don’t take that for granted, for sure. Yeah, we want more time together. How we meet and all the other things just aren’t ideal. We are fortunate that we have the Yuengling Center right across the parking lot so we can actually have team meetings especially special team meetings. We spread out over an entire one side of the Yuengling Center. We’re fortunate that we have that right here so we can do that. We haven’t met in the team room here all year, at all, with the entire team. That’s definitely a challenge. Then, like you said, the meals all have to be scheduled out at different times. It all runs together. It is what it is. Really, the only way you can make it through as a coach and a player is to really come to the realization that it’s just going to be a challenging year. We have two decisions to make, right? We are going to be going through this regardless. We can have a positive attitude about it and, every challenge we get, just smile. Say good because it gives somebody else an opportunity or we can absolutely make ourselves miserable and make our players miserable, right. It’s like throwing up. It may make you feel better but it doesn’t make everyone else feel better. I’m just really pleased because, not only do I have a new staff and, for a a majority of these guys, it’s the first time I ever worked with them. I’m getting to know them and they’re getting to know me and to have the first year together going through this. And for our guys to be positive. I feel for Coach Glenn Spencer. That’s who I feel for. Charlie Weis and Danny Da Prato. Our coordinators because they have pride. They take pride in the product that they put on the field, right. These guys have coached, especially Coach Spencer, a long time. Now, what we’re dealing with, we are just trying to get to a good place. We could have a scenario where one of the guys was the scout team quarterback in the beginning of the week and now be second team on defense at the end of the week. That’s a very realistic scenario that we can talk about after the game. These guys, the coaches, have handled it. They have handled it very, very well. The other thing is that we know we have a lot more left, all right. We know, for sure, the rest of this year and we don’t have any guarantees on 2021. So, really, we just try to take every day for what it is and have a good attitude about it. The last thing I would say is that I’m really pleased with our players. How they have handled it with their attitude. It’s hard. It’s hard when you worked hard and come back. We have one player that’s been out two weeks for contact tracing and, then he came back because his roommate had tested positive, in one day he tested positive. He’s missed 17 days. He’s had one day of practice in five weeks and he was a starter on our team. Man, you just feel for those guys. Our guys, up to this point, have handled it about as good as you can. I just hoping, more than for my success or our staff or for our university, I’m hoping we can have some success Saturday, and this year, to make up for what these guys have been through this year. Let them have some great experiences. I do feel like, at some point this year, we are going to have some special moments so it makes it feel like it was all worth it at the end.