SIGHTS & SOUNDS OF BULLS FALL PRACTICE – AUGUST 20
By Leo Haggerty
WEEK 2 IN REVIEW
The Green and Gold finished their second week of fall practice on a sad note. Former legendary Florida State football coach and college football sports icon, Bobby Bowden, passed away on August 8th at the age of 91.
HC Jeff Scott, as you’ll see from his answers to my questions below, had a close personal relationship with Coach Bowden. His father, Brad Scott, spend 11 years on the Seminole staff and Jeff, basically, grew up in Tallahassee during Coach Bowden’s tenure. Plus, I had a chance to talk with the Bulls head honcho on two different occasions this week. Also, I got the opportunity to talk with all four quarterbacks starting with Cade Fortin followed by Timmy McClain then Katravis Marsh and Jarren Williams. Then, got to speak with OL Donovan Jennings plus CB Christian Williams as well as DT Blake Green. Finally, we have commentary from DC Glenn Spencer along with S Will Jones plus DE Rashawn Yates along with DT Thad Mangum.
If you’re a new reader to our Sights and Sounds of Bulls Fall Practice, you have surmised that I usually ask the same question of the athletes that I interview. I feel that gives you, the reader, a good cross section of what the South Florida players are thinking.
As you can see, we at Its Sports Magazine get tremendous access to coaches and players along with staff at USF. I want to thank Brian Segrist, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications, for making this happen. Also, all pictures by photo journalist Matt Crisp. Enjoy.
LH : In all three phases of the game, are you where you expected to be at this time of fall practice?
JS : I’ll take it. As unusual as the last 18 months have been, I don’t know I can tell you exactly what I intended to expect. To be honest, I don’t think that’s just here but it’s at all fall camps. Literally, the last time we were on the field with them was back in April. There’s a lot that been going on like their workouts in the summer and such. As a coach, that’s why fall camp is so much fun because you get to go out there and see it all develop. I told our players are we ready to go right now and play. Absolutely not but we have three weeks from Thursday before we kick it off. I’m definitely pleased at where we are after six days. We still have a week and a half of fall camp to go and still have a lot of work to do. I didn’t go in with any preconceived notions as to where we would be at fall camp. Each year is different. Each team is different. I just think, overall, it’s the attitude and mindset and focus and leadership is, maybe, a little bit farther ahead then where we would be this early in camp and that’s a tribute to our players. It’s not something that’s faked by putting a smile on your face. These guys are serious about it. They understand that we have a lot of work to do and they really bought in. That encourages me and our staff to show up every day and do everything we can do to help them.
LH : When you talk about the men that worked for Coach Bowden, the one thing that resonates through all of them is that he let us coach. He didn’t just sit there and micromanage. Has that had an effect on how you coach?
JS : Yeah, I definitely watched Coach Bowden. He did a great job. I feel very fortunate because, not only did I watch Coach Bobby Bowden but I played for Tommy Bowden and then I coached under Coach Swinney for 12 years. Coach Swinney has a lot of the same qualities and traits. Kind of a modern day Bobby Bowden, if you will, in a lot of ways. What I observed, watching Coach Bowden, is that he knew everything that was going on. He could coach all the positions. He would take his notes at practice and then, he would go into staff meetings, he would give the feedback to the coaches on things he thought they could do to improve their players. Then, he would let them go in and teach it and let them go in and coach it. He wouldn’t come out at practice and move the coaches out of the way and try to take over. I think there’s a lot to that. You hire coaches to do a job. Yes, you’re going to coach your coaches, and give instruction but you have to allow them to coach and develop their rapport with their players. There’s a ton of qualities. For me, I kind of got it both ways. Watching Coach Bowden for so many years and then playing for his son. My dad, who learned pretty much everything about coaching from Coach Bowden, I watched every day of my life and there’s a lot of things that I don’t even recognize. I was watching a video on Sunday with my dad from 1986. It was some year long show that they put together of Coach Bowden and it was kind of fun to watch. Literally, the kind of cards that he was holding in practice in 1986 were these exact same cards that I have here. All right, so that’s where we got these from and still here how many years later. I’m sure there’s plenty of things. We talked about our Highway Manuel, our book, and there’s stuff in that book that came from Coach Bowden years ago.
LH : Today, a majority of the rules favor the offense. To hold a team in the 20s is now considered pretty good defensively. Does that put a lot of pressure on your offense knowing that we have to get 30 because the other team is going to score?
JS : That’s what college football has become. If you look at Alabama, who’s one of the best defensive football teams in the country, and now they’re one of the leading offenses. You have got to score a bunch of points. I think that’s anywhere in college football and, if you look at our league, we are known for very powerful offenses. There’s not many games in our league, or in college football right now, that are 14-9. They’re those 45-37 type deals. Honestly, we want to do everything we can to play great defense and, ultimately, that’s what it comes down to it. Look at our last game last year. We scored a bunch of points but we didn’t score enough because we gave up too many points. As a coach, you have to build your offense knowing that. We have to score a bunch of points to win games in this league. I’m excited about our group. I feel really good about our quarterback group and our skilled guys. We have some talented young guys to add to the guys that we have. I’m really optimistic that we’re going to show a lot of improvement on offense this year.
LH : Last year, there we times that you couldn’t even put up a two deep roster on the board. How nice is it to be able to put one up today?
JS : It’s great, absolutely. I feel like last year, and it wasn’t just us. It was everybody was going through the same thing and you were more of a manager last year. You were managing situations and managing practice. Literally, just trying to get enough guys to go and coach when you can. Now, we’re able to coach and it feels great. We got a full team out there. I know myself, and our staff, gets fired up to get over here and getting on the field with the guys and I hope that will continue here.
LH : Normally, when you start fall practice, the defense is ahead of the offense. Are you finding that out to be true here?
JS : Yes, and if that’s not the case, it’s usually not a good sign. I was definitely pleased. It was what I wanted to see. Our offense did make a lot of plays in practice and we’ll see how the defense responds. I have to say that the defense, definitely, was ahead the majority of the day but the offense did come back in the fourth quarter. We did a two minute drive with both the first group and the second group. The first group was out there for the first three plays and only gained a yard. Then, on fourth-and-9, they hit a 12-yard pass completion and went down and getting the game winning field goal. The second group went down and scored as well. It was good to see the offense respond there at the end. When we got into short yardage, goal line, at the very end the offense did do a nice job. They were disappointing in the first three quarters of the scrimmage but it was good to see them finish the right way at the end.
LH : What’s your favorite route to throw?
CF : Yes, I definitely have some routes that I enjoy throwing. I think, more so, it’s the concepts that we run that I enjoy. So, everyday that I’m working at practice, when I’m working with my guys on the field, I like to figure out what those concepts are. I enjoy like some smash concepts where you go high-low on the corner and you can read it. It gets me in a rhythm. Those concepts right there and I got a couple of guys that are really good at running those routes. It’s good for us against a lot of coverages. It’s something I definitely enjoy.
TM : Yes sir. It’s the corner-post. I’ve been throwing that since high school. That’s my favorite route to throw.
KM : I like to throw the post. The post but anything you put out there in front of me I’ll throw it.
JW : I really like throwing the hitch to the slot into the boundary with the outside receiver rolling to around 14 yards. You get a high-low read on that backer. If he squeezes, you throw behind him. If he doesn’t, you just pop it out to the hitch. That’s easy money. That’s my favorite play. I’ve been running it it high school and in college. Even run it here. That’s my favorite concept because I get a quick read. If it’s cloudy, you can always go to the field where you have the smash concept. It all depends on what the defense gives you but there’s answers everywhere.
LH : When you sat down before fall practice, what’s the one thing you put on your bulletin board that you had to improve?
DJ : Really, just connecting with the freshmen. Connecting them to the team. Making sure that we’re all on the same page and building that team chemistry. Making sure that no one is left behind. For myself, and the whole offensive line, to step up and improve my craft. To be the best at practice and to improve every day and not to be out so much. I love my team. Better team chemistry and making sure we all are working together. I have a high school teammate here now in Andrew Kilffoyl. Gaither Pride. Even though he’s young, the sky’s the limit. He comes here and he works to get better. I’m so happy to see a guy from my alma mater, my high school, come out here with me. It’s so refreshing to see him put in the work to get better.
CW : I think that’s consistency. Making plays and it’s not about how often you make plays but how often you get the technique right and get in the right spot. Honestly, it’s consistency. You’re the same player ever play.
BG : On thing that I thought I had to get better at was being consistent and my get off the ball. I wanted to be consistent and always get off the ball as fast as possible. I feel that was my main goal that would lead to me having a good year.
LH : When you and Coach Scott, as well as the rest of your defensive staff, sat down before fall practice, what were the one or two things that were at the top of your list that you need to improve on to get better and win games?
GS : That’s easy. The first, obviously, would be to stop the run. I know that everybody says that but we need to specifically define how we are going to do that. We didn’t stop the run game and we need to determine how that happened. If you can’t stop the run you have to, at least, force the offense to throw the ball to consistently beat you. So, we need to be better at the point of attack. Better adjustments off motions. No one just sits in an offensive formation any more. They are constantly moving. That means there’s a lack of adjustment times and, scheme wise, we were so much over our head last year. After self scouting, we found that we have to be move aggressive with situations on the field. Improved tackling is huge and, then, establish better rush lanes. It might not just be defensive lineman but it might be linebackers too. The second is we have to get a better pass rush. In our scheme, we are dropping eight with eyes on the quarterback. The guys in the back have to do a better job of management. If we rush more than three or four, like five, they are going to have to get there. We have to do a better job on the pass rush.
LH ; When you look at what’s going on with NCAA football now, the majority of the rules favor the offense. Has it got to a point where you’re holding a team under 20 points has become a good defensive game?
GS : You know, it all works together. It depends on what type of offense you’re facing and what type of offense that you have. Being in the Big 12 for so many years, there’s an importance on offense and their defenses are going to be on the field for a while. Obviously, the other team’s offense is going to have a lot more opportunities to score. That’s just how it is. If you remember what I said in the past, when it comes to points, you have to measure it, defensively, against like a team that runs the triple option which is a possession offense. Now, if we’re playing against a team that does what we do on offense, and that’s what we choose to do to win games, and someone comes up to me and says that you gave up 28 or 30 points. Well, if someone has 19 possessions, and you’re going at a rapid pace, your points per possession may be better than on one Saturday where you gave up 20. Yeah, you held them down then but, in the other game on the field, you may have had a lot more stops than they did. It’s complimentary football. You just have to adjust how many reps and how stretched your defense is when someone is moving the ball. You better have a lot move turnovers if they’re getting a lot of opportunities. If they have 85 or 90 reps a game, you better have some stops and some turnovers too. So, that’s a long answer to your question. I guess I just have to say that you can’t just go totally by the number of points a team gives up to determine if they had a good game.
LH : I had a chance to sit down with Marcus Trufant, a 10- year former NFL cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks, and I asked him what’s the most important thing you have to have to be a great pass defense. Without hesitation, he said a pass rush. Can you be a good pass defense without having a consistent pass rush?
GS : They both have to compliment each other. When you decide to rush, to bring 5 or 6, the rush better get there. There’s times when they’re not, the back end has to be stronger and have eyes on the quarterback. You have to constantly change things up. Obviously, if you can find four guys, with down and distance, that can give you a pass rush, great. With 1st-and-10 and 2nd-and-8 with four guys, that just doesn’t happen. Things happen fast now especially with the quarterback run game that you have to stop. I think what you’re talking about is doing that on the money down. If you can do that with four, and put an extra couple of guys into coverage, that’s great. You have to put pressure on the quarterback and, to answer you’re question, yes. A great pass rush really is the best friend of the secondary. When you’re playing coverage, the advantage goes to the DBs in coverage if you have that great pass rush. That keeps the stress level down on the defense.
LH : When you sat down before fall practice, what’s the one thing you put on your bulletin board that you had to improve?
WJ : Really, knowing the scheme and my job as well as my teammate next to me. That way I can get the whole picture. Then I can get lined up and execute my job. Execution is the key.
RY : I would say all around as opposed to one specific thing. I want to get better at everything, really. I have to get better at everything that I do. I wasn’t really one thing. It’s everything.
TM : Personally, I fell like my leadership especially coming off last year. I just wanted to make my presence known. So, this year, just being more vocal and being a leader.