SIGHTS & SOUNDS OF BULLS FALL PRACTICE – AUGUST 30
By Leo Haggerty
WEEK 4 IN REVIEW
As South Florida comes to the end of their fall practices, the most notable information coming out of USF is the naming of a starting quarterback. After a very competitive battle, HC Jeff Scott announced that Cade Fortin has emerged as the heir to the signal calling position for the Green & Gold.
Had a chance to chat with Scott and Fortin along with OL Donovan Jennings plus WR Xavier Weaver. Below are their answers to my queries. Enjoy.
LH : Today was a shell day at practice. Was that planned?
JS : Yeah. With the new rules for preseason camp, even though school has started, we are still under the preseason camp guidelines. 25 practices and a certain number can be padded practices. We go in shell because of the limited number of full padded practices and the number of days we can go in helmets. We sit down, at the beginning of the summer, and put that all down on paper and then execute that plan. We’ll be in full tomorrow and we’ll do a walk through on Thursday. Will be in shells on Friday and then we’ll have our mock game at RayJay on Saturday evening.
LH : Anytime you practice and you’re not in full pads, etiquette is huge. How important is it to get that message across to your players that don’t take anybody to the ground and stay above the waist?
JS : That’s a big part of learning how to practice. We’ve improved a lot this fall camp as to where we were a year ago. You’re always concerned. You don’t want to lose anyone to any type of injury in unneeded contact situations. Whenever we’re in shells, we aren’t going live to the ground. In fact, there are very few periods that you go live to the ground at fall camp. You kind of pick and choose those periods during the live practices. It’s really modeling after the NFL. They do a great job of not going to the ground. It takes more of an athlete, and an athletic move, to play full speed and wrap up and stay off the ground. We don’t want someone to dive in and land on shoulders and ankles. That’s something we talk about along with protecting the quarterback during those situations.
LH : The biggest complain that NFL coaches have is tackling because they really can’t work on it at practice. Do you feel you have the same problem and that it may carry over to a game or two until players realize game speed?
JS :Is there a difference from what it was 15 years ago? Absolutely. You really have to pick and choose. We’ve really been fortunate with what happened in our last scrimmage. We got after it pretty good with a lot of live reps and, actually, we didn’t have any major injuries in that last scrimmage. Yeah, and it’s been that way for a while. All of the years that I was am Clemson, you have to pick and choose. We do tackling drills. We have different dummies and bags and all sorts of things. Even when we aren’t working on tackling, we want to get into the proper athletic position. It’s definitely a concern but it’s something we have to adjust to among other things.
LH : How hard is to work on special teams like punt block and field goal block?
JS : Well, we have a plan and we work through that. You start with your punt team. That’s the main point of emphasis because, if you don’t learn how to protect your punter, the game is going to be over pretty quick. It the same on field goal protection. That’s always a priority. Once you get those things stable, then you start working on punt block and field goal block. That’s kind of where we are over the last week. We’ve really been emphasizing it a little bit more and doing a good job. Coach Da Prado, our Special Teams Coordinator, does an excellent job with our special teams. Very detailed and organized and involved with a lot of guys. I’ve been pleased with the progress that we made so far. We still have a little bit of work to do in the next week and a half.
LH : First snap in Raleigh Thursday night won’t be your first because you already played the Wolfpack there. You try to remain calm when you walk into the huddle but your emotions have to be going every which way. How do you control that?
CF : Yeah, you know, it’s going to be like the scenario when I got my first start at North Carolina. I think it all goes back to that first play. That first play when you see that first completion. When you get that first hit and you get a feel for the speed of the game. The butterflies and the nervousness goes away. It’s going to be a big crowd and they’re going to be loud. I’ll be locked in. We’re going to have to communicate very well to play in that stadium. I’m just excited to get out there and compete.
LH : With the depth here at South Florida, there’s a pretty good chance that you could substitute for all five skilled positions from one down to the next. Are there times where you have to look around and get a mental image of who does what and why?
CF : Yes, sir. I think that goes back to the off season and the work that we put in. Just learning about these guys and how they run routes. We have a lot of guys that are very versatile in the way that they approach the game. Some guys are going to go up and get it. Some guys are going to outrun other players. It just comes down to where these guys fit in and what routes they run and how they do it. Yeah, I have to know in the back of my head that this guy is a little faster so, maybe, I’m going to put it up over the top. Yeah, it’s definitely something that I have to pay attention to and something I have to work on. Building that kind of chemistry. I don’t think will have a problem.
LH : You’re heading up to Carter-Finley Stadium to play North Carolina State for your first game in over a year in front of fans. You’ll be trying to act calm but, in you’re brain, you’re doing back flips. How do you control that?
DJ : No, I’ll be able to control it and keep my composure. Just have to remember to be in the moment and stay in the moment. It may be a little crazy for my first snap but, after that, I’ll be ok. It’s time to go up there and show what my team can do.
LH : Last year was like a revolving door. Guys got game experience that they didn’t even expect to get. Will that help those players improve this year with having that game experience from last year?
DJ : Yeah, it was pretty tough last year because we had players that didn’t even expect to play getting reps. Believe it or not, that eases players minds now knowing that we’ve done this already multiple times. In the long run I think it will help us a lot.
LH : You get into the huddle for your first play against the Wolfpack. You got to look like you’re cool and calm and collected outside but inside you’re ready to explode. How do you control that?
XW : I would say that I really don’t really think about that too much. I’ve been playing since my freshman year and I’ve been around big stadiums. I don’t really look at all that outer noise. I just go out and play the game and don’t think about other stuff too much.
LH : Is it nice to know that, with the depth you have a wide receiver, you may come out for a play or two but I’m going to get back in?
XW : It is. It is. Great rotation. Great rotation.
All images courtesy of our excellent photo journalist Matt Crisp. Enjoy.