By Leo Haggerty


The week started by attended the Tuesday morning presser with my photo journalist Matt Crisp at the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center on the campus of the University of South Florida.  Had a chance to talk with HC Jeff Scott along with RB Darrian Felix and DE Rashawn Yates.

LH : When you talked about having to force feed some of your players, with the four game redshirt limit coming up, how important are these next two games when it comes to evaluating who to keep and who to redshirt?

JS : That’s stuff that we’re talking about right now.  We have a chart on who played.  Where it gets to you, really, is special teams as well.  It all kind of rolls downhill.  When you’re thin on defense and, all of a sudden, you have to take Matt Hill or some of these starters that are super valuable to your defense because they’re the only two safeties left.  Now, it goes to the next level and that’s special teams and that where those freshman really start creeping up and get some opportunities where they can help us.  So, those are some of the decisions that we have to make.  The good thing is that we are early in the year.  It’s unfortunate that we’ve already has some of the injuries that we had.  At least it’s early in the year so we can start getting these guys ready and make a decision on who can play.  Some guys that aren’t quite there, we’ll prepare them and hold them on the sidelines unless we have to have them.  Those are all discussions that we’re having within the staff and with those freshmen in particular.

LH : You can’t coach size and you can’t coach speed.  When looking at Florida A&M on film, they may not have size but there sure have speed, don’t they?

JS : Yeah, and they have good players.  When you turn on the tape, and watch all of these teams, they all have good players.  There’s no doubt that they have some guys that show up as really fast on video and you start writing down their numbers and defining ways to limit their touches.  Our players see that.  We watch all the videos and they know.  Some of these guys they know from high school and they have a lot of respect for them.  It will be a good challenge for us.

LH : North Carolina State and Florida have better talent than Florida A&M and everyone know that.  Do you just have to write Jacksonville State on the white board to get your player’s attention?

JS : No and that’s because of where we are.  If we were 2-0, and coming off two wins over NC State and Florida, then I think I would have to take more time with that.  Right now, our guys know that we can’t afford that.  We have to really focus on ourselves and playing better or it doesn’t matter who we play because we’re not going to win.  Really, to be honest, it’s not a concern for me right now because we have so much stuff to work on and I think our team realizes that.  Hopefully, we’re in that position down the road and we have to transition to talk about that a little more.

LH : After watching film of Florida A&M, what problems could they pose for you?

DF : They are very fast.  They have excellent speed on the back end.  They’re aggressive and they play downhill football.

RY : They’re fast and they play hard.  That’s the main thing.  They don’t care who we are. They are going to play hard no matter who they play and they play disciplined.  That’s what it is.

Wednesday is a Zoom day with both coordinators.  Had a chance to talk with DC Glenn Spencer along with OC Charlie Weis Jr. and their responses are below.

LH : Tackling has become a problem on levels of football from high school to the NFL.  Is it because you cannot practice it live as much for fear that you will get someone hurt?

GS : That’s really a problem especially that your backups are starting to play in the games.  You need to make sure you get to the game .  I know that much.  We have a tackling circuit.  We work angle tackling.  We work on other tackling but we go light.  I don’t know what the answer is because, sure enough, a shoulder pops out or somebody hits the wrong way.  It’s a delicate balance.  I do know one thing.  We have to do it better.  We have to do it better because nobody cares about how it gets done.  Your name is on it.  Your kids name is on it.  At the end of the day, whoever is out there, has to get it done.  We’re working on it but you have to be smart about it at practice because you have to get to the game.

LH : Normally, the starting QB gets 80 to 90 percent of the reps at practice.  How are you dividing up the snaps since none of the quarterbacks has emerged as the clear cut starter?

CW : Yeah but we’re not quite at 80 or 90.  We do a little bit more of two groups here to make sure that all of our guys are prepared.  I’d say it’s about 50-50 so we can get those guys the reps that they need.  It just depends on the day and what we are actually running, and all that stuff, to piece it all together.  Yeah, it’s pretty close to 50-50 and, as we go forward, that’ll change depending upon who takes the lead on this thing.

Thursday is another Zoom morning with just HC Jeff Scott.  Got the opportunity to ask some strategy question of the Bulls Head Honcho.

LH : If you win the toss, what determines whether you take the football or defer?

JS : Typically, we’ll talk about it as a staff.  Sometimes, it has to do, offensively, with our openers.  What we like and how confident we are with our game plan.  Typically, in the first quarter, it’s a feeling out process especially early in the season.  With FAMU, we have 2 games tapes.  They’ve played 2 games in the last two years.  It’s something that we, really, talk about throughout the week.  Typically, I like to kick off and get the ball for the second half so you get that extra offensive series after settling down and knowing what their plan is on defense.  For some games, some nights, we may feel that it’s important to take the ball early on.

LH : If you’re at the end of the first half with 30 seconds to go, and you know that you’re getting the ball for the second half, does that determine what you do as it applies to field position or just take a knee knowing you get the ball to start the third quarter?

JS : I think, the middle eight is what you’re talking about.  That’s the last four minutes of the second quarter and the first four minutes of the third quarter and they are critical.  To me, it does not play into what we do.  The end of the second quarter needs to be based off what we think is the best thing that we need to that moment.  How the game has gone and where we are on the field and what we want to do.  Whether we get the ball to start the second half does not have an impact on what we do right there at the end of the second quarter.  It really should be specific to that moment and what we feel is in our best interest to finish out the second quarter.

LH :  Football is a game of repetition and continuity.  How nice is it to finally get to play a Saturday game and then have a next Saturday game so that you have a normal week to go by?

JS : Yeah, absolutely.  That’s the normal progression that you want to be in.  You know, we play some games on Thursday nights and some games on Friday nights.  There’s a lot of different things that you need to prepare and adjust to.  I think, for us just getting into a routine and a rhythm.  Being able to play two weeks, back to back, at home is really big as well. Each team and each year, it’s a new team.  There’s about 35 guys that are here this year that weren’t here last year.  So, last week, was the first time that they ever went and played a home game at RayJay.  This week, it’s going to be a little bit smoother for them.  They know where their locker is.  They know what the pregame routine is and they know where we go at halftime.  They know all these things.  So, that probably will help having a normal routine week.

That’s takes us to game day or should I say game night.  With stormy weather surrounding the Tampa Bay area, the 7:10 kickoff was achieved and South Florida, for the first time in just over a year, emerged victorious by a score of 38-17.  That moved the Bulls to 1-2 and the Rattlers fell to the same 1-2 log

After a USF turnover in the red zone and a three-and-out by FAMU, South Florida dented the scoreboard first at 9:39 of the opening stanza .  A 49-yard field goal by K Spencer Shrader capped a short four play drive that covered 5 yards and took 1:26 off the game clock..  That gave the Bulls an early 3-0 lead.

On their next possession, the Rattlers put up points as well at the 7:27 mark of the first period.  It was K Jose Romo-Martinez splitting the uprights from an identical 49 yards.  That ended a drive that took 2:12 to matriculate 43 yards in seven plays and tied the score at 3 apiece.

The Green & Gold answered immediately on their next drive at 3:43 of the opening period.  RB Jaren Mangham plowed in from 2 yards out that finished off a 75 yard drive that took eight plays in 3:44.  Shrader booted the PAT and South Florida regained the lead at 10-3.

After forcing a Florida A&M punt, USF scored at 13:47 of the second period.  QB Timmy McClain found WR Xavier Weaver over the middle in the back of the end zone to culminate a 10 play drive that took 3:23 to go 49 yards.  Shrader was true with the extra point and that extended the Bulls lead to 17-3.

South Florida padded it’s advantage with 3:31 left before halftime.  Again, it was Mangham doing the honors this time with a 4-yard scamper.  That drive took 1:23 to go 26 yards in seven plays.  Shrader converted the PAT and the Green & Gold moved to a 24-7 advantage.

Florida A&M was the first to put up points after intermission with a score at 4:53 of the third quarter.  After the Rattlers turned it over on downs and the Bulls were forced to punt, FAMU RB Terrell Jennings ended an eight play drive that took 3:27 to go 82 yards with a 33-yard right up the middle.  Romo-Martinez split the uprights to make the score 24-10 in favor of the Bulls.

That score by the visitors seemed to wake up the Green & Gold offense who went right down the field to put up point with 2:02 left in the third period.  Mangham found the end zone for the third time with this run coming from 9 yards away.  That drive traversed 87 yards in six plays taking 2:43.  Shrader was good again and that increased the South Florida lead to 31-10.

After a short punt and a personal foul penalty set the Rattlers up with a short field, FAMU got back on the scoreboard at 6:10 of the final period.  QB Resean McKay hit WR Jah’Marae Sheread with a 6 yard strike.  That drive travelled only 20 yards in six plays and 2:39.  Romo-Martinez was true with the PAT moving Florida A&M to within 31-17.

After stopping Florida A&M on downs deep in their own territory, USF finished off the scoring with 18 ticks left in the contest.  It took only 1:55 for RB Yasias Young to plow in from a yard out to finish off a 14 yard drive in four plays.  Shrader completed the scoring with a perfect kick that made the final score 38-17.

Had a chance to talk with HC Scott and RBs Mangham and Brian Battie along with McClain as well as Weaver.  Their responses are below.

LH : Your last win was just over a year ago.  Were you ever stating to worry if it ever it was going to happen?

JS : Yeah, I was when it goes that long.  I’m not used to that.  A lot of coaches haven’t been used to that.  At the end of the day, we are what we put on the field.  It is difficult and we’re still in the middle of it.  We still have a lot of really good teams left on our schedule ahead of us.  Yeah, just to be able to get that off your back.  I feel that this team has made progress from the last year.  Obviously, we opened up with two challenging teams and you saw how good Florida is in their game with ‘Bama.  Two challenging teams to start off with and the guys fought through that and secured a win today.  I’m very confident that there will be another win before another year from now.  I think we are definitely trending up and think the guys definitely know what it takes to get to the other side of it.

LH : After FAMU tied the game at 3 each, how important was it for your offense to answer immediately on the next drive with a touchdown?

JS : Absolutely.  We talked about it before the game.  In these kind of games, you do not want to let teams hang around.  It was very thrilling for us to establish a lead and, there it was right there.  A little bit of adversity.  It was great to see our freshman quarterback go down and lead us down the field.  I thought that was the biggest drive of the game, honestly. To, really, take away any of that doubt and put us in position for us to go finish the first half.

LH : Your defense holds Florida A&M to 17 points.  In college football today, that’s a great effort no matter who you’re playing, correct?

JS : Well, yes, I’m happy about our defense.  We got a little sloppy there in the second half.  We got to go back and figure out what happened there.  There’s things that we need to clean up but we’re still a work in progress in all three phases but the defense definitely played well enough tonight.  I know we gave up some yards but we got some key stops when we needed to and I thought that was really important.  Something that we can build off of.  I think the plays that we gave up tonight were things that we can fix and things that we can get corrected.  It wasn’t a situation where guys were just out-athleted or out-competed.  We were just not in the right position.  We just had our eyes in some bad spots that caused us some trouble.  Those guys have a lot of pride.  They’ll continue to learn and show back up to work on Monday.

LH : You weren’t around last year for the losses but it’s been over a year since this program won a game.  How important was it to get that money off your back right now?

TM : It’s very important.  This has to push our confidence up for the next game.  We just have to take it game by game.  Game by game.

LH : We may have to nickname you Goal To Go because, anytime you’re inside the 10, they’re giving you the rock, aren’t they?

JM : Yeah, something like that.  That’s kind of like what our rotation is.  I was out first and that how it sometimes goes.  

LH : Been a long time between wins.  How nice is it to get that monkey off your back

BB : Oh, it’s great.  We needed that to restore our confidence.  We were so close but to finally to get a win is nice.  Everybody worked hard for this one.  It means a lot to the team.

LH : Way before your time, there were two backfield teammates that were call Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.  Is Mangham Mr. Inside and you’re Mr. Outside?

BB : Ha, I mean, that’s what it looks like but I believe that we can both run inside and run outside.  That’s my opinion.  He’s a big back and most people see him running inside. I’m more of a speed guy and I go outside.  I feel that we can switch it up.

LH : Get you out in space, right?

BB : Yeah, yeah.  I want to get out in space.  That’s all I think about.

LH : What was it like coming into a locker room after a win?

XW : It was really nice, yes sir.  We still have a lot of room for improvement.  It wasn’t our best game.  We still have a ways to go.

LH : You come out of the huddle and you look at the defense and you know your going to be the primary option.  How do you stay calm and cool and collected knowing the ball’s coming to me?

XW : I just go out there and try to execute.  I never really know when the ball is coming to me until I see it in the air.  Anybody can get the ball at any moment.  We just go out there and execute.  When the ball comes our way, then make something happen.

LH : So, if coach asked for a holder, you going to volunteer for that?

XW : I’ll do anything.  Anything.  I’ll play defensive line if I have to.

LH : Just get you on the field, right?

XW : Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.