TheBullsPen.com welcomes Jeff Odom to the first Q&A of the 2016 season.
Jeff, the former editor at The Oracle and a current writer for the TampaBayTimes, responds to TBP member questions.
1. Who do you think will step up the most this year? What single position is the biggest concern? (submitted by OcalaBull2)
If I had to pick one player who is destined for a breakout, I’d have to go with receiver Ryeshene Bronson.
I think he knows as well as anybody that he hasn’t performed as well as some thought he would have during his first two years with the program. Really, other than that crazy, double-reverse flea-flicker that resulted in a touchdown catch by him against Syracuse last season, there aren’t many big plays I can think of that have involved Bronson. But with another year in an offense that fits him – and every other athlete on this offense, really – along with that plentiful depth at the receiver position, I think he will finally catch fire, no pun intended, and make a fine compliment to Rodney Adams.
The biggest concern – and there aren’t really that many I can think of off the top of my head – is the offensive line. There is a lot of youth up front and it will be a hit losing seasoned players like Thor Jozwiak and Brynjar Gudmundsson. Still, I think the talent is there to fill their void. How long will it take them to gel is another question.
2. Any updates on the status of the missing football players? (Submitted by Triple B)
The old notion, “When we know, you’ll know” makes a comeback for the second straight year. USF officials are optimistic they will be here, but we’re down to the final couple of days before game week. My conjecture? It might turn into a Glen Bethel situation where they have a good chunk of work that needs to be done before they’re cleared. Worst-case, they don’t come at all. But that hasn’t been relayed to any of us on the beat – yet.
3. How is Raymond Woodie doing with his promotion to DC? How are the players responding to the departure of Allen and his promotion? What can we expect from the defense? (submitted by Ionbull)
From all indications, Woodie has made a smooth transition into the top role on defense. Now, he is no rookie when it comes to USF or Willie Taggart in general. He’s a familiar face who has had a hand in developing the linebackers and, with his work on the special teams side last season, most of the defensive players in general. The players have had nothing but good things to say about him, and his quieter style mimics that of Tom Allen a little bit (neither guy believes in cursing or yelling at players). It just remains to be seen whether he can handle the play-calling duties once the games roll around. Luckily, he has a veteran in John Jancek to lean on. I think things will get smoother once they get past Towson.
4. With the plethora of RB talent expected to declare for the NFL draft, what is the likelihood of Marlon Mack staying for his senior season if he has the same type of year as his freshman and sophomore campaigns? (submitted by Ionbull)
If Marlon Mack is as good or better than the last two seasons, I think he will opt to turn pro. A lot can happen between now and then, but really, what more does he have to prove at the college level if he stays? He’s likely going to have most, if not all, USF rushing records. If he grades high, I don’t see a reason to stay.
5. Quinton Flowers had a great year last year but there have been questions about his accuracy and intermediate passing. How has he looked in the fall camp working on these mechanics? How is his mastery of the playbook in year two of this offense? Can we expect a huge jump ala Greg Ward Jr? (submitted by Ionbull)
I think Quinton can only go up as a starter. Once he got fully comfortable and earned Taggart’s trust toward the midpoint of last season, he was really able to run the offense to best suit his abilities. We don’t get to see anything but the cooldown stretches in practice, but all indications are that he is ready to roll. I still think Greg Ward is the best quarterback in the conference, but Quinton can certainly match that. If he takes care of the football, he will be fine.
6. What's your projection per game this year? What's USF's ceiling? What's USF's floor? What's your hot take prediction? (submitted by Ionbull)
After carefully studying the schedule for hours on end – not really – I’d say USF wins 10 games in the regular season. My two losses for them are Florida State and Cincinnati, back to back. But they’re certainly as talented, if not better than a majority of the opponents on their schedule.
As far as a “floor” is concerned, even if things go south, I can’t see this team winning less than eight games. They could trip over their own feet against the likes of Northern Illinois or Syracuse or Navy and wind up with five losses. But I don’t foresee that happening.
My hot take? They run the table, win the conference title and face Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines in the College Football Playoff. How awesome would that be? Tampa to Tampa – get it trending.
7. How are the position battles at DE and Bull shaking out? (submitted by Bull Dozer)
Redshirt freshman Kirk Livingstone has been the surprise out of camp this fall and I think he will start at defensive end come Week 1. On the Bull side, it should be Vincent Jackson. We haven’t talked much about him, but I think he will fit in well.
8. Why isn't Deadrin Senat starting? (submitted by Gatorbull325)
Because of Bruce Hector. He’s outplayed Deadrin in camp and has been taking a majority of reps with the first-teamers. That doesn’t mean Senat won’t see playing time, obviously, but between the two of them, I’d give a nod to Hector.
9. Last season I spoke to a lot of coaches/staff and they all spoke highly of Cherry's potential. Now that he is eligible to play what kind of impact is he making so far this fall? Do you expect him to break out this season? (submitted by jdm)
From what Raymond Woodie said during media day, Cherry is a bright kid with a solid future ahead of him, but he still has plenty to learn. I think he’ll make an impact at some point, but I don’t think that potential he has will be reached until later down the road. USF is pretty set at linebacker as of right now anyway.
10. What are your expectations for the men's and women's basketball teams this year? How will the women respond to losing Courtney and Jenkins, and who do you think will step up? On the men's side, other than McMurray, who do you think will step up as a leader and our #2 guy? (submitted by Bulls_Fan09)
I think the men’s team will continue to struggle this season, but the women will be right up there again and should make the tournament. With the men, it’s hard to truly gauge where they are at. But the constant shuffling of players coming and going and the fact that Orlando Antigua will once again be forced to play guys with little or no college experience is concerning. They’ll win more than seven games, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to cool the temperature of his seat.
As for a No. 2 guy behind McMurray, I think Troy Holston is due for a bounce-back. But Troy Baxter is a guy you should keep an eye on. His dunking ability alone should make the Bulls worth watching.
11. With Kean getting the nod at #2 is more of a case of him being that good or AW just not growing. A combination of the two? (submitted by JTrue)
I’d say it’s a combination. There’s no doubt Brett Kean outplayed Asiantii Woulard in the spring and, from what Taggart has said, in the fall too. But Woulard did have more recognition coming out of high school and it hasn’t panned out at either UCLA or USF. Something isn’t clicking, or maybe he’s just not cut out for the next level. I wouldn’t throw in the towel on him quite yet. Things can change, but I can’t see him factoring into the starting discussion for the foreseeable future. Kind of crazy to think how we were saying the opposite a year ago.
12. How have you observed the program change in the years you have been following? (submitted by BullyPulpit)
You’ll need to give me about two hours of your time and a case of Bud Light. No, but seriously, this is going to be my fourth season on the beat. The first two are pretty much a blur. I can’t remember the second half of the 2013 season and 2014 was just a continuation of really bad football. Willie Taggart has changed things around. I think he realized that he couldn’t run Stanford’s offense in a market that relies heavily on athletes like he’s bringing in. Once he got over that and handed the reins to his playmakers, they took off. There were rumors in past seasons about rifts between quarterbacks and Taggart and a general sense that not everyone was buying in to what was being said. Now, that’s all gone. And the dreadful memories are just that – memories.
13. What is the biggest difference in coaching/philosophy you can see between Holtz and Taggart? (submitted by BullyPulpit)
They both have their flaws, Holtz more than Taggart. But I think Taggart has done a better job at getting his players to buy into the message as time goes on, and I think he’s a better game manager with a better supporting cast of assistants. I can tell you that has translated to the recruiting trail with Taggart’s success at nabbing guys that Holtz never could. I wasn’t around during the Holtz years, but I’ve heard the stories. Skip was a nice guy. He wasn’t a good fit for USF.
14. Will Jim Leavitt ever be welcomed back/honored by USF? (submitted by BullyPulpit)
I can’t see that happening until Judy Genshaft steps aside as president, which doesn’t look to be something that will transpire any time soon. It will happen one day. Let’s just say an on-campus stadium will probably come first.
15. Who has the baddest game face on the Bulls team? (submitted by georgy)
Willie Taggart has a good one. I have a good one, especially when it comes to having to write and file a story 10 minutes before deadline. I’ll just throw a dart at the board here and say Quinton Flowers. He is one bad dude on game day.
Jeff Odom should be followed on Twitter at @JeffOdom, his timeline is on TheBullsPen.com on the Camp Twitter page. Jeff also creates a podcast on USF sports at jeffodom.podbean.com.