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USF's Strong Foundation Built By the Bay


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Travis Pendergrass
 

USF's Strong Foundation Built By the Bay

August 13, 2016
By  USF
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By TOM ZEBOLD

USF Senior Writer

TAMPA, AUG. 12, 2016 – As USF players walked off the steamy turf after a red-hot practice at the Morsani Football Complex Friday, inebacker Nigel Harris stopped to talk with reporters.

Despite chasing the fast-paced Gulf Coast Offense for nearly three hours, Harris had more than enough energy to talk about a hot topic at fall camp – the resurgence of USF Football.

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“Every dream starts with a vision. Coach T had a vision and dreams are coming true right here in Tampa,” the senior from Tampa said. “It feels great to be a part of that.”

Harris’ eyes lit up even more while he proudly talked about the strong foundation Taggart and his staff have built. One that’s anchored by local talent.

“This area is an area where you get a lot of athletes that can do big things for the school, for the city,” Harris said. “Say we do win a conference championship this year. We did it with the people here at home.”

Harris and more than 40 other Bay Area Bulls helped fuel USF’s run to the Miami Beach Bowl last season. Picked to compete for a conference title this year, the Bulls want to make school history and they’ll start the mission with 43 players from Bay Area counties.

“Everything I envisioned for our football program is starting to happen for us now. When we recruited those kids when we came here, we talked about keeping kids here in the Bay,” Taggart said. “That was important to do that, and slowly but surely we were able to do that and continue that. I think we’re seeing a change with our football program because of it.”

Several Bay Area players are playing key roles for the Bulls this fall in an effort to help the program capture its first conference crown.

Harris is one of 12 Bay Area players listed as starters on the initial fall depth chart and he lines up alongside another local product. Junior Auggie Sanchez (St. Petersburg) is back to quarterback the defense from his middle linebacker position after leading the team with 117 tackles last season, the second-best season total in school history.

“When Coach Taggart came in, he kind of laid this imprint that he wanted to win the Bay, win the guys around here, and I think he’s done that,” Sanchez said.

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Other prominent Bay Area players on the defensive side of the ball include safeties Nate Godwin (Tampa), Tajee Fullwood (Tampa) and Devin Abraham (Tarpon Springs). Tackle Bruce Hector (Tampa) tied for the team lead with five sacks as a sophomore last season.

“I’ve been playing here my whole life and I just enjoy playing in front of the home crowd,” Hector said. “Family and friends get to come out all the time and It means to the world to me.”

There’s no shortage of Bay Area star power on the offensive side of the ball and it starts with the Mack Attack. Junior running back Marlon Mack (Sarasota) led the conference the past two seasons with 2,422 total rushing yards and he’s 309 more yards away from become USF’s career leader.

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Senior Rodney Adams (St. Petersburg) has landed on the Biletnikoff Award watch list after setting new USF season records with 822 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2015. Adams could be even tougher for defenses to deal with now that he’s running routes with NC State transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling, his teammate at Lakewood High School.  

"It’s a different quarterback, different environment but things don’t change,” Valdes-Scantling said. “We can be very explosive and we can do a lot of different things on the field. “

USF is loaded with more Bay Area talent at receiver with Jordan Reed (Tampa) and the offensive line that makes the up-tempo offense go includes Cameron Ruff (Tampa), Bradenton’s Michael Galati and Brooks Larkin, and Eric Mayes (Sarasota).

USF’s offense features more Bay Area players that could jump onto the scene as starting, impact players. Redshirt freshman Billy Atterbury (Clearwater) is lining up as the starting right tackle and redshirt freshman tight end Mitchell Wilcox (Tarpon Springs) also is competing for a starting spot. Atterbury and Wilcox were two of 18 Bay Area players on the first two-deep chart of the fall.

“Coach T really talked about getting a team that’s from the Bay Area. Bay Area guys making plays for this team,” Wilcox said. “I know that USF is a great fit for me.”

Bulls Bits

- The latest player to earn a coveted gray practice jersey on defense is tackle Kevin Bronson. The sophomore from Delray Beach started three of the final four games last season and continues to step up his game in sports, school and the community. Just being a starter does not mean a player receives the honor. “Wearing a (gray) jersey is special,” defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie said. “… It’s based on doing the right thing, trying your best and giving maximum effort.”

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- Quarterback Quinton Flowers showed his command of the offense during an 80-yard scoring drive late in practice Friday. Flowers dropped a perfectly timed pass over a linebacker that Elkanah Dillon hauled in for a first down near midfield. USF got into the red zone with a 40-yard Flowers scramble and Tyre McCants made a toe-tap TD catch in the front, left corner of the end zone.

- Taggart and the Bulls ended Friday’s practice in Green and Gold fashion by singing the USF fight song together in the middle of the field. Look for a full recap of Saturday’s scrimmage in the afternoon on GoUSFBulls.com.

 

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