Call a marketing company – USF football has an excitement problem.
I couldn’t shake the feeling while watching the Spring Game on Saturday that there was something seriously wrong with the football team. I couldn’t help feeling disinterested.
The Athletic Department tried, or at least someone did.
When no one was lining up, and when the 3,000 strong finally showed, whoever was in charge made about 500 of them move from one part of the stadium to another, possibly in an effort to accommodate the Catch 47 cameras.
But no lens filter could avert the attention of the crowd and the television-viewing public of the shoddy field conditions. The grass at Ray Jay resembled the greens at The Claw – which isn’t a good thing, in case you aren’t familiar with them. I think when I walked on the field I heard Jim Leavitt tell Matt Grothe to use an overlap grip.
But even if the field wasn’t presentable, there were more glaring issues in the personnel department.
With Andre Hall went the small amount of national attention paid to the Bulls. And when Leavitt had a chance to answer questions in his depth chart, he ran the ball sparingly and put in Courtney Denson at quarterback.
Running Denson out for one play at quarterback is the boxing equivalent of Muhammed Ali circa 1975 tagging Butterbean to step into the ring for him. Sure it’s funny and semi-crowd pleasing, but you just don’t do it.
At the exact moment Denson was running his quarterback draw, USF’s quarterback picture got a little bit more confusing. At that exact moment, Carlton Hill was sitting alone on the bench, perhaps thinking about the special classes he’s been in for the bulk of spring. And sometime following that moment, Leavitt tugged on his hair and decided that if the season started that day, Pat Julmiste would be the quarterback.
The players on the field may not have been spectacular, and there’s little reason to think the next crop will help that.
USF’s top recruits were two defensive lineman and a few wide receivers. The linemen – Frank Harry and Leslie Stirrups – are gone, and additional wide receivers are all the football team needs with 12 on the roster already.
There were some interesting things: Mike Jenkins had two picks, as did Jerome Murphy and Amp Hill. Hill, a transfer wide receiver from LSU, led all receivers with eight catches and 87 yards – a surprise considering USF’s past struggles with the passing game.
But those elements were overpowered by USF’s boring double-reverses and its overuse of illegal game-extending timeouts. Any semblance of a game was spoiled by multiple players switching teams multiple times.
If USF football was a woman, then the Spring Game was the biggest turn-off I’ve ever seen.
If USF can’t sell the product, it will have a tough time convincing prospective season ticket holders to invest in home games featuring McNeese State, Florida International and Rutgers.
But that’s the least of its problems.