After a rebuilding year for USF football in which the Bulls won only two of their 12 games, the team is back preparing at the Morsani Complex in hopes of a bounce-back season. Among the anxious players is senior wide receiver Andre Davis.
Davis got off to a sputtering start last season averaging 2.5 catches and 39 yards per game in his first seven games, only to end the year by setting the USF single-season yardage mark for a receiver (735). His second half turnaround has put him in position to break even more records in the upcoming season.
“I came in with the mindset to win first and foremost, but I also came in with the mindset that I was going to take over those records,” Davis said. “That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what I needed to do to get to the next level.”
Needing just 14 receptions and 106 yards in his senior season to eclipse the all-time marks held by Hugh Smith (Rec.) and Carlton Mitchell (Yds.), Davis looks to his team and the program for support.
“I’m going to lead by example,” Davis said. “With it being my last year, I feel like I owe it to this program and to the young guys. USF gave me the opportunity to come in and provide for the program, so I feel that I owe it to them to get this program back on track and leave on a winning season.”
As a team-first player, Davis knows the importance of a strong foundation with solid leadership inside the locker room — a trait of Davis’ that was instrumental in quarterback Mike White’s development.
“(Davis) was huge (in my development) even before I was named the starter,” White said. “As soon as I got to campus he was working with me and being real positive with me, which is what a freshman needs to lean on.”
White was thrown into the starting lineup seven games into his freshman campaign last season, but refused to let the pressure affect him, throwing for 311 yards in his debut—134 of which with Davis on the receiving end.
Nicknamed “Freak Show” by his peers for what he does on the field, what Davis does behind locker room doors may be even more important.
Davis said he never paid much attention to film study in his first few years at USF, but with the addition of former FSU wide receiver Ron Dugans as the receivers coach, Davis has learned the importance of film.
“Freshman year I felt like I was just in there watching players and watching myself,” Davis said. “But as the years progress, I’m starting to learn how to understand coverages, read the cornerback, how to break your route, and where to break your route. Coach Dugans played a big role in that.”
Dugans was the wide receivers coach for Louisville before coming to USF in January.
“(Davis) leads by example,” Dugans said. “He’s a kid that does what he’s supposed to in the classroom, shows up on time and is a kid that wants to do good not only for himself, but for his team.”
Going into his final season with the Bulls, Davis said he is aware of the company he will be with atop the all-time leaderboards, but knows he will need his team behind him to get there, including consistency at the quarterback position.
Davis spoke of the importance of quarterback stability for his position, something that escaped the Bulls as they switched quarterbacks mid-way through last season.
Without a day-one starter announced, Davis is making sure he builds a rapport with each one of the quarterbacks this offseason.
“I’ve worked with all three quarterbacks and my main thing is for them to be comfortable and that they have that trust in not only me, but all of the receivers,” Davis said.
Davis has lofty expectations for himself this season including the first 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season of his career.
“I’ve had these expectations every season, but in past seasons I felt it wasn’t my place,” Davis said. “We had a lot of seniors last season and now that it’s my senior year, I want to put the team on my back.”