After 92 days, USF football is — in a way — finally returning to campus.
For now, the Bulls are limited to voluntary on-campus workouts in small groups. The full roster hasn’t returned, but 80 players have been tested ahead of workouts, and there were zero positive results for coronavirus. It’s just the start, but it’s also a giant leap ahead for the program’s eventual return.
“There’s been a lot of people that have spent a lot of time and put a lot of effort into finding a safe way for guys to be able to come back and so it’s a start,” coach Jeff Scott said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and Sept. 5.”
The main goal now is to get players on the same page conditioning-wise, especially considering the season is three months away.
“For many of our guys, it’s probably the first time in five, six, seven years that they haven’t had some type of conditioning workouts with a coach,” Scott said. “Some of our players had access to be able to do some stuff and some other guys had to do whatever they can do out in their backyard.”
While some players have taken the liberty of working out from home on their own time, a return to USF facilities ensures workouts are done in a safe, controlled environment.
“When the gyms opened up all over Florida, we knew our guys were going to want to get back into the gyms and so being able to monitor and make sure they stay safe with COVID and then also make sure that they’re staying safe with the lifting,” Scott said.
Voluntary workouts are a start, but they’re only limited to supervision by strength and conditioning coaches. Coach involvement and encouragement isn’t allowed yet, but players have been taking the initiative on their own.
Scott expects more to open up in terms of voluntary workouts on the practice field after a routine has been established.
“Guys have the ability to do some things on their own and I’m sure as we kind of get into our second week here of figuring out our workout routine, then they’ll have some access to getting out on the field,” he said.
Coaches will have to wait until at least July to watch their players practice, but Scott said he’s hoping that over the next few weeks, his players can return to a full level of conditioning and ensure they’re ready for the next steps when they’ve been approved.
“It’s not about going out and picking up right where we left off,” he said. “It’s really about seeing where the guys are and kind of safely bringing them along to get everybody to a point where we can really get back to our full level of weightlifting and conditioning.”
The road to fall camp hasn’t been given an exact timeline, but a six-week model is being widely considered.
“We need six months,” Scott joked. “Maybe that’s what we want. I don’t think that’s what we need.”
An early return, albeit not in ideal conditions, was still a welcome surprise to Scott.
“A month ago, I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to get back before the beginning of July,” he said. “The fact that we are back now at this part in June, I really think we kind of bought ourselves an extra three weeks.”
In that same sense of optimism, flexibility is key in not only the team’s return to fitness, but also in following procedures and guidelines set in place.
“Regardless of whenever we do get started,” Scott said, “we’re going to need a lot of patience and flexibility in being able to adjust.”