With No. 5 West Virginia and the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense coming to Tampa Friday, the USF defense is going to face its greatest test of the season, primarily in the form of Mountaineer running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White.
“They’re two great football players,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said of Slaton and White. “We’re going to be challenged, to say the least.”
In an effort to more accurately simulate the speed of Slaton and White during practice this week, the USF coaching staff has put some of the team’s fastest players on the offensive scout team.
“We’ve using our fastest backs and we’ve got (Danny) Verpaele playing quarterback for us,” Burnham said. “We’re just trying to get all the speed out there that we can and make our kids run and be accountable for their speed.”
Junior defensive back Verpaele played quarterback in a spread offense – the same system used by both USF and the Mountaineers – at Merritt Island High School, and the coaches are hoping his athleticism and familiarity with the system will aid the Bulls in their preparation for West Virginia.
Students camping outside the Sun Dome for tickets to the West Virginia game Sunday night got a surprise visit from USF coach Jim Leavitt, who took a break from his job to thank them for their support.
Leavitt, who had been studying film in the USF Athletic Facility next door, walked across the street to the Sun Dome and spoke with some of the fans who battled unpleasant weather in hopes of being some of the first to pick up tickets when they became available at 6 a.m. on Monday.
“That was pretty neat,” Leavitt said of the crowd. “They were out in the middle of the rain and I just told them I appreciate them so much. We have great students and we’ve always had great support.”