“The learning curve” seems to be the phrase coming from the mouths of just about the entire USF football coaching staff.
With a new staff going into next season along with some new faces on the field, the curve is to be expected
As “Dirt Road Anthem,” by country artist Jason Aldean, featuring Ludacris, blasted from the stereo onto the field, players ran out with coordinators to hit drills at the 50-yard line.
They all knew that come their first scrimmage Saturday, they would be expected to “do something,” as Taggart has reiterated since he arrived.
The music crooned.
“Yeah, I’m chillin’ on a dirt road. Laid back swerving like I’m George Jones…”
As the music started to fade, pads could be heard slamming against each other as coaches and players alike yelled in excitement.
While coach Willie Taggart has the job of overseeing the whole team, offensive coordinator Walt Wells and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan get a closer look at some of the elements that will define the team next season
After about 10 to 15 minutes of hitting, it was time for Bresnahan, the former coach of four different NFL teams over the span of eight seasons, to roam the field to see who was going to stand out in practice.
“This whole spring ball is going to be an evaluation period for us,” he said. “The one thing that stood out right now is that we are athletic and we can run. But we still have a big learning curve to go over. Right now, we’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Bresnahan said he would keep quiet about who stood out on the defense. With the scrimmage still days away and the Spring Game on April 13, he said didn’t feel the need to single anyone out. In his mind, it’s still going to take some time before he does.
“I’m going to give it another three or four practices before I start singling people out,” he said. “I would rather look at it as a collective group then start to see the skill set of the unit to mold the system around those guys.”
What he did share, however, was the leadership of senior defensive linemen Luke Sager.
“If I did have to single somebody out leadership-wise it would be Luke Sager,” he said.
After starting all 12 games last season, posting a career-high 13 tackles, Sager’s athletic ability was on display.
The 6-foot-3, 275 pound linemen said he plans to continue his big role on the defense heading into next season.
“I definitely want to be an example to the younger guys on how to practice and carry it over to the games,” Sager said.
While Bresnahan stayed with the defense sporting green practice jerseys, Wells jogged to the field to the left, his offense wearing white.
Wells said a few players have taken to the style of play calling quite nicely and quarterbacks such as senior Bobby Eveld and junior Matt Floyd are “a little ahead of the learning curve.”
Rushing on 51 attempts last season for 248 yards (4.9 yards per attempt), senior running back Marcus Shaw has been a coach-favorite from the beginning.
From the time of Taggart’s first press conference, in which he expressed how impressed he was with Shaw’s work ethic, to now, Wells said he can see how the hard work paid off five days into spring practices.
“He’s an athletic guy that could get open with his athletic ability,” Wells said. “What surprised me is how quickly he is learning our system.”
Among the veterans on offense, one young receiver has proved he too can fit in well with the coach’s new system.
Sophomore receiver D’Vario Montgomery, though only catching six passes last season, has taken advantage of the “blank slate” depth chart, fighting for a role on the team. Even with a brand new system, coach and quarterback, Montgomery feels right at home with the offense.
“I think I’m doing pretty well,” Montgomery said. “I’m learning most of the plays pretty well I’m pretty much in the offense.”
While Bresnahan said the defense may remain somewhat of a secret as to who the fans should be looking for on the field next season, it was no secret that the team was pumped up for what is to come.
In the midst of all of all the excitement on both fields, Taggart stood still with his visor, whistle ready to blow.
“Our football team is getting better by the day,” he said