Fall sports: what to watch for
All eyes are on football at USF as the Bulls draw closer to playing their opening game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
Over the past two weeks, the Bulls have battled for starting positions in the brutal August heat at training camp. As camp progressed, it became clear the Bulls had two important decisions to make regarding their offense for the 2014 season.
Coach Willie Taggart came into the offseason proclaiming that the position of starting quarterback was going to be earned rather than given and he believed either Steven Bench or Mike White could be the man for the job. After nearly two weeks of high-pressure competition in practice and scrimmages, White was named USF’s starter.
The other question the Bulls were presented with on offense was who would lead the running game after last season’s lead running back, Marcus Shaw, graduated.
The player the coaching staff had tabbed as the next guy in line was Michael Pierre. After a stellar spring game where he rushed for a team-high 78 yards, Pierre injured his neck and wouldn’t be able to return to the sport. Another contributor from last season, Willie Davis, transferred to Tennessee Tech.
Now, the team is left with sophomore Darius Tice as well as freshmen D’Ernest Johnson and Marlon Mack. The team has not yet named a starter, but when they do, running backs coach Telly Lockette cautioned that the team will still lean on a committee approach.
While the Bulls will attempt to prove they have truly bought in to coach Willie Taggart in his second year, other fall sports begin their seasons as well.
The women’s soccer team began fall sports at USF with a 1-0 defeat against FAU on Friday evening at Corbett Field. The Bulls followed up that loss with a 2-0 defeat against Florida in Gainesville on Sunday. In her eighth season as head coach, Denise Schilte-Brown returns five of six juniors from her squad last year, which finished 10-4-7.
The Bulls will attempt to earn their first victory of the season this Friday when they host Navy at 7:30 p.m.
The men’s soccer team followed up next on the schedule with its battle for the Rowdies Cup, which took place Saturday night. The Bulls were defeated, 1-0, by the University of Tampa.
Coach George Kiefer led the Bulls to an 8-4-9 record last season, but won the conference tournament by defeating UConn on penalty shots.
As a testament to their success last season, the Bulls head into the season ranked second in the conference in the coaches’ poll. USF earned 48 points in the poll, trailing first seeded UConn by eight points. They were the only team besides the Huskies to garner a first place vote.
Both sophomore Lindo Mfeka and senior Edwin Moalosi were also named to the preseason all-conference list.
The regular season begins Friday in Fort Myers as the team takes on FGCU.
The USF volleyball team (17-15) had a winning season last year but was unable to make it to the NCAA tournament.
This year, coach Courtney Draper brings in a nationally ranked recruiting class to join current junior outside hitter Erin Fairs, the preseason AAC Player of the Year. Despite this, the Bulls were only picked to finish fifth in this year’s coaches’ poll. Outside of Fairs, no USF players were named to the preseason all conference team.
The team starts its season this Friday on the road against Purdue.