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Bulls lean on young talent


USF has key veteran players that are continuing to make plays for the Bulls, but each week more underclassmen rise to the challenge and make their names known.

Seven of the top nine tacklers for USF will be returning next season, which is a reassuring sign for defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.

“All of those guys just bring youth and energy to the team to compliment our veterans. It’s exciting to know we have them for a while,”
Bresnahan said.

One of these young talents, redshirt freshman Auggie Sanchez, embraces the role he has on the defense, but knows he must raise his game as he gains experience.

“It’ll be nice to have guys that have been in the system and know what to expect,” Sanchez said. “Next year we’re not going to have the excuse that we’re young and don’t have that experience. We’re going to have to prove ourselves.”

In his short tenure with the Bulls, coach Willie Taggart has put many freshmen and sophomores in starting roles, not letting age affect his decision.

“The Nate Godwins, the Johnny Wards, Hassan Childs — Auggie Sanchez just moved to defense, Jamie Byrd just came over — we’ve got a lot of those (young) guys,” Bresnahan said. “People talk to Nigel Harris like he’s a vet, which he is because of the number of plays he played last year for us.” 


Back to the basics


The Bulls have been able to find success as a defense, forcing 17 turnovers, but have given up many big plays.

“There was a little confusion out there towards the end of the game,” Sanchez said. “We put in some new things and a couple times, we were hitting the wrong gaps as a defense and you can’t do that … In our defense, you have to play gaps and that one gap that’s left open, they’ll find it and they’ll gash you.”

With the bye week, the coaches have emphasized
getting back to the fundamentals and figuring out the small details of the game. 

“It’s all about being detailed and not just telling what to do, but explaining how and why we’re doing it and then they’ll understand better and be able to take it to the field,” Bresnahan said.

He said Taggart has allowed them 15 minutes prior to practice to go over individual drills to better dissect these problems.

“We’ll go one on one ‘bo drill’ again, which is a version of ‘Oklahoma,’ but in three levels,” Bresnahan said. “We’ve started every practice for the past couple weeks with open-field-tackling drills, which we’ve gotten better at it, but we aren’t where we need
to be.”


Close, but not close enough


USF’s defense has had a roller coaster season, along with the offense. The same defense that forced six turnovers in a game against Maryland let Cincinnati run for over 270 yards.

Frustration is accumulating throughout the team.

“I think it’s frustrating for everybody from coach Taggart all the way down to the trainers,” Bresnahan said. “To see them play very well at times and then all of the sudden you give up something and it creates an explosive play.”

Within the 3-4 scheme that USF runs, Sanchez said the defense has to play their gaps, which sometimes doesn’t

“We put in the new stuff and I think, for most of the game, we were pretty good with it. But there were those few times, since it was brand new, that we just had a mental lapse,” Sanchez said. “There was one play on the goal line where the D-line was on one side and I was on the other and there were two gaps wide open for them. We weren’t on the same page.”

USF has had problems stopping the run lately, giving up an average of 237.8 yards on the ground in its past five games.

“It’s frustrating is what it is … We are close, but we’re not close enough,” Bresnahan said. “We haven’t stopped the run in any of the last four games by any stretch of the

The Bulls are on a bye week this week, but they head to Texas on Nov. 15 to take on winless SMU. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.