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Marlon Mack expects to return for USF football against SMU

Coach Willie Taggart, on sophomore tailback Marlon Mack: “As the entire football team gets better, it’s gonna be easier for (Mack) to do some of the things that he’s capable of doing. I think that’s the beauty of it.” ORACLE PHOTO/ROBERTO ROLDAN

On the final carry of USF’s 28-20 win over UConn on Saturday, sophomore tailback Marlon Mack tweaked his hamstring while running toward the sideline.

Although he was held out of practice on Sunday, Mack said Tuesday he was feeling “85 percent” better and expects to return for Saturday’s game against SMU.

Though Mack was feeling better, coach Willie Taggart limited him to walking drills and observing from the sideline during practice to prevent further aggravation.

“Marlon looked like Marlon Mack today,” Taggart said. “He just showed up and stood over there by Coach T, and we talked a little bit, talked a little football and what he should do. 

“He just got a lot of mental reps today. But he looks the same. He hasn’t changed much.”

If he can play, Mack will have a chance to tie Andre Hall’s 10-year-old program record by completing his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

Senior husky Jamie Byrd said he’s been impressed with Mack.

“Even though he has so much success, he’s taking it well as a young guy, and that’s hard,” Byrd said. “That’s hard to take that success as a young guy and stay as humble as he is — and as a football player, he’s just a great player.”

Mack said he’s continued to improve since his breakout campaign as a freshman last season in which he earned rookie of the year honors in the American Athletic Conference after racking up 1,041 yards.

“I would say my reading of the defense is better,” Mack said. “Last year, I really didn’t know what I was doing out here. I was just going off athletic ability. 

“Now, I feel like I can read it more and sense what the defense is doing, picking up the linebackers and the safeties in the blitz more.”

Taggart said Mack’s performance thus far (689 yards and three touchdowns on 106 carries) has helped the rest of the team improve, too.

“I just think the entire football team is getting better,” Taggart said. “As the entire football team gets better, it’s going to be easier for (Mack) to do some of the things that he’s capable of doing. I think that’s the beauty of it.”