USF football is singing a different tune in spring practices

Offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell talks about how USF’s players are adjusting to the new coaching staff. ORACLE PHOTO/SAM NEWLON

USF’s sixth spring practice was full of sound.

There was the sound of shouting that was typical of any football practice. Coaches to players and players to each other. The shouts weren’t overpowering, though.

It was the music.

“Do You Believe in Love” by Huey Lewis and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash both drowned out what players and coaches were saying. Practice ended the same time as Heart’s “Barracuda.”

There is a different feel around the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex.

“I’ll tell you what,” first-year offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell said Wednesday. “I love the attitude and that’s the number one thing when you’re putting in a new system.”

The last stretch of practice, where the team’s offensive and defensive units were running plays against each other, looked fun.

Players weren’t hanging their heads or bent over in exhaustion. Instead, they were cheering for each other, giving their teammates high fives or celebrating big plays on both sides of the ball.

When one defensive player intercepted quarterback Blake Barnett during this part of practice, he was swarmed by his teammates on defense. Coaches had to blow their whistles to get everyone focused back on practice.

“Practice has been great,” new offensive line coach Jeremy Darveau said. “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s been kind of this old-school practice around here. Smashmouth. We’re getting after it, we’re hitting, we’re finding out who’s tough.”

When USF went on its six-game losing streak to close out the 2018-19 season, people questioned what would change in practices, if anything. The answer was that the team would hit more and try to have more fun.

It’s not just the way the new coaching staff is structuring practices. It’s not even the music that’s blasting from three speakers ratchet-strapped to a trailer past the back of one end zone.

Part of the USF football’s new feel came from the way Bell talked about some of his players. He mentioned Odunayo Seriki, a junior who is a walk-on running back.

“Seriki, the walk-on kid from Apopka High,” Bell said. “He’s got a lot of ability. He is fast. He’s one of the fastest guys on our team. He’s a very physical player, too. I look for him to start getting some carries and, once he figures out and learns the game a bit better, I think he’s going to be very productive for us.”

Bell was also quick to sing the praises of other players like Johnny Ford and Randall St. Felix. His compliments weren’t without criticisms, though.

“St. Felix is doing well,” Bell said. “Him and Zion Roland, we’re trying to get them to run hard on every play. I told them that after the first day when I saw them jogging around because they didn’t think they were getting the ball. I don’t know if that’s from last year.

“I told them ‘Hey, you’ve got to win on every snap. You’ve got to run hard on every snap.’ Now, they are starting to do that. They’ve got a lot of ability and we feel really good about them.”

It could be the coaching changes that have players excited and enjoying spring practice. It could be the fact that players are finally able to suit up and play football again. It could even be the music they’re playing at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex.

At any rate, something is different about this team after a few much-needed changes.