New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has a lot to accomplish between now and the start of the season. With four full practices under his defense’s belt, there’s a lot of growth to be done, according to Spencer.
“We got some guys that are out of shape,” he said. “Obviously, days like this test us and expose that, so we got a long ways to go.”
Spencer’s defensive scheme isn’t much different than last year’s setup under former coordinator Brian Jean-Mary, according to defensive back KJ Sails.
“I wouldn’t say a lot different,” Sails said. “Just the structure of it. It’s pretty much the same.”
A familiar defense bodes well for returning defensive leaders — linebackers Antonio Grier and Dwayne Boyles, and defensive backs Mike Hampton and Sails, who combined for 225 tackles last season.
Slowly, the pieces are being put in place, but what the Bulls don’t have is the gift of time, something Spencer said he wishes he had.
“I haven’t had a full padded practice yet. Today was the first time we had shoulder pads on, so today was we got out of pajamas,” he said. “It was the first time we could actually strike and meet up in between the ball … we’ll go watch the film now, but I’ve got a lot of concerns based on what I saw today.
“I’ve got a sense of urgency right now that we have to make up a lot of lost time.”
In the time since USF had its first and only spring practice in March, players have retained their sense of determination and engagement. Communicating virtually was better than nothing, but there is a lot of catching up to do, according to Spencer.
“We did all that work all through the spring and in the summer, and then we get out there with walkthroughs and … it’s just not the same,” he said. “The level of engagement’s been fine, but the learning process and the retention has got to pick up a lot.
“That’s where I think we’re far behind right now.”
The difficulties of not having a full offseason and limited practice time are apparent, but it’s especially challenging to build on what was accomplished last season, according to Spencer.
“I don’t have the benefit of just repeating what we did last year with the guys coming back having the base knowledge where you can kind of build on it,” he said. “For the last three years, I’ve put in the system fresh each time, so I know what that process looks like and kind of the growing pains that you go through.”
Spencer said his defense will be ready if and when the season kicks off, but the lost time didn’t help.
“Trust me, we’ll get it done,” he said. “But we don’t need to take off any time. All those other practices that are left, we’re going to need every one of them.”