First scrimmage highlights familiar flaws and new improvements

Coach Jeff Scott (center) addressed concerns and improvements he noticed after USF’s first scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. Penalties are still a point of concern, but the offensive line has shown noticeable signs of improvement, according to Scott. PHOTO COURTESY OF USF ATHLETICS

USF’s scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday provided coach Jeff Scott with a much-needed look at his team in its natural setting.

Following the scrimmage, Scott addressed the media via Zoom and provided insight on what he saw. In his opening statement, he was candidly honest about a fatal flaw that plagued the Bulls last season.

“We had way too many penalties,” Scott said.

“Offensive penalties, pre-snap penalties on the offensive line moving early before the ball snap, defensive penalties, we had some holding penalties on defense in the secondary and then special teams we had some penalties on guys not lining up where they’re supposed to be on the ball.”

USF in 2019 ranked second-to-last in the conference for penalties, averaging 8.5 for a loss of 74 yards per game.

Scott said that getting discipline under control is crucial to “not lose to USF.”

“A big thing that we talk about in our program is to not lose to USF,” he said. “When you have as many penalties as we did today, that’s losing to yourself.

“It really didn’t matter who we played today. With the number of penalties that we had, we’re not gonna have a chance to have success.”

In terms of on-field performances, Scott said the passing game wasn’t at its best, due mainly to the efforts of the secondary.

“I felt like our secondary really won the day over our receivers and quarterbacks,” he said. “We created two turnovers, both KJ Sails and Nick Roberts had two nice interceptions and had some key moments to be able to get the defense off the field.”

When one part of the team did well it was often at the expense of the other side of the team, according to Scott.

“We had a lot more success running the ball than we did throwing the ball,” he said. “I think the defense, the secondary had a little bit to do with that.”

Scott said the running game capitalized on gaps in the defense and that the offensive line, often a point of struggle last season, stood out.

Last season, the Bulls’ line gave up 45 sacks for 246 yards.

Across three rotating groups of offensive linemen, only one sack was allowed.

“I felt like offensively our offensive line and running backs probably was the story of the day,” he said. “Really pleased with the way that our running backs ran and the way our offensive line [played] up front.”

While the offense fared better on rushing plays, and Scott said it was an “average day for the quarterbacks,” having a chance to view his passers in action allowed him to assess their composure in the pocket, especially Noah Johnson, Cade Fortin and Jordan McCloud, quarterbacks with college experience.

“The biggest things you’re trying to look for is command,” Scott said. “I felt like all three of those guys have played in college games before have good, some good experience and I think that showed today from those guys.”

The scrimmage was an important step in preparing USF for the season, but the team is nowhere near ready to go. The team needs at least a month to be ready, according to Scott.

Being able to scrimmage at Raymond James may be key to facilitating the preparation process, Scott said.

“As we practice this week and get another opportunity to scrimmage next Saturday you just want to see that progress from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage that will be our job as coaches really communicating and helping these guys learn from that,” he said.