As the Bulls conclude their bye week, they find themselves sitting dead last in the AAC with a disappointing record of 0-4 in the league and 1-5 overall.
With a conference championship or bowl game opportunity looking unlikely, coach Jeff Scott looks to shift the team’s focus onto the final four games of the season.
“Overall, I feel like our guys have responded well to a tough start to the season,” he said. “We’ve got four great opportunities left in front of us.”
The first of those four games will take place Saturday in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, home of the Memphis Tigers.
For the Bulls to come away with a victory in any of the final four games, they must focus on themselves. The bye week allowed them to do that, according to Scott.
“For us this week, it’s really about focusing on ourselves,” he said Monday in his weekly press conference. “Our own execution, and cleaning up some of the mistakes we made in the first six games.”
After Memphis, the final three contests come against Houston, Navy and UCF, with each team at or above .500 in the AAC.
While a win is always the goal, smaller victories can still be achieved whether the team outright wins games.
The progression of the team’s younger players is one of these smaller victories USF has a good shot at.
“[We can] use the rule that we have where this year doesn’t count for anybody, try to take advantage of that and let some of these younger guys [play] … to really kind of build for the future for those guys.”
Someone who could benefit greatly from this opportunity is true freshman wide receiver Omarion Dollison.
Through his first six collegiate games, the 5-foot-9-inch receiver has 13 catches for 202 yards. His best statistical game came last week against Tulsa when he made six catches for 54 yards.
He’s also earned the trust of his head coach.
“I’ve been really pleased with OD [Dollison],” Scott said. “I think that’s been one bright spot through the first half of the season, seeing some of the freshmen step forward and shine.
“I think OD has probably had as good of a start to the season as any of our receivers in that room. He plays fast, he’s a physical player, he knows how to get open, he knows how to separate, and then he’s tough to tackle once he gets the ball in his hands.”
When asked how he felt about the support and recognition he’s been receiving from Scott, Dollison expressed the appreciation he has for it.
“It’s big coming from the head coach,” Dollison said. “He looks at every player, whoever contributes the most, he’s going to rely on them the most.”
The praise for Dollison doesn’t only come from the coaching staff. His teammates also are complimentary.
“He’s a very good competitor, he doesn’t play like he’s a freshman,” defensive back Mike Hampton said. “He plays like he’s a veteran, like he’s been with us for years.”
Scott also singled out defensive back Chris Townsell, linebacker Mac Harris, defensive end Tramel Logan, running back Brian Battie and wide receiver Sincere Brown, all players he could see have expanded roles down the stretch.
Townsell, Harris and Logan are just three of the promising players USF has on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior Mekhi LaPointe and sophomore Daquan Evans have made some noise this year, something that team leader Hampton has been pleased with.
Both Evans and LaPointe have 17 total tackles and two interceptions each.
“I’m very happy, those guys stepped up and made plays for us,” Hampton said. “They’re both leading the team in interceptions.”
Clearly, the 1-5 record is not what Scott and the rest of the team wanted, and with the gauntlet awaiting USF, it may get worse before it gets better.
However, these last four games can be used to give some of the younger talent on the roster an opportunity to put their abilities on display.
“These young guys that have kind of come on, and have earned the opportunity to play, maybe to see them have a chance to develop more,” Scott said.