The 2020 season for the USF football team was not particularly successful in terms of overall record, but coach Jeff Scott and the Bulls have been hard at work in the offseason trying to turn the program around.
USF added a number of student-athletes in the offseason via both high school recruiting and the transfer portal. Of those new players, 14 joined the team in January and have been working with the squad for the past four and a half weeks in preparation for next season.
“We had 14 new players join us in January, which I believe is the most that we’ve ever had here at South Florida coming in during the mid-year term,” Scott said Tuesday afternoon. “Nine of those young men were from [the] high school level, and then we had five transfers that came in.
“I’ve been really pleased with how that group has worked here over the last four and a half weeks during our workouts, and I’ve also been really pleased with how our returning players have welcomed them into our team and into our locker room, [it has] really been a smooth transition so far.”
In addition to the influx of talent on the roster, the Bulls have also made changes to their coaching staff.
On the defensive front, former Quality Control Assistant Ernie Sims was promoted to linebackers coach, George Barlow was brought in from NC State to be the cornerbacks coach and Reuben Wright from Western Carolina was added to the staff as a defensive analyst coach.
Scott said he and Wright have a long history of working together.
“Reuben Wright is a coach that I’ve known for a long time,” Scott said. “I coached with him at Presbyterian College and then way back about 15 years ago he was my defensive coordinator when I was the head coach at Blythewood High School, when we won the state championship there in 2006.”
As for the offensive coaching staff, Cam Aiken is the new running backs coach coming to the Bulls from Clemson, former USF quarterback BJ Daniels was brought in to be an offensive analyst and Xavier Dye transitioned from wide receivers coach to a dual role of tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
Scott also teased the reveal of a new wide receivers coach, but currently he’s not in a position to formally announce who it is.
“We have a verbal agreement with a coach that’s going to come coach our wide receivers, but due to some contractual obligations … he really needs to wait until July 1 before he can be officially hired and get down here and start coaching.
“The part that excited me about that was, I’m going to get to coach the wide receivers for spring practice, and let me just tell you, I’m fired up about that,” Scott said. “I’ve been in the meeting room with those guys the last couple weeks, and even though I only spent one year away from coaching [receivers], it feels great to get back in the room with those guys.”
As far as spring practice goes, that will begin Feb. 23 and the spring game itself will take place March 27 at Raymond James Stadium, although all of the details are yet to be revealed.
“We start spring practice a week from today, so our first practice will be Tuesday, Feb. 23. We will practice Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for five consecutive weeks,” Scott said. “Usually you have spring break somewhere in between there, but whenever our university moved the spring break back until the second week of April, it gave us a window where we could go five straight weeks, which is ideally what you would like to do.
“Our spring game right now is scheduled for Saturday, March 27 at Ray Jay [Raymond James Stadium], and we’ll have a lot more information about that as it gets closer.”
Another bit of news from this offseason is a pair of schedule updates. USF has agreed to play Howard University in 2022 and BYU in a two-game series in 2022 and 2023.
Aside from BYU, some other notable nonconference teams the Bulls plan to face within the next four seasons include NC State, Florida, Alabama and Louisville, playing two games per team.
Scott believes that in order for the Bulls to accomplish their goals, they must go up against the best teams.
“What I know is, for us to improve, and us to get to where we want to go, we can’t be afraid to play the best,” Scott said. “So yes, it’s a pretty aggressive nonconference schedule for the next four or five years with NC State, BYU, Alabama, Florida, Louisville, we got some really good matchups coming up here these next few years.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to see our growth as a team. If we want to be the best, and we want to be the best in our conference, then we need to be aggressive in our nonconference scheduling.”