While coach Jeff Scott made it clear at the beginning of spring practice that the Bulls were starting with a blank slate on their depth chart, the team’s returners have been quick to make their mark over the first few sessions.
The Bulls’ seniors and graduate students have caught the attention of Scott and the rest of his coaching staff. During Thursday’s press conference, Scott praised his player’s efforts since the team got back on the field.
“It’s natural for people to get excited and ask questions about the new guys that come, which I understand, but I’m really proud of the returning guys,” Scott said.
Players like linebacker Antonio Grier, Dwayne Boyles and center Brad Cecil are designated “super seniors” as they are returning for a fifth year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
After years of losing seasons and wholesale coaching changes, they have not only come back with a renewed energy, but have set the tone for the rest of the team.
“Grier and Boyles and guys like Mekhi [LaPointe] have really been here, they’ve been here for the tough times and have really pushed extremely hard,” Scott said.
“The second thing I think just overall is the focus, the intensity, work ethic, mindset, attitude [so far this spring]. There’s just a little bit more of a maturity factor there. Which obviously you would hope and expect when you have as many guys coming back as we do.”
The seniors first made their impact during the offseason in the weight room where they consistently topped the team’s grit rankings. The grit score was used to measure individuals’ conditioning and effort in the winter.
“You go over those grit score rankings from winter workouts, six of the top eight were super seniors, and all 12 of the super seniors were in the top 25,” Scott said. “The best teams I’ve been a part of, the seniors are your hardest workers.”
From his analysis of winter and through the first week of spring, Scott wouldn’t be surprised if the team’s starting lineup was composed of mostly seniors, a pleasant change from his first two years with the Bulls.
“If you go look at every one of the 12 super seniors, every one of them are players, they may all be starters and that’s a good sign,” he said. “That has not been the case the first two years.”
With a new pair of coordinators in Travis Trickett and Bob Shoop, the Bulls are hoping to turn over a new leaf following a season in which the team won just two games and finished second-to-last in the conference.
Cecil believes that with the talent the program’s added over the offseason, in conjunction with the returners, the Bulls are embracing the challenge of bringing the team to new heights.
“I think with the talent that we have and the work ethic, and the camaraderie, the culture, we definitely have a good shot to be one of the best teams in USF history,” he said.
The seniors have also taken it upon themselves to step into leadership roles. They have shown their new teammates how to be a part of the USF football culture, a sign Scott is encouraged by.
“When your returning guys are telling the new guys here, ‘Hey, this is how we practice. This is the standard.’ Those are the signs that you look for as a coach when you’re trying to see that improvement,” Scott said. “Really, a lot of good signs there.”