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USF football players dreamt of facing the Gators

“Rise to the occasion but fall back to your training,” senior offensive lineman Brad Cecil said on USF’s preparation for this weekend. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

South Florida will take on No. 12 Florida this Saturday in Gainesville. While the Gators (1-1) don’t have sharp teeth, they still pose a huge challenge for USF (1-1) this weekend.

One of the biggest obstacles for the Bulls Scott is preparing for is blocking out the sound of noisy Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“You got to change up how you do your snap count,” Scott said. “Obviously, can’t go into verbal cadence. It’s really more of an issue for your offense than it is for the defense.”

In preparation for the fan noise, USF has been introducing loud speakers to practices this week. The Bulls will have to emphasize eye contact and hand signals especially since Ben Hill Griffin reaches over 100 decibels during football games making it hard to hear calls.

Last week, the University of Kentucky did the same to prepare for UF. The Wildcats blared the Florida fight song and crowd cheers during practice to mock the environment they would play in. UK (2-0) ended up snagging a 26-16 victory over the Gators.

Besides the venue, Florida’s physicality is on Scott’s watch list. He said the Gators have their weapons loaded, mostly due to their strength behind every phase of the game.

“They’re very strong at the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense,” Scott said. “Their offensive line has done a really good job this year with running the ball. What stands out is their defense. I think they have a chance to be elite and are really, really good up front.”

Scott believes their defensive line will be the best the Bulls have faced in the last two years. In the last two games, the Gators have posted 150 total tackles, led by senior safety Dean Trey III who was named on the All-SEC freshman team in 2018.

As for the Bulls, they are going to prepare for Florida like they would for any opponent. Preparation and communication is what senior offensive lineman Brad Cecil said USF will draw its confidence from.

“Sinking into your special teams, being on the same page [and] being hip to hip,” Cecil said. “It’s important when it comes to [offensive] line play to stay tight.”

Senior defensive end Jatorian Hansford said if the defensive line is able to capitalize on plays, he believes USF has a chance.

“I feel like we just need to stop the run, stop the quarterback [and] stop the running back,” Hansford said. “The [defensive] line just got to stop the running, period.”

Hansford has been looking forward to facing the Gators since he transferred in 2021. Because of the close ties to childhood, Scott said many players have dreamt of this game.

“It’s an environment that our players probably watched many years growing up and then we get an opportunity to go compete on that stage is definitely one all of them are looking forward to,” Scott said.

Scott is sending the message that the Bulls will need to focus this weekend, despite being “starstruck” over their team and stadium. Even with the odds stacked against them, he wants the Bulls to control what they can.

“We’re not gonna win the game on paper,” Scott said. “But at the end of the day, it’s gonna be the team that plays the best for those four quarters.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game against UF is at 7:30 p.m. in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and will be streamed on the SEC Network.