USF is headed to The Swamp this weekend to go against one of its most challenging opponents of the season — Florida college football powerhouse No. 18 UF.
Between introducing noise at practice and preparing for an aggressive team, USF has a lot on its plate this week.
Here is what offensive coordinator Travis Trickett and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop are doing to prepare the Bulls.
The one thing that a USF offense looks at when watching UF’s film is size and strength, according to Trickett .Florida’s defense has changed since last season with the most noticeable point being how rough the Gators play.
“The biggest noticeable thing this year and last year is that these guys are playing hard on defense,” Trickett said. “Every snap, they are playing fast and they’re written. When you do that, you play up to your full potential. They’re very close to being 2-0, they’re very, very close. In every scrimmage, it has been kind of close scoring too, so it’s a big challenge for us.”
In their last two games, the Gators racked up 69 tackles and three sacks against No. 9 Kentucky along with 82 tackles against No. 14 Utah.
For USF’s offense, this means the biggest game-changer will be seeking opportunities wherever they may arise.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure this game is close,” Trickett said. “If we can just take advantage of our opportunities, like how it’s gonna work out is how it’s gonna work out. We just got to take care of us offensively and maximize our opportunities.”
Along with the sparse opportunities USF might be able to grasp onto from a talented Gator defense, the swamp presents another opposition — the noise.
UF catered to 89993 fans in its matchup against Kentucky on Sept. 10 . A similar crowd is assumed to attend the game, with the blaring sounds of Ben Hill Griffin roaring through the stadium.
To prepare, the Bulls have begun to play loud crowd sounds and music in their practices according to Trickett. Loud crowds can often present an obstacle to an offense that is attempting to communicate plays, so USF has had to change the way it transmits its messages on the field.
“We’ve been pumping in a lot of crowd noise to try and put them in those situations where they can’t hear,” Trickett said. “We got to be really good with our communications for the short window. We have a really good scene for our communication sidelines, getting lined up and make sure again once that ball snap, go play and go attack.
“That first day we did on Tuesday, I don’t wanna say shook them, but it’s a little different. Not today [Wednesday]. They handled it much better.”
Florida not only has a sturdy defense but a dangerous offense that follows. In their last two games, the Gators have totaled 420 rushing yards and five touchdowns, showing a powerful running team.
The real challenge for USF on UF’s offense is quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has 311 passing yards and 110 rushing this season.
While assembling his defense, Shoop said he needs to keep Richardsons’ capabilities and physicality in mind.
“He’s really kind of a unique athlete, a little bit of a unicorn,” Shoop said. “He’s so big, so strong, throws the ball, throws it deep, very, very well. He can make every throw he’s got a quick release, his greatest asset may be his feet. He’s a very big guy to tackle.
“He’s certainly a classic dual-threat quarterback, but his physical appearance is that of a defensive end for certain.”
Outside the quarterback position, Florida’s receivers are also a topic highly talked about.
Excluding Richardson, the Gators have two touchdowns and 310 rushing yards against top 20 teams. Their size and speed are what contributes to their success, according to Shoop.
“They all run well. They run good routes. They’re fast. They’re long striders. They are kind of like greyhounds,” Shoop said. “They’re really long and athletic and catch the ball well, but they also block really well.”
The Bulls will play UF on Saturday in Gainesville. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be streamed on the SEC Network.