Interim head coach Daniel Da Prato said in the midst of leadership changes for South Florida football, he is keeping his focus on the players before facing SMU at home on Saturday.
After former head coach Jeff Scott was fired Sunday, there have been questions about the new game plan for the Bulls (1-8, 0-5), especially with three games left in the season. Last weekend, the Mustangs (5-4, 3-2) played in a record-setting game, contributing 63 points to the highest scoring regulation game in FBS history.
However, Da Prato emphasized that the change in leadership affects the team on a larger scale because of the sentiment surrounding the locker room.
“All I’ve been thinking about, our kids from obviously the emotional day on Sunday,” Da Prato said. “My focus has been on those young men, being there for them and helping them through that time.”
The affection for Scott is high for the Bulls since most of the roster came to USF because of him and was coached by his staff. Many players have spoken up on Twitter accrediting his impact on them individually. Da Prato has gone through the emotional rollercoaster of losing the head coach on multiple occasions himself and sympathizes with what they may be going through.
“I’ve been through this as a player twice and I’ve been through this as a coach,” Da Prato said. “I do have experience with this, which I’d rather not, but I do. And I’m here to help them and support them.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Rashad Cheney Jr. transferred to USF from Minnesota in spring of 2022, but saw a season ending injury against Cincinnati.
Can’t find a better coach who wanted his players to succeed. Preciate you taking a chance on me that no one else did ✊🏽
— Rashad Cheney Jr ⁴⁴ (@Rashad40_) November 6, 2022
Incoming freshman defensive lineman Connor Knight is committed for the class of 2023 and was grateful for the scholarship Scott offered him.
I would just like to take the time to thank coach Jeff Scott for believing in me and offering me a scholarship 💯 I wish you nothing but the best in the coming future! @coach_jeffscott 💚 pic.twitter.com/TmV6XYCVLJ
— Connor Knight (@Connor15k) November 7, 2022
Da Prato was chosen for the temporary position because of his team-wide participation due to his coaching in special teams. He used to follow Scott in meetings because it involved all playing positions.
“Obviously, the head coach touches the entire team,” Da Prato said. “Then the next two people are the strength coach and the special teams coordinator. When we go to a meeting, the head coach would address the entire team and then I would step right up and address the entire team.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was also released alongside Scott and will be replaced by linebackers coach Ernie Sims. Not only confident in his ability, Da Prato endorsed Sims as a coach that players have already been looking up to making him ideal to step up as defensive coordinator.
“I’ve been with coach Sims for the last three years and how he prepares [and] how he tackles life on a daily basis is an inspiration to everybody around him,” he said. “He is an absolute professional. He is a phenomenal father, husband, man and mentor. And I believe that’s why you’ve seen that trajectory.”
USF football is at an uncertainty when it comes to the future of the program and the current staff acknowledges that. With the amount of adversity the team has faced with injuries and a losing record, this is nothing new. Da Prato ensured they are going to continue the standard they have had for the rest of the season by concentrating on their attitude.
“My expectations are that we’re going to show up to work one day at a time,” Da Prato said. “We control how we respond. We don’t control adverse situations, but we control how we respond to them. That’s a choice and something that we’ve worked through all this time.”
The Bulls will play SMU at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday at noon. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on Bulls Unlimited.