USF football begins spring practices

Coach Alex Golesh took the field for his first practice since being hired in December. ORACLE PHOTO/HANNAH HALILI

USF football gathered behind the Indoor Performance Facility on Monday to take on their first spring practice, meaning coach Alex Golesh’s new era is in full swing. 

Golesh has worked in the off season to bring the puzzle pieces together for South Florida, from bringing on a brand new coaching staff and meshing new players with returning ones. Golesh said in a Tuesday press conference that it was surreal to see everything fall into place. 

A piece of that puzzle is the planned on campus stadium. The Board of Trustees voted to approve the design build agreement less than 24 hours after the Bulls’ cleats hit the turf. USF will use up to $22 million for design phase disbursement involving their 35,000-seat stadium. 

The vote on Tuesday, Golesh said, is the first time the stadium has been financially approved. He said he believes it is an important step in continuing their growth as a program.

“I think it’s a must-need for us to take the next step as a program. Whatever that next step actually looks like…For me as the head football coach, our next step is to practice really well tomorrow. For a fan base and the university community, the next step is that stadium.”

As Golesh closes in on the spring game, a big takeaway from the first practice was the fast tempo it was held at. Golesh said he wants to coach for longevity and urgency in hopes to see it being executed in the fall. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Golesh mentioned it would be unfair to completely assess the quarterback position on day one, especially with how young the players are. 

Junior quarterback Gerry Bohanon was seen participating in practice on Monday, but he is still rehabilitating his shoulder from his injury last season while facing Tulane. Nonetheless, he has been a steady hand to the coaches as a veteran role model. 

Golesh said he was impressed by both freshmen quarterbacks Byrum Brown and Bryce Archie. ORACLE PHOTO/HANNAH HALILI

Despite only having one practice, Golesh said the offensive line impressed him even with the holes left by graduated players like Brad Cecil and Demetrius Harris.

Golesh said freshman Nikola Milovac stood out as a rookie on Monday, junior Derek Bowman impressed him more than he thought he would and RJ Perry “flashed” many times. 

“Really that whole group I thought did a really good job with no pads on them. You’re seeing how fast they’re playing. You’re seeing guys come off the ball,” Golesh said. 

Defensively, the Bulls recorded three turnovers on Monday. Golesh said he noticed the team was setting the culture for how the defense should play in terms of running the football and how they take the field.

Senior defensive lineman Rashad Cheney is returning after an ankle injury suffered against Cincinnati on the road last season. Cheney said he felt playing under defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has been one the best defenses he’s ever part of. 

“It’s very aggressive.. [Orlando] is a very hard coaching dude and very demanding. But, it’s our job also to do what he wants,” Cheney said. 

There will be a total of 15 practices leading up to the spring game. There will be two more following Monday’s and the other 12 will occur after spring break. 

Though the team is only one practice in, Cheney said one of the biggest differences from last season is the motivation Golesh brings to the team every day. 

“He makes us want to run through a brick wall for him. The swag he brings, the mindset he brings… the guys in the building have a different attitude. He’s getting dudes excited,” Cheney said. 

Having a fire ignited inside the team will keep the Bulls focused on training even though they are not playing games yet. USF faced setbacks last season due to its lack of drive. 

After four months of gathering the team together, Golesh observed that the players took the field very excited to work. He said he hopes they continue that mindset as they get deeper into their practice schedule. 

“The challenge to those guys after practice was simply to keep the energy through 15 practices,” Golesh said. “I think it’s easy on day one, but what does two look like? What does three look like?”

“There are no games, so there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s still focused on us and our process and how we go about doing things.”