USF drowning out noise, determined to stay afloat against Alabama

Saturday’s game will mark head coach Alex Golesh’s third consecutive season facing Alabama after coaching against them the previous two seasons while at Tennessee. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Days away from one of the most anticipated games in program history, USF football head coach Alex Golesh said he expects his team to stay consistent with their process and continue to lay the framework for a rebuilding program at a Tuesday press conference. 

On Saturday, the Bulls (1-1) will face the Crimson Tide (1-1), who produced three NFL first-round picks this past April, including quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. being selected in the top five.

However, Golesh doesn’t foresee this matchup against the Crimson Tide as a “David vs. Goliath” situation.

“I know I seem short with my answer on all these analogies and mythical [comparisons]. We got to go strap up and line up against another man and go at it for three and a half hours, one on one and whack heads,” Golesh said. 

“That’s what it is. You got to scheme the right way, you got to execute the right way, we got to protect the quarterback [and] we got to tackle in space. It’s no different no matter who you’re playing.” 

Golesh has seen the challenges Alabama can pose firsthand on both sides of the ball. While serving as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, he faced Alabama during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, including being a part of a thrilling 52-49 victory last year. 

With Alabama producing a historically talented defensive rotation, Golesh talked about the unique challenges the Bulls face playing such a talented defense. 

“There’s just pure mass on the defensive line, bigger bodies than what you’re used to seeing upfront… skill for skill, I think we match up. Schematically, I think we match up,” Golesh said.  

“It’s winning up front on both sides of the ball, protecting the quarterback, being able to stop the run. That’s where you have to make sure that if you feel like you have a size deficiency, you’re able to mask it.”

He recognized the benefits of having faced off against the program in previous seasons, yet Golesh wants his team to focus on the present challenges they face heading into Saturday. 

One of the areas Golesh wanted his team to hone in on was protecting their redshirt freshman quarterback Byrum Brown. In last Saturday’s game against the Rattlers, the Bulls allowed six sacks, which contributed to their inability to capitalize on the defense’s five takeaways. 

Golesh said three of the sacks from Saturday’s game were due to the offensive line and the other three were due to coaching on his part. 

“We’re either not putting [Brown] in the right situation or getting open. Or, at running back or tight end, we’re not holding up,” Golesh said. 

Senior left tackle Donovan Jennings said he is determined to shore up their protection for Brown. The Bulls have given up 11 sacks just two games into the season.

“That number is way too high for us and we want to get that down. You know, just working every day and coming in with the same attitude to get that number down. That’s what we want to keep working on and building,” Jennings said. 

Being the longest-tenured player on the roster, Jennings is another Bull with experience going up against an SEC foe. 

He was with the Bulls when they took on Florida during both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. His experience going against difficult opponents will be crucial against the Crimson Tide. 

He said he is confident the process Golesh has preached will carry over against Alabama.

“For me, it’s business as usual. I feel that if your process is right, and your process is elite, then you’ll be fine,” Jennings said. 

“[Alabama] is physical and fast. They fly right to the ball. They get their hands on you pretty quickly,” Jennings said. 

Over 64,000 tickets have been distributed for Saturday’s matchup, already making it one of the top-selling games in USF history. But Golesh said the Bulls aren’t worried about the outside noise. 

“In terms of that environment and all those things, it should be a really cool game,” Golesh said. 

“I feel [that all games] are challenging. We’ve won four games in three and a half years. I’d say they’re all a challenge.”