USF Football Spring Report: Improved Bulls Maintain Mindset of “Work To Do”

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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICE - PHOTO FROM USF MEDIA

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For the USF Bulls, last season’s football progress was a step in the right direction.

But the Bulls must make a larger leap in order to achieve the program’s primary goal — winning an American Athletic Conference championship. And that could put USF in contention for a spot in the new 12-team College Football Playoff.

Following the first week of spring drills, USF coach Alex Golesh said he loves that fans already have big expectations for 2024. But he’s quick to remind his players that the Bulls must raise their level in order to improve.

“As I see what’s out there on social media in terms of the outside expectations, I told them (players) the exact truth,” Golesh said. “Like, we went to Birmingham, Alabama (against UAB) and got blown out. FAU (Florida Atlantic) came in here and blew us out. We went to UTSA on national TV on a Friday night and we weren’t ready for that moment.

“So, if you need something to keep you grounded, if you need something to keep you hungry, if you need something to wake you up in the morning and say, ‘Man, we’ve got a lot of work to do’ … that’s it.”

Last season’s 7-6 mark, along with a 45-0 win against Syracuse at the Boca Raton Bowl, was a notable first season for Golesh and his staff.

But it was NOT the end goal.

Todd Orlando Spring 24

“Even though last year was pretty good, it was an average year,” defensive tackle Rashad Cheney said. “I definitely feel like it sparked the guys in the room. It gave us hope. But we’ve still got our heads down and we’re working hard. We still feel like we can do better than that. We’ve got a different standard and we all hold each other accountable.”

“I’ve got more things to do here,” quarterback Byrum Brown said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to take this team (to an AAC title), the playoff and win the championship. I think that’s everybody’s goal. Ultimately, that’s the end goal. Nobody is playing to lose.”

Golesh said he intends to accentuate the positives of last season, but he’s also realistic in attacking the program’s deficiencies.

“I don’t mean to drive the culture in a negative way, but man, that (last season’s defeats) is what keeps me up at night,” Golesh said. “Everybody else can talk about expectations and positivity. And I’m going to coach and interact in a positive way.

“But if those games don’t show you that we’ve got a long way to go … we’re jacked up. As soon as I feel like it goes from confidence and hunger to getting better, we’re good. But I get really guarded (about getting too caught up in talk about how the program has turned a corner). We have work to do.”

Golesh said it’s a far different outlook than the offseason and spring drills of 2023 because USF’s depth and experience have dramatically improved. Now, there’s emphasis on specific skill development instead of baseline conditioning and making sure the roster was healthy enough to have a productive spring.

Spring 24

“I feel like we attacked the areas of our big issues (with depth at specific positions),” Golesh said. “Now there’s real competition and also the ability to build with the younger guys. That’s the way you get better, keep building the depth, keep developing your talent and skill.”

Golesh said he also feels his coaches can work in granular detail instead of “just putting out fires” and installing base schemes.

“We’re able to pinpoint and work on issues — whether it’s situational football, third down, red zone, two-minute drills — the things that win football games,” Golesh said. “Instead of just lining up, getting bodies on bodies, and being very elementary, we’re coaching in detail and that will get you over the hump.”

Golesh said he loves that USF is in the conversation for an AAC title — and beyond.

But that’s not the soundtrack he wants for spring drills. It’s a workday stacked upon workday. And if that work is done properly, Golesh said the Bulls will be just fine.

“I feel like I spent the first eight months of my tenure trying to give them the tools to create real confidence,” Golesh said. “People are saying, ‘Man, these guys have a shot to be pretty good.’ And every time that has ever happened to me in life, I’ve gotten smacked right in the face.

“As coaches, your process never changes. But I think with young people (hearing expectations from the outside), it changes and their approach changes. So, it’s about a mindset. That’s why I always talk about process. If it’s the same every week, then it shouldn’t matter who you’re playing. And that’s probably the hardest thing to do.”

In an offseason when USF fans are excited about the fall possibilities, Golesh and his players have other priorities for spring drills.

There probably should be one of those construction-site signs around the USF practice fields.

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Men at work.