Bulls emerge from bye week nearly at full strength
The brief USF practice window afforded to the media Tuesday morning revealed nary a crutch, cast, boot or brace.
Okay, maybe a few guys had supportive braces. Bottom line, the bye week benefited the Bulls, who appear as healthy as one could reasonably expect six weeks into a season.
"We had everybody there today and we practiced well," Coach Charlie Strong said.
Running backs Darius Tice and D'Ernest Johnson, both of whom wore protective boots last week, were seen running post-practice sprints Tuesday. S Tajee Fullwood, who missed the East Carolina game with an unspecified ailment, also practiced.
And slot WR Deangelo Antoine, absent the last two games with what is believed to be a foot injury, will be available Saturday against Cincinnati, Strong said.
HEAD GAMES: A couple of offensive players confirmed Tuesday that the philosophy of some opponents toward QB Quinton Flowers has shifted a bit.
If you can't tackle him, taunt him.
"People try to get in his head, and it's gonna come with the territory," C Cameron Ruff said, basically confirming the belief that opponents are talking more smack toward USF's dual-threat extraordinaire this year. "It's like, 'He's a great player, so let's see if we can break him down mentally.'"
So far, the efforts to rile up Flowers have been about as efficient as the efforts to wrap him up. Granted, he's averaging only 265.8 yards a game, nearly 47 shy of his average this time last year. But he's engineering a more run-heavy offense and a more balanced backfield.
Still, he's seventh in the American Athletic Conference in rushing (79.0 ypg) and total offense (265.8), and eighth in passing yards per game (186.8). And for all the trash talking spewed his way, he has been flagged only once for unsportsmanlike conduct, after chirping at a Temple player whom he said mouthed off at him.
Oh, and his 18th-ranked team is 5-0.
"Our offensive coaches are saying we've got a big target on our back right now," TE Mitchell Wilcox said. "Especially with Quinton, and it doesn't really faze him. And that's kind of the mindset we need to have, just play our game, do what we need to do."
STRONG BACKS SENAT: After some positive reinforcement from his head coach, DT Deadrin Senat has rebounded effectively from the miserable start to his senior year.
Ejected in the first half of two of the Bulls' first three games for targeting, Senat remained in the starting lineup and has totaled 10 tackles the past two games. USF ranks second nationally in run defense (74.4 ypg) and 24th in sacks (2.8 per game), with defensive linemen accounting for 10.5 of the team's 14 sacks.
"It was hard on him in the beginning 'cause he came to me and said, 'Coach, you've got to teach me some tackling drills,'" Strong said.
"I said, 'You've got to look at it like this Senat: The second (targeting call), the quarterback (Illinois' Chayce Crouch) is 6-foot-2. ... You hit him in the chest, and when you hit him, it looked like (his head) just came down on top of him.'
"But he didn't let it bother him, and that's what I told him, 'Just play your game, don't worry about that.'"
ODDS AND ENDS: USF, which has faced Cincinnati 14 times in its history, will seek its first three-game win streak in the series on Saturday. ... Roy Philpott (play-by-play) and Tom Ramsey (analyst) will serve as ESPNU's broadcast team for Saturday's game. ... USF is 11-9 in its homecoming games, winning the last two. ... Cincinnati's game-week depth chart features eight senior starters on offense including the entire starting offensive line. Additionally, QB Hayden Moore is a junior. "You look at it, they have some really good skill, they have some really good linemen," Strong said. "But they just haven't been able to put it together." ... In his latest bowl projections, former ESPN college football insider Brett McMurphy predicts USF to face FAU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
AUDIBLE: "This is my politician. He will be running for political office one of these days." -- Strong, referring to Ruff
AUDIBLE, PART II: "A lot of people keep saying that, you never know." -- Ruff, when asked if he has considered a political career (Ruff is president of USF's student-athlete advisory committee)