Saturday, November 18, 2017
Colleges

USF picks up the pace in first spring practice with Charlie Strong

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TAMPA — As his first spring practice as USF coach commenced on a cool, windy Monday morning, Charlie Strong didn't appear interested in first impressions. He was more concerned with making a fast one.

If the inaugural workout of the Strong era — 2 1/2 hours on the nose — was any sign, the Gulf Coast offense of 2015 and '16 might be relegated to the right lane. Operating briskly at the behest of their new staff, the Bulls installed the first fragments of coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's fifth-gear system.

Could it be faster than last year's record-breaking offense?

"I think so," reigning American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year Quinton Flowers said. "It's very different. Everything goes very fast. You only get a signal one time so you have to see it, so that's a good thing. Everybody gets their role in, everybody knows what they're doing, and we're just getting out there and playing ball."

While careful not to single anyone out after one workout in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, Strong nonetheless seemed pleased with the collective effort and pace on both sides.

"I just loved their overall attitude and just how hard they worked; they didn't back away from it," he said. "And how we had the tempo where we just constantly were going, going, going."

Strong never got overly vocal, leaving any bombast to his new staffers, the most colorful of whom was defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary.

"I like crazy coaches," cornerback Deatrick Nichols said. "He's kinda crazy."

Taking snaps behind Flowers — in order — were redshirt sophomore Brett Kean and redshirt freshman Chris Oladokun. Senior D'Ernest Johnson, the heir apparent to three-time 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack, got the first handoffs.

The most conspicuous bystander was middle linebacker (and 2016 tackles leader) Auggie Sanchez, sitting out this spring while recovering from labrum surgery. Like Monday's other eyewitnesses, he didn't dare blink much.

"As of the first day of practice, we're moving very fast," said Flowers, whose 4,330 total yards last season included 1,530 on the ground. "But I see I could do a lot of things in this offense, a lot of passing. You might not see me run like that a lot, but at the end of the day it's what's best for the team."

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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