Bulls begin 'condensed' practice week
Having mostly weathered Hurricane Irma, the Bulls returned to practice Tuesday to face a challenge far less significant and sobering, but sturdy in its own way.
Preparing for a Big Ten opponent in three days.
The Bulls gathered for their first formal meeting of game week Tuesday afternoon before holding their first practice in five days. The impact of Irma has caused a short week — a Friday night ESPN game — to get even shorter, forcing the team to condense some of its preparation.
"Last week, we didn’t get to play that game (at Connecticut), so now we take last week and some of the things we were going to use game plan-wise, we’re just going to take them into this week," coach Charlie Strong said.
"You’re right, we only have three days to prepare, but our guys, they want to go in there and play, and I know It’s been hard to sit for two weeks. Even knowing what's happened around us, not saying that isn’t important, but we needed to get back also."
MLB Auggie Sanchez said the extended layoff may have been a mixed blessing, giving nicked-up players a little extra time to recover.
"You've just got to change your mentality, you've got to change your mindset," said Sanchez, a Northeast High alumnnus who reported that his family survived the hurricane mostly unscatched (except for some minor structural damage).
"You've got to come in here, you've got to give a little extra because the game has to be played. You've just got to come in here, watch a little bit more film, spend a little less time at home. But I think we'll be ready to go."
BUCS IN BULK SUPPLY: As one might expect, Lovie Smith's return to Tampa brings a profound pewter backdrop to Illinois-USF. Eight of the coaches involved in Friday's game played or coached for the Bucs.
USF has secondary coach Blue Adams (Bucs defensive back from 2005-06), running backs coach Shaun King (Bucs quarterback from 1999-2003) and receivers coach Charlie Williams (Bucs receivers coach from 1996-2001).
Illinois counters, of course, with Smith (Bucs head coach from 2014-15, linebackers coach from 1996-2000), safeties coach Donnie Abraham (Bucs cornerback from 1996-2001), defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson (Bucs linebacker from 1993-99, linebackers coach from 2014-15), defensive line coach Mike Phair (Bucs scout from 2002-04, assistant defensive line coach in 2014) and receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker (Bucs receivers coach from 2014-15).
RECORD WATCH: With a victory Friday, USF ties the program record of eight consecutive wins established in the 2006-07 seasons. ... With one rushing TD, Flowers ties the school's career mark held by Marlon Mack (32). ... With 319 career tackles, MLB Auggie Sanchez needs eight to pass Stephen Nicholas for fourth on the Bulls' career list. Sanchez is 48 shy of all-time leader Kawika Mitchell. ... With two TDs Friday, Flowers ties Mack (198) for third place in career points scored at USF.
ODDS AND ENDS: USF is 0-5 all-time against the Big Ten. ... The Bulls enter Friday with a nation-best streak of 19 consecutive games in which they've scored at least 30 points. ... Dave LaMont (play-by-play), Mack Brown (analysis) and Jen Lada (sideline) will call Friday's game for ESPN. Strong, of course, replaced Brown as Texas coach in 2014. ... Illinois will face one of Steve Spurrier's sons for the second time in three games. Steve Spurrier Jr. is quarterbacks coach at Ball State (which fell to Illinois 24-21 in the season opener), and Scott Spurrier is offensive quality-control coach at USF.
AUDIBLE: "Absolutely. Just because when you watched the news, the projection had it coming here, had it not coming here. Especially me, I'm a family man, so of course I think most of the guys on the team would've been worried about what was going on here, and our mind wouldn't be 100 percent on the game at UConn." — Sanchez, when asked if it would've been tough to play last weekend at Connecticut with Irma looming