TAMPA, Fla. — The stillness of the early morning was interrupted rudely by the annoying sound coming from the alarm clock setting on the nightstand.
Rising up from the bed after whacking the alarm button, your old Uncle Mel remembered what day it is and suddenly jumped up to greet the day.
Finishing the morning routine of showering, drying off and then getting dress your old buddy grab the keys to the official news mobile, the engine started and the trip to the Frank Morsani Football Complex was only interrupted twice with a couple of quick pit stops. One for a morning sandwich and a cup of coffee consumed by your Uncle Mel and the other stopping and get gasoline for the news mobile.
Uncle Mel turned the stirring wheel of the news mobile vehicle into the parking lot arriving for the first day of football practice, just in time to see the University of South Florida football team sprint from the locker room onto the turf at the Morsani Complex.
Leading the stampede, University of South Florida football coach Willie Taggart, beginning his second year leading the charge for the Bulls and finally the 2014 NCAA football season is beginning.
Finding any type of shade is a difficult job at the Frank Morsani Complex but your old sun burning Uncle did find it and with the rest of the coffee that was about as warm as the air, your pal watched, as the first practice unfolded.
Uncle Mel looked for changes in the atmosphere, a change in attitude, looked for any kind of team chemistry and after finishing the lukewarm coffee started looking for a colder drink.
Now nieces and nephews, your old Uncle is not saying that the Bulls are going to walk away with the American Athletic Conference championship or anything close to that but what your old Uncle can say is that the Bulls are changing.
There is a different feeling around the practice facility by the players and by the coaches.
It is like sitting in your favorite room of your house, in your favorite lounge ware and watching your favorite television program-it just feels nice and comfortable.
The players and coaches were eager to get to work and perfecting the little things that can make a big difference in a game situations that sometime is the difference in a victory than a defeat.
There are questions being asked by players, there were answers and direction given by the assistant coaches and there was attention given by the players not involved.
“I think all of us understand each other better, you come out here today and watch some of the execution you could tell that everybody is pretty much on the same page,” Taggart said, about his team after the first practice had concluded. “It helps everybody when guys aren’t afraid and they’re comfortable now, if they’re not sure they ask questions and get the answer now. That is fun to be around.”
There was plenty of talking and laughing too, after all these are still kids and you just know that something is going to be said and it will be funny and the sound of laughter will erupt but only for a brief moment because the attention of the work on the field can’t be missed by the players involved in the funny conversation.
Uncle Mel also looked to see if there is any change from the quarterback position.
Once again nieces and nephews, Uncle Mel does not want everybody to get too excited about the possibility of the out come of the football season, after all it is just the first practice of the fall season but both Mike White and Steven Bench looked more comfortable with the offense.
Even Taggart can see the difference.
“I feel comfortable with where we’re at!” Taggart said. “Guys you can see them walking around and they’re more comfortable than they were last year.”
“There is such a huge difference from doing something for the first time and doing something for the 1,000th time,” Bench said about the way he is approaching this season. “Last year I’d go into a game and had run that play two or three times in my entire life. Now it is turning into second nature.”
Taggart said he is not naming a starting quarterback until the Bulls are into the second week of workouts and that is creating quarterback competition between White, Bench and freshman Quinton Flowers.
Bench and White are working together and pushing each other only to make the Bulls a better offensive force on the field.
The two veteran quarterbacks seem to be enjoying the competition between themselves.
“We have a good friendship. Off the field we’re the best of friends. On the field we’re competing for a job and that’s the way it is.” Bench said about the competition for the starting position at quarterback. “I love the competition and I would not have it any other way.”
“Before I was in the quarterback contention to now he’s never stopped helping me,” White said about his friendship with Bench. “We have fun off the field, play video games and stuff like that and we talk about old baseball stories. He’s a great guy and I wouldn’t rather be in a competition with anybody else.”
Taggart said that Flowers is making some strides in improving but he still is making mistakes but Taggart said that is to be expected but he likes the work ethic of Flowers.
Only the unfolding of the season can measure if the Bulls have improved.
Is there hope?
Is there improvement?
Only time can answer these two question.
The first practice ended just before the heat of the afternoon arrived, Uncle Mel received a nod and a wave from Taggart, along with an invite to find a seat on board this year’s bus ride-there will be some excitement!
Uncle Mel’s excitement at the end of practice was to get out of the sun, into the news mobile, find a restaurant with great air conditioning and get back to the office-to take a nap.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.