It came down to the final kick as the White team rose to the challenge to defeat the Green team 17-14 in the 2022 USF Spring Game. In one of the better spring games that I’ve seen since covering the program, I saw some really good things from a team that is looking to turn the corner in 2022. Covering the action from this past Saturday, let’s dive in to my news and notes on the game!
Let’s Talk About the Receiver Room…
If last year’s performances by Xavier Weaver and Jimmy Horn Jr. weren’t enough to show you the talent that each of them have at the position, this past spring game was a friendly reminder that both players can BALL. Horn Jr. saw 5 targets in the game with 3 catches for 41 yards with Weaver posting 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown for the opposing side. Outside of their raw ability, what I really liked from the game was new OC Travis Trickett getting both guys in space to allow them to pick up yards after the catch.
Outside of Weaver and Horn Jr., I was impressed with Ajou Ajou, Sincere Brown, Yusuf Terry, and Omarion Dollison. Brown and Dollison saw a heavy amount of targets and it was refreshing to see all four players have their chance in the spotlight on several occasions during the game. For bigger receivers like Ajou and Brown, there is surely a place for them in this offense in 2022. I anticipate Terry to be apart of the conversation as well with the former Baylor transfer coming into his own towards the end of last season. To no surprise, Omarion Dollison led all receivers with the most targets on Saturday (9) as one of the more flexible receiver options for this unit heading into next season.
Offense Utilized Talent on Both Sides
Since Trickett joined the Bulls coaching staff earlier this year, it has been highlighted constantly how similar this offense would be in comparison to the offense that was ran over the past two seasons with former OC Charlie Weis Jr. As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, that couldn’t be more spot on as even the average fan could compare both offenses fairly well.
However, there were some things that I really liked in contrast to the past few seasons. The offensive gameplan on both sides clearly favored the short passing attack with new DC Bob Shoop giving the QBs all that they could handle with blitzes coming from all directions. Whether it was the Green or White team, you saw short passes (or “blitz beaters”), screen plays, and even better, fairly solid decision making by the QBs when they were under pressure. In layman terms, the offense took what it gave them and that is promising to see from the Bulls new OC.
Even better, Trickett utilized his RBs as pass catchers with based on the players at the position is a no-brainer in getting those guys out in space. This will be an interesting wrinkle to see in the “new” offense come BYU in September.
Honorable Mention on Offense Goes to the RBs…
When you split up offensive lineman on both teams AND have starting OL out, it won’t be easy to establish a rushing attack. Nonetheless, I liked what I saw from Jaren Mangham in his limited action who seems to carry the reputation of being a bigger back who can’t “make” yards in tight spaces. The stat-line might not show it, but I saw the same if not more elusiveness from the big back who had to “get his” on a day where the holes simply weren’t there. He’ll be in line for another big season.
Other RBs that didn’t disappoint were Kelley Joiner, Michel Dukes, and Mychael Hamilton. I liked how all three ran the rock on Saturday and was impressed with how they were utilized out of the backfield as well. It’s been noted how strong the position group has looked during spring camp and I can’t wait to see how it materializes in the fall.
Defense is DIFFERENT!
We’ve been told that this defense will look a lot different than the past few seasons under former DC Glenn Spencer and unless you don’t watch football, the defense that was displayed on Saturday looked like the polar opposite from previous defenses. THAT should be exciting for Bulls fans that want to see a unit that attacks on a more consistent basis and surprisingly enough (sarcasm), this Bulls defense has guys that can get to the ball in a hurry. If there was one big takeaway for me on Saturday, it would be this one over anything else that I will write in this article.
Plays All Day from the Defense
The Green team had their fair share of players that stood out, but I want to highlight the players on the White team as the group that was most impressive. I was impressed by LBs Brian Norris and newcomer Jhalyn Shuler who combined for 16 total tackles between the two. To say they were everywhere would be putting it lightly and to no surprise, this is a STRONG linebacker group heading into the season. Antonio Grier had himself a DAY with 5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 interception. The DL for White team saw DE Tramel Logan (5 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss), Rashad Cheney (5 total tackles, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 sack), and DE Jason Vaughn (4 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss) have solid performances from a unit that looks to take the next step in 2022.