Before you could snap your fingers, the USF Football 2023 Spring Game was held at Corbett Stadium last Friday night to a sold-out crowd. (Man has 2023 already flown by…) To clarify, no, the game was not held at Ray Jay with Taylor Swift occupying the venue going 3 for 3 on sold-out concert nights Thursday-Saturday.
If the location news wasn’t shocking enough, what about the news of USF turning away fans and directing them to watch the game at Red McEwen Field, home of the USF Baseball and Softball teams due to Corbett being at capacity? To put it bluntly, the crowd and atmosphere was AMAZING on Friday night and the electric energy buzzing around the program is undeniable.
Having the Indoor Practice Facility looming in the background was definitely a nice touch and for those conversations that I had with several members of the SoFloBulls crew, Friday was just a taste of what having an on-campus stadium will be like come Fall 2026 with Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly throwing the date out on the ESPN+ broadcast of the game.
We could talk about the future all we want, but the focus should be on Friday night and what we could gather from what we saw from the new look 2023 Bulls…
Firstly, the amount of alumni at the game was staggering. There were faces there that were real surprises when you saw them walk the sideline during the game. USF greats like Marlon Mack, D’Ernest Johnson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and more were present and active for those that came up to them and for those that watched this program with such USF legends was definitely a cool moment for those in attendance.
Most importantly, it was definitely a “wow” moment for the recruits that were at the game as I was thoroughly impressed with the turnout after the game when coaches and players were greeting recruits for an extended period of time before the fireworks went off in the distance.
Cool moment while the alumni were breaking it down. Golesh leads the breakdown before they depart off the field— SoFloBulls (@SoFloBulls) April 15, 2023
Now let’s discuss the game. To say that the offense and defense look completely different is an understatement. The pace that the offense went at when they were effective in moving the ball down the field was impressive. The offensive line held up with pretty much every player at the position thrown in through a couple different lineup changes, but what was the most impressive was a new-look receiving core gutting it out through a complete turnover at the position with the losses of productive receivers in Xavier Weaver, Jimmy Horn, and Omarion Dollison.
It was noticeable that this group will not be the final product come Western Kentucky in September with a handful of guys missing out on the action Friday (plus a slew of receivers coming in this summer). Nonetheless, credit to the offensive group for finding a way in a new system with guys held out due to injury.
Defensively, I saw a group that looked much more on the same page than last season. This group was impressive, playing at an aggressive level where pursuit to the ball was the name of the game. I’m looking forward to guys like Jhalyn Shuler, D.J. Harris, and Jaelen Stokes in the Fall who shined on Friday night with much of the same storyline as the offense with a number of guys held out for the Spring Game.
It’s too early to tell, but I like what I saw from the Todd Orlando defense and if given the opportunity to fill in at spots that will surely see additions through the transfer portal and 2023 recruiting class, there is reason to believe that this defense will be better this season in comparison to the 2022 unit.
There is reason for optimism and as much as I will encourage EVERYONE to pump the breaks, there was a good feeling that I had walking out of Corbett Stadium last Friday. All that is left is to get on the right track come September and give the program (top to bottom, from the players to the fans) something to feel good about heading into a critical turning point in the program’s history.
I walked away as a believer in what Coach Golesh has brought to the table so far and I’m excited to see the growth that this program will continue to go through before Western Kentucky in the upcoming months.
by Mike Cusimano
Journalist & Recruiting Analyst, SoFloBulls.com | Twitter: @micCusi