If you’re looking to explain last season’s 3-9 finish by the University of South Florida Bulls, the lack of takeaways is a logical place to start.
USF’s defense had just nine — seven fumble recoveries and two interceptions — but first-year Bulls defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said he expects a quick reversal in fortune.
“Our defensive mantra is play fast, play physical and finish everything we do,’’ Bresnahan said. “Turnovers are going to be huge. If you look at my background anywhere I’ve been as a coordinator, that’s one thing that stands out. We always played physical. We always created turnovers.
“That’s not going to be any exception here because it’s demanded, it’s expected and we work at it. It’s not just talk.’’
Bresnahan has eight seasons of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator (Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals), a fact that gives him immediate credibility with USF players. And it was an attractive quality for USF coach Willie Taggart, who first met Bresnahan in 2002, while serving an internship with the Raiders.
“When it was time to find a defensive coordinator, I talked to coach (Jim) Harbaugh (of the San Francisco 49ers) and he said, ‘I’ve got the guy for you,’ ’’ Taggart said. “I called Chuck, interviewed him and said, ‘This is the guy I’ve been looking for.’
“The defense will be his mark behind our philosophy, what we want to be as a football team. He’s an expert at being a defensive coordinator. He’s a great teacher and great for our staff, too. He puts guys in position to make plays.’’
USF offensive coordinator Walt Wells said he expects the athleticism of TEs Sean Price and Mike McFarland to create problems for opponents.
Under Taggart’s regime at Western Kentucky, tight ends were a major factor. In fact, TE Jack Doyle led the Hilltoppers in receptions in each of the past two seasons.
“Sean can obviously run and Mike runs better than you think,’’ Wells said. “We could get some mismatches, get them in the seam against maybe slower safeties built for the run.
“At Western Kentucky, sometimes those safeties would change when we came to town. We ran the ball a little differently than teams in our conference. If you’re a spread team, you probably want a little better athlete out there on the hash. Against us, you better have a guy who wants to come down there and thump a little bit. Well, now it creates a problem because we’ve got two tight ends who are talented and wideouts who are talented, too. We should spread the field and help our run game out.’’
Settled in at Vero
The Bulls held two-a-day workouts Sunday at the Vero Beach Sports Village, where they will maintain training camp through Saturday.
On Sunday, Bulls players and coaches will participate in USF FanFest, a free event at Raymond James Stadium from 2 to 4 p.m., featuring autograph and photo opportunities, plus interactive games.