The 3 changes USF’s Jeff Scott made after Year 1 flop

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Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times
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When USF started spring football practice Tuesday, coach Jeff Scott noticed some subtle changes within his program.

A renewed energy. A different mind-set. A newfound maturity.

And a second-year coach who has started to understand all the things he didn’t know that he didn’t know in Year 1.

“I’ll say for myself personally, I needed some growth as a first-year head coach,” Scott said in a post-practice Zoom session with reporters. “I needed to change some things.”

The need for change was undeniable after last year’s 1-8 failure. Scott’s off-season soul searching led to three noticeable adjustments.

In his first practices last year, Scott would notice mistakes and try to correct them all immediately. It was an impossible task.

“You realize you don’t really accomplish anything when you do that,” Scott said.

Instead, Scott has learned to prioritize. Rather than chase one issue after another, he focuses on one, corrects it, and then moves onto the next.

Scott should have more time to make those fixes this year because of his second big change: He’s delegating more.

He realized that he spent too much of last year micromanaging practice and meeting schedules. Now that he knows his support staff better, Scott is handing more of those responsibilities to his director of football operations, Albert Boone.

That shift gives Scott more time to devote to his final major change: spending more hands-on time with an offense that ranked 98th nationally last year in yards per play (5.06) and was tied for 101st in scoring (23.1 points per game). He’s already accomplishing that goal by assuming his old job as receivers coach while USF goes through the spring without a full-time staffer at that position.

As much as Scott wants to quickly turn the Bulls around from AAC bottom feeder into Group of Five contender, one year on the job gave him a better understanding of how long the process can take.

“I’m not a patient person by nature, but there is a price to be paid,” Scott said. “There is a process that you cannot take a shortcut.”

But Scott is seeing some signs that his Bulls are making progress on their road to success. Scott was pleased with the body changes he saw in his players through winter conditioning. Starting quarterback contender Cade Fortin processed information better Tuesday than he did last season. The little things Scott looks for at practice — body language, toughness, how quickly players run off the field — looked better on the first day of spring ball than they did at any point in 2020.

“There was a maturity among our players and the way that they practice which was unlike any other practice that we’ve had in my first year here,” Scott said. “I think that’s a really good sign of the growth of our team right now.”

And the growth of its second-year head coach.

Another transfer to watch: TJ Robinson

In addition to USF’s five mid-year transfers (including former Miami quarterback Jarren Williams), Scott singled out one that flew under the radar: defensive back TJ Robinson.

The Riverview High alumnus sat out last season after transferring from Rutgers, but Scott said he “is going to be special” for the Bulls.

Scott said he was “really pleased” with Williams, who started 10 games for the Hurricanes in 2019 and set a school record with six passing touchdowns against Louisville.