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Coaches feeling the heat

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


The football coaching staff has been showing some solidarity with the athletes during those hot, long two-a-day practices. Several of the assistants have been wearing black, long-sleeved shirts and black shorts.

And while the running joke is the coaches are trying to lose weight before the season starts, several said in reality they are trying to relate better with what the players are going through.

"It's tradition," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "I've been doing it since my first day coaching here. It's for the players. I'm letting them know I feel the same heat they feel and I'm with them."

Defensive coordinator Rick Kravitz said he finds wearing the heavy, dark attire a good barometer of the heat.

"I can gauge how hot it is for the players," Kravitz said. "When I'm wearing this, I can always tell how hot it is for them, especially when they are in pads and helmets. If I'm too hot, then I know they probably are, too."

WRAPPING IT UP: Double-session football practices will wrap up with two practices today and two on Saturday.

Coach Jim Leavitt said the Bulls have had to endure a week more of two-a-days than many schools because classes don't begin until Monday.

And while the two weeks of double-session practices have taken a toll, Leavitt said it's crucial the players and coaches learn to battle through them.

Because USF is making the move from Division I-AA to I-A in such a short period -- five years -- Leavitt said his big concern is teaching his players to become mentally and physically tough through good and bad times.

"We're trying to do something that nobody's ever tried to do in this country," Leavitt said. "So we can't just get better, we've got to exponentially get better. You have to work hard or you won't stay ahead of an aggressive schedule. That's always my concern, that these guys realize they've got to stay on edge every day."

PRESEASON HONORS: Senior linebacker Vassay Marc is one of 70 players on the Butkus Award Watch List, presented by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.

A 6-2, 230-pound graduate of Miami Northwestern High, Marc is the starting strong-side linebacker. He is the second USF player to make the list in the past four seasons, joining Demetrius Woods, who was listed in 1998.

"This is a tremendous honor for Vassay, and one that is well-deserved," Leavitt said. "Vassay has worked very hard since joining our program back in 1996, and this is a tribute to that hard work."

Marc has 154 tackles in three seasons, including 79 in 1998. He is one of six team captains and one of 14 from the original recruiting class in 1996.

BETTER THAN BASICS: Although seniors Rafael Williams and Otis Dixon are the top running backs in preseason, it's not just pure athletic ability that impresses run game coordinator Calvin Magee.

Magee has a certain criteria he looks for when choosing a back.

"Dependability," Magee said. "Somebody I need to be able to trust. Of course there are the things like speed and all that stuff, we all want that. But I want a guy I can trust. A guy I can put on the field and trust to do the right things on the field and be a complete back -- to run the ball, pass the ball and pass protect."

A DAY FOR FANS: USF will host its fourth annual Fan Appreciation Day during the final 30 minutes of the Saturday morning's practice -- 11-11:30.

Fans can watch practice, then remain for an opportunity to meet players and coaches, pick up a team poster and get autographs.

- Contact Bulls beat writer Antonya English at (800) 333-7505, ext. 8810, or by e-mail at English@sptimes.com.

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