Competition is the name of the game at USF football practice this fall. With the Cougars graduating 25 seniors off a team that went 9-2, the Coo will need a number of new faces to step up if they plan on repeating that success.
They've earned the respect of the Northern Sun after a stellar debut, but now can the Cougars keep it.
"Our expectations as a team and as a program are much higher this year. We just have to make sure that we not only exceed those expectations but make sure that at the end of the year we are where we want to be," wide receiver Carrington Hanna said.
At the end of last year, Hanna was one of the top receivers in the conference finishing with 69 receptions for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns. He figures to have even more opportunities this season as head coach Jed Stugart and company take advantage of his talents.
"Versatility. The thing is, Carrington can be lined up in a lot of spots. That's going to create defenses that have to pay attention to what they're going to do with their coverage. Coach Grubb has done a great job of using him in spots where it's going to make defenses stop and think a little bit," Stugart said.
In practice, Hanna has seen time at wide receiver, tight end and running back. While USF is overjoyed he's back, the Cougars are still deciding on who will be tasked with getting him the ball.
Sophomore Calvin Jacobson may have an edge in experience with the playbook along with redshirt freshman Corbin Lawler but true freshman Matt Young and Luke Papilion are giving them a run for their money.
"We kind of new them coming in would add a little bit of competition, and they have. It's really made for an interesting battle at that position," Stugart said.
Stugart is hoping to name a starter soon. Meanwhile on the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars led the NSIC with a ridiculous 23 interceptions last year and finished second in turnover margin at plus 14. John Tidwell returns to the secondary at defensive back, a position he thinks will be a strength once again.
"I'm being pushed every day. I know I started last year but that doesn't keep me safe at all. I just think that we'll go out and we'll have to repeat what we did last year as a defensive back crew with the turnovers and everything," Tidwell said.
USF will also look to Michael Tolkamp and Jonathan Talbot to help lead the rest of the D in the right direction. One thing’s for sure, they plan on being prepared for a fight every week.
"How it used to be where we came out and we'd have some games we knew if we didn't compete at our highest potential we could still win. At the NSIC you have to compete every weekend at your highest potential to win," Van Hove said.
The Coo will have new running backs this season as well. Stugart likes what he sees so far in Brady Rose and Dakota Fiene.