The Jim Leavitt Report - UCF

USF Head Coach Jim Leavitt talks about Saturdays game against the Golden Knights. Coach also talks about playing in front of a consecutive home sell out crowd, the impact of instate games on recruiting and more. Only at Get It First, Get it Fast

Head Coach Jim Leavitt


The Bulls host UCF this Saturday, but last week they traveled to Ft. Lauderdale to face the FAU upstart football program. The game was a hard fought battle, with the Owls hanging around deep into the fourth quarter before the Bulls pulled away for a 35-23 win.


 "Going back last game, you have to applaud Florida Atlantic," said USF Head Coach Jim Leavitt. "I thought Coach (FAU head coach Howard) Schnellenberger did an outstanding job and did a great job getting his team ready. Going into Lockhart Stadium, I'm really proud of our players and the way they battled for 60 minutes and won a very tough game. Any time you have two teams in Florida, I can't speak for other states except for maybe Kansas, then you just throw out all of the records. A lot of these guys grew up and went to the same high schools, they had their high school rivalries, and all that stuff, and they are going to play, that's just the way it is."


For the second week in a row USF will face an instate program that has their sights dead set on the now No. 5 ranked Bulls.


 "It's going to be a similar situation this weekend with Central Florida," said Leavitt. "You got two teams playing and you can just throw out the records. I know that it will be a game that will be a battle all the way through. I know that they will come in and play their best and I know that our guys will play hard and I think it's going to be a heck of a ball game."


The two programs have a short history on the field, only playing football twice, with the Bulls coming out on top both times. In 2005 Andre Hall had 187 total yards and scored twice as the Bulls won 31-14 at Raymond James Stadium. Last season at the Florida Citrus Bowl, USF pulled out a 24-17 win that ended when Chris Robinson sacked UCF QB Steven Moffet on 4th & 6 from the USF 10 yard line with 22 seconds remaining.  Matt Grothe threw for 302 yards and ran for another 73 and threw for two scores.


"They're a good football team. They're very talented, they're very well coached, said Coach Leavitt. "They're very good across the board and I think everybody knows that. They're good, they're offensive line blocks extremely well and protect extremely well. The quarterback is outstanding and the running back is very good. They're schemes are good and they're receivers run great routes and can catch the ball. They're tight ends are very good blockers and they can run and catch. They're defense is big strong and have depth. they're linebackers I think our outstanding and they're secondary plays extremely well and our very physical. They're special teams are very well coached, punt team, kick team, return team are all very strong, they ran one back 96 yards against East Carolina. 


The Knights offense is led by Doak Cambell candidate Kevin Smith. This season Smith has amassed 860 rushing yards on 143 carries with 11 touchdowns already. Stopping Smith will be a key element for the Bulls.


 "Oh boy, he's good. I mean he is that good, and I mean that," said Leavitt. "I've watched him, he's big, he's strong he has vision. I don't think you can stop the guy, I know that. He's going to get yards, and they run the ball so well. He's good, he's a good player. " 






 "We play a lot of teams in Florida," said Leavitt. "We played FIU, we played FAU twice, Central Florida twice, FAMU, and I know we got a series with Miami coming up, and also a series with Florida coming up, the only team that we haven't played or are set to is FSU."


Winning games is always a plus in more ways the one, but winning key games in the Bulls home state of Florida is monument in terms of recruiting.


"I think everybody wants to win. I can't imagine all the work that we did through the winter, spring and summer and then going to your team and saying "I want you guys to lose." Everybody wants to win; everybody wants to work hard to win. How it affects that other stuff, I don't know. I don't know what all of those recruits look at. I'm sure they look at wins and losses throughout a season and how a team does. I don't think they look at any one game and it is a deep a factor. I give more credit to recruits than that. I think they look at a program academically. Do they have a major that you're looking at, how you fit in with the players. Geographically, where is it located. They look at the needs for the team and will they play early or not at a certain position. Who are you playing, who's on your schedule. I think they look a lot at those things."




The atmosphere around Tampa has been crazy with everybody talking about USF and the football team. From your neighbors to your coworkers to you local grocer, everybody is buzzing about the Bulls. This is a noticeable difference from years past with a lot of attention on the coach, the program, and the players."


"I don't see a lot of it because I'm in my office watching film," said Leavitt. "I saw the SunTrust building was green that was pretty neat. I saw the tents and the lines of students for tickets, and I felt bad that they had to wait in line. I thought it was a concert going on Sunday when I drove up. I said wow must be a concert and heard people yelling and screaming and wondered who's playing, must be good one a rock band or whatever. I don't know how I found out that it was a line for tickets, but when I did I thought that was something."


 "I always thought this area had great support. When I was at the old Tampa stadium during ticket day I remember seeing people running across the field at all ages, young and old running to seats. So to me the support has always been there, but I do get more calls now. I guess it has picked up with 67,000 at the last game, and from what I here this week will be the same."


With all the extra support from the fans and the community does Leavitt think it has an effect on the team?


"It's always great to have the support, our fans have been great, our students have been great all the way through, and it's great. They help so much they really do. It makes you appreciate things so much. The more that come out you really want to do well, you feel obligated to the community to do well, to do more for all the support that they give."




The Bulls lost two vocal team leaders when linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Patrick St. Louis graduated last year. This years Bulls team is very young and even though they have showed character, Coach says he's still discovering what kind of a team he has.


"I'm really growing with them. We lost some pretty good players and leadership from last year's team," said Leavitt. ". I'm starting to learn more about them, and they're a really close group. I'm starting to understand this team more and more, they're teaching me about themselves. Their lives mean a lot to them, more then just football and that's important. I'm starting to see leadership develop that I didn't know was as strong, but its there, so I'm learning."


With all the physical attributes and good qualities that Jim Leavitt's players possess, does the coach believe that they show championship type qualities?


"I see great qualities, they're all champions to me, all eleven years everybody has been a champion to me, said Coach Leavitt. "If they can deal with me at practice and go through this program. If you ask our players, if they can deal with me and Coach Gregory from here on, then they are a champion I promise you because it isn't easy, I'm a different guy, and lord blesses every one of these guys for having to put up with me."




There have been a lot of good things going on with the Bulls football program this season. They've been getting big wins and plenty of media exposure in route to their meteoric climb of the national polls. With all that is going on what does Coach Leavitt have on his mind?


"You want to know what I'm thinking?" said Leavitt. "I'm thinking about practice, get my whistle, and get my hat, now I've gone to three hats, that's changed, three hats one different each day and they're all South Florida. I get out there and I get excited about punting. Te players will tell you this, they would say that's the exact truth. That excites me. Getting out there and getting that going, the returners catching ball ten minutes prior and hoping they don't drop and doing push-ups if they do, that excites me. We had a pretty good practice last night, and I'm excited to get out on the field today, I'm real anxious to get out there to be honest."





Bull's running back Ben Williams is probably the most unsung hero on USF's squad, but that may not be true for much longer. Against FAU when the Bulls needed him most, Williams rushed for 186 yards and scored 4 times and was surprisingly only garnered the BIG EAST Honor Roll for his performance. Coach remembers several years ago when he first heard of Williams.


"Chad Barnhardt (former USF quarterback and graduate assistant, and former Head Coach at Lake Wales) told us that Ben Williams was really a tough young man for him, and did a real good job at Lake Wales, and when Chad said that, I said that we'll bring Ben out just because of that," said Leavitt.


He's now one of the hardest working, dependable players on the roster, but did Leavitt know what he had in Ben back then?


 "I thought he wasn't real tall, wasn't real fast, but he worked so hard, and he just kept working. I didn't know if he was going to do this or that, but you talk about persistence and perseverance, that is a great word for that young man, because he has worked for everything he's received. I haven't given him a thing, except a scholarship after he got the MVP in our bowl game last year. Ben will tell you that he probably should have gotten one earlier than that, and he's probably right. He doesn't say much and does what we ask of him, it means a lot to him and he's done a great job for us."



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