By FRANCIS FEDOR
The University of South Florida (USF) is set to kick off its 26th season (1997-2023) on Sept. 2 at Western Kentucky. The Bulls enter the 2023 campaign with an overall record of 161-148. They went 1-11 last season, 0-8 in the AAC, which cost Jeff Scott his job. The Bulls released head coach Scott and his defensive coordinator on Nov. 6, 2022, in an attempt to change the dynamic around the team. Daniel Da Prato took over as the interim head coach for the final two games but was not selected to take over the head coaching role and has moved on to coach special teams at Texas State University.
USF will start the 2023 season with new head coach Alex Golesh who served previously as the offensive coordinator for the University of Tennessee. After the 2022 regular season, Golesh was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, an award given to honor the best assistant coach in college football. The university is in the midst of a capital campaign to move out of Raymond James Stadium, and the USF Board of Trustees approved funding for the stadium, which is estimated to cost approximately $340M, that is currently targeted for a 2026 opening date. It will be built on campus as an addition to the multi-sport complex. USF football opened a new indoor training facility last season and is looking for head coach Golesh to bring a new energy to the program as it hopes to watch the new stadium rise.
The Bulls will play their first 2023 home game against Florida A&M, a 7:00 p.m. start, at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9. That game will be followed the very next week with USF welcoming Alabamato the home of the NFL’s Buccaneers for a late afternoon marquee early season match-up on Sept. 16. The game is set to start at 3:30 p.m., and ABC will host the television coverage for those not heading out to the game. Having the Crimson Tide visit Tampa for an early season game will certainly be a crowd pleaser and generate early season excitement for the program. A visit by conference rival Rice University will close out the stretch of three straight home games before the team returns to the road.
The Bulls originally had two South Shore graduates, TJ Robinson and Jhalin Hobbs, on their roster. However, TJ Robinson, a former Riverview Shark who was featured in an Observer article last season suffered a hip injury and has decided to step away from football to focus on healing and spending time with his family. Lennard Longhorn graduate Jhalin Hobbs was also to make his debut as a member of the Bulls defensive line but has also stepped away. A little further afield of the South Shore boundary, Dominic Gonnella (hailing from Riverview, FL) who played his HS football as a Bloomingdale Bull, will play his senior season at running back as a USF Bull. Gonnella transferred into USF from North Dakota State. Fun fact, Gonnella also has a two-sport pedigree and was a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks and played on a Diamondbacks summer rookie team for parts of three seasons before being released this past summer.
USF has adopted a “Bull”-ieve marketing campaign to usher in a new era of USF Bulls football with high hopes. Keep an eye out for a Bulls team eager to make its mark.