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Lots and lots and lots of Leavitt

Posted Nov 18, 2008 by Brett McMurphy

Updated Nov 18, 2008 at 07:08 PM

Since 1999, I’ve been the University of South Florida beat writer for the Tampa Tribune. I’ve covered every football game since then except two in 1999 (New Hampshire and James Madison) and have attended hundreds of Jim Leavitt press conferences: pre-game, post-game, during a game week, during an open date, after practice, you name it.

Tuesday’s press conference was something I’ve never experienced before from Leavitt. He always begins his press conferences with an opening statement, usually a minute or two. Tuesday’s “opening statement” was about 11 and 1/2 minutes long – or seven minutes longer than he stuck around answering questions from the media after Saturday’s loss to Rutgers.

It was a rambling take on what’s happened - or hasn’t happened - in the recent slide and against Rutgers. He mentions bad calls by the officials, injuries, lack of continuity, turnovers, pretty much everything. If you got a few minutes, here’s what Leavitt said before even one question was asked:

“Let me go back on our last game and talk about that a little bit and then I’ll go on with Connecticut. As you saw, it was interesting going back looking at the film and hindsight and all those things. Saturday night did not look at film. I waited until Sunday morning got up and watched it all the way through. The most important thing I, really for myself, wanted to know was one … is did we really play hard and what were the reasons for some of the mistakes we made.

“When I finally got done with it, I went through the whole thing from beginning to end, one of the most encouraging things I saw was I thought our guys were ready to play. As far as emotion, that’s real important to me. I thought they played extremely hard on the field. The only time I didn’t think they played hard was on the last drive when it was 42-16 on that last drive, I didn’t think the guys on our defense didn’t play as hard as I wanted them to play. That happened then. I told you before in the Cincinnati game I wish I would have called a time out. I was trying to save it then to tell the guys to play hard to the end.

“We played really hard. There were a lot of different things that happened. It was 7 to … We take the ball on the opening drive. We go down there and have some really good things happen. We have a penalty on A.J. Love for cutting the receiver, since then the [Big East] office has said they missed the call and it shouldn’t have been called. The next play was an interception [actually a fumble] that was replayed and we would have had the ball inside, right around, the 10-yard line.

“In starting off the game was really important to me. So, uh, they did look at the review again, and they did say A.J. caught the ball. I was wondering about the replay because I never had the angle on it. It still seems like he didn’t have possession long enough from the sideline. However, I don’t know.

“So that was a big turn of events right away. Beginning of the game, it ends up being 7-3. Uh, we do get the game, uh, 14-10, they get a kickoff return that was a big, big return. Our kickoff team did an outstanding job throughout the game, but they got a big return and we had two freshmen – true freshman that are great guys – that got out of position and, uh, the fact we had three freshmen that made a little bit of an error, they got the ball across the 50. That was disappointing. And then they got the ball down and made some third down plays and got it, it was 21-10. That was a tough score right before the half;

“We come back. We have a real good return by Ben [Williams] I thought he did a great ... that young man’s playing so hard, I appreciate him a lot. We get the ball down there, I’m yelling as I’m looking at the clock “time out, time out.” As you know my voice isn’t real good, I should have frantically ran on the field and done this [signaling a time out], since we, they have told us they should have signaled at least that the clock was stopped or keep starting the clock, so we know, I had two time outs, so I was yelling time out anyway. But, um, they [the Big East office] said they should have reset the clock back to seven seconds, so that has been told to us. But not a lot of good it does now – with four seconds. I don’t know what would have happened. We would have gone for one more play to try to gain 6-7-8 yards because we know before I went for the field goal on 7-8 seconds before [against Cincinnati] on the seven or eight seconds [unlike] the Dallas Cowboys. This one I would of because 54 yards is a long ways. We didn’t block on the left side, we didn’t do a good job with our wing. We got blocked and went in 21-10.

“We go in the second half, it’s 21-16, we get it to that, no, I don’t know what it was. We were still in the hunt, maybe 24-16, we were in the ballgame there and, uh, turnovers. Turnovers really hurt us. Turnovers in the first half, obviously, and hurt us after that. Why the turnovers? Well, when the ball is tipped, you got another … another ball that was thrown. We should have run a different … one of the receivers should have done a different thing, which probably would have helped out on the pass play a little bit. Jessie fumbling and Jessie’s a real good receiver for us. That was huge, because that fumble, I think it was 26-14, I believe. And that fumble, we were across the 50 and moving the ball, we were still in the hunt.

“The two long pass plays they got on us. On [Jerome] Murphy. The thing is Murphy should have had help. We had a young guy, some guys that didn’t line up right and should have been on the post pattern. Should have had two guys on there. Why we made the error? I really don’t know. I know it’s things, things we work on a lot, so those two big long pass plays, at least we should have – at least 88 [Kenny Britt] might have made the play over two of us, but we should have had another guy on there. Those are the mistakes, the effort was great. Too many mistakes certainly and too many turnovers. Certainly can’t have those things happen.

“On defense, we don’t want to give up the big play and we have been throughout the year too much in our losses. We don’t want to turn the ball over and we have too much in our losses. Against two pretty good teams we lost two close games in the fourth quarter, we had the lead both times and we didn’t finish it out.

“And, the, it all came, it all came on the scene last game with the turnovers and the mistakes came to a head against a good team. That’s what happens. Why are all the things happening? One, no question, we’re missing some guys that normally would be in there. As you prepare for the year, you hope to always stay healthy and at some key positions we didn’t. But that’s part of it. That’s not an excuse. Some of the other things that have happened, you know I don’t know if we’re pressing too hard or coaches trying to coach too hard or players trying to play too hard. We’ve got some other guys that have been in there, making mistakes that have been around for a while. Those things shouldn’t happen. Uh, you know, no question, we have to coach better, no question, the injuries have, it’s been a combination of those things. Those things have been frustrating.

“I think the world of this football team, no question. I think we have some awfully good football players. We have some awfully good talent. The continuity’s been hurt with different guys not being in there certainly and you all are well aware about that. But, um, we need to play better and we definitely need to play better. Is the loss of some of the players enough to get over the hump of winning some games? I don’t know about that honestly. But I know we should play better and play all the way through hard. The effort again through the first was there. The guys played hard, the guys fought and we felt at halftime, down 11 points, I thought we could win the football game. It certainly wasn’t insurmountable. Them taking the ball and driving it the length of the field in the third quarter was tough, but even after that we went down and scored. So we stayed in there, there was some fight there and then they hit the long pass play. We needed more help on that play, we didn’t have it. We should have. We should have.

“It’s not, to me, it wasn’t a difficult thing to line up to, but it’s not what I think, it’s what the players can do. We have to do a good job with them and if we got younger guys in there, moving people around, we have to understand who we have and try to do the best we can with it. We are. We’re trying. It’s you know … you know, a couple guys out that usually line us up a little bit, that help us line us up a little bit. So that’s kind of that it in a nutshell.

“Now what do you do? You try. We’re going to work hard. I believe this team will play extremely hard Sunday night, like they did and hopefully we will not turn the ball over. If we turn the ball over like we have we won’t win, it just not going to happen. Some of the penalties at the end, we lost [Jake] Sims, had to put some other offensive linemen in position, to play and got a couple of holding calls, which we shouldn’t have done. But it was a tough situation. Already told you about the one penalty, there was another one also, I didn’t want to go into … the guy is grabbing [George Selvie’s] leg, trying to get the guy to stop grabbing his leg. So, you can’t do that, you got to let the guy continue to grab your leg and just stand there and not react to it. The two holding calls at the end were big and A.J. was a big penalty, [the league said] those were missed calls, but you still don’t want any penalties, we certainly know that.

“I’m encouraged by the team. We have to get some guys that are playing now that normally aren’t playing to play better. And that’s our job. And we’ve got to fight hard and I think our guys will. I believe we’ll put a good game plan together, but, uh, our guys work hard, our coaches work extremely hard. We have the same coaches here that have been around for this year and last year, a number of them, we’re working very hard at it.”

If you haven’t gotten enough, here’s the video from GoUSFBulls.com of Leavitt’s press conference.

Reader Comments

Por (Terry Lucas) on November 18, 2008 (Suggest removal)

You can tell Coach knows he’s not immune to the pressure. For those that wonder, Jim is human. Unfortunately, we’ve hit a bad speedbump. I’m bummed out, but I’m not giving up on the program or this team. Saturday was frustrating to watch… but eight months ago in the early morning, my g/f that lived with me gave me the boot and took the dog that like me more. Later that evening, an even hotter girl with less drama introduced herself to me during a softball game. Things are going great now… The ship was righted in a matter of hours… hopefully, Jim can make it happen in a seven days. And now I have three dogs… and no live-in g/f.

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Por (Chris) on November 18, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Brett, i know because of your professionalism you can’t or won’t say it…so i will…i’m sure it’s why you published his speech verbatim. He’s sounds like a rambling idiot. Is he always been like this? Is this why he keeps his words to the press to a minimum? I have never heard him speak in person, but reading this leads me to think that he has a problem keeping a concentrated thought, like things are just randomly coming out of his mouth in no specific order or connection. I don’t know whether i should give him credit for bringing USF this far in spite of his apparent inability to produce a focused though or wonder how in the world he got the job in the first place.  He clearly sounds like he’s in over his head.

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Por (country) on November 18, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Dadgum, Jimbo knows them refs are out to get us, but he can’t say it.  My three huntin’ dogs and me were hopping a train for El Paso so to be early for the Sun Bowl, but I dropped my guitar and had to catch a freight to Applegate, but the moon sure is pretty this time of year, so I’m gonna just sit back and cry into my beer.

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Por (Brett McMurphy) on November 18, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Chris, the purpose wasn’t to put ums and buts in there - I know I use my share of them - but more to see (or hear, click on the video at the bottom) in his words what has happened to the team. All of this was not prompted, it was simply Leavitt opening up and talking and talking whatever was on his mind. I think that is telling in some of the items he brought up as far as what may or may not be the problems. Country’s post is sarcastic, but the more Leavitt mentions bad ref calls - which is a weekly occurrence - I think his players use that as a crutch as well. If the coach says we got screwed by the officials, then it’s easy to put the blame on someone else.

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Por (Allen Brown) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I watched the live press conference today and I was happy that Leavitt talked more than he ever does.  He said many times that the coaches need to do a better job, including getting players ready.  I did not have the same impression that Chris had.  Don’t read the script when you can just watch him in the video.

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Por (Kevin Higgins) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I think Coach Leavitt is doing the best he can with the cards he has been dealt and as others have mentioned at least he stands up for what he feels is correct including not having his players ready to play but I do not think any of these armchair coaches could do any better. Stop worrying about what the Bulls are not doing currently just look at what they have done better and faster than any other team in the state of Florida. Go Bulls!!

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Por (Ric) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

JL, why did you have to bore us with your take on what happened against Rutgers? And about how hard the team played?  We saw the embarrassing performance and didn’t need to relive it.  “They are going to practice hard and play hard,” he says. It’s the same old failed plan.

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Por (Simon) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Okay it’s time for everyone to read between the lines here. I watched the press conference on TV and what I saw was a head coach trying to justify his preparation for the game and season. He says the guys were emotionally ready to play and he likes the effort and they play hard. Well isn’t that just a way for him to deflect questions about a consistent dismal performance week after week? It certainly sounded to me like he was trying to defend some comments and criticism that he has perhaps lost his ability to motivate this team. He said several times that “we need to coach better” meaning the staff as a group but he never accepted full responsibility for a season that truly has not come close to meeting expectations.

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Por (Dan) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I think Leavitt saw how much disappointment the whole fan base felt, and he addressed it. He felt responsible; he let everyone down. He says there were other factors, AND THERE WERE. I guess he reads the paper. When somebody calls for your job, you can react like you’re afraid you’re going to be fired, or you can react as if you must have really disappointed them. For the most part, it’s been nothing but love for Leavitt, and this other stuff must hurt. Plus he may lose Canales. He knows we want Gregory gone. that’s a lot to deal with. Well, we know he can get it turned around, so remember that some of us still have FAITH IN JIM. (PS the video gives a different feel than the script)

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Por (Harold Wheeler) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I think last years taste of success (#2) really put a lot of pressure on the the Bulls. I also think it gave the fans some pretty loft hopes for this year. Hence the huge disappointment and over reaction by fans of wanting to cut heads.
Gregory’s play calling is a little predicatable but he’s not the one that can’t run block or dropping passes. He also isn’t the one getting beat by the deep ball every week.
Bottom line is, we just aren’t as good as we expected to be. Players, coaches AND fans.
Anyone noticed the drop in attendance at the games, especially in the student section? The guys need to be supported all the time. The players see this and it affects them.
And anyone calling for Leavitt’s job is completely nuts.

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Por (Jason David) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I truly don’t think JL is the problem, but coaching is obviously the problem for a team that is noticeably more talented than every team they have played.  Even mentioning the officiating and injuries is a BIG mistake though.  The Big East officials have made bad calls this year for all the teams, so don’t bring that up.  Secondly and more importantly, Cincinnati, who i thnk is extremely well coached, has played FIVE different quarterbacks this year and leads the conference in pass efficiency.  Coaching can obviously overcome injuries, nuff said.

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Por (Nabeel Mulla) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I second what Harold said.

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Por (D Miller) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Leavitt needs to be told that either the “O” coordinator goes, or he goes. He is the head coach so he is ultimately responsible for all that happens. He has come up with excuse after excuse. As for too high expectations. I think that this team should be a 9 or 10 win team every year, and finish at least ranked every year. We are in THE hotbed of HS football, if we just recruited players that would be 2nd, or 3rd team from the big 3, then we should be able to beat darn near anyone in the BE. There is no denying that he has taken this program higher and faster than anyone could’ve realistically hoped for. However, the question is, can he take us to the next level.Time for CJL to step up, or step out.

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Por (Don G) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I have to agree with Jason’s analysis re: Cincinnati and others (Oregon for one), who continue to win with their 3rd or 4th team QBs while dealing with other injuries. I’m willing to give CJL at break due to all the factors already mentioned here, but let’s face it, how many times has USF loss to a team that had to use their backup QB? As many of us have said, we question whether either Leavitt or his current staff have the ability to take this team to the next level?  If USF beats UCONN, then we’re a 7-win average team. If Bulls beat both UCONN & WVA and win St. Pete Boww, then I for one will reconsider my opinion. If USF wins one of two and beats an average C-USA team, the jury is still out on whether Jimbo can do it at this level.

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Por (Rich) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Plenty of teams have injuries. UConn has played 3 different QBs. Pitt played a walk-on receiver at LB against us. Cincy played their 2nd string one armed QB against us.Imagine this team if we lost Grothe for any amount of time. Tough to replace a guy that’s 90% of your offense. Leavitt has not had this team mentally ready to compete in almost every game this year. UCF and FIU were wake-up calls.

Excuses are for losers. If you have an excuse to lose, (officiating & injuries)you will do just that.

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Por (Muhammed Higgins) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Translation:  I just robbed the University of 12 million.  I’ve got to justify my job now.

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Por (Joseph Dunn) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Nothing new in the news conference or the posts by readers…. It is getting T-I-R-E-D, just like the coach is. I am dead serious when I say he sounds like he is EXHAUSTED. Working harder and longer may NOT be the answer. The players are not responding. This is like over-fertilizing your lawn. At some point you KILL THE GRASS!

Going 2-0 from here would sure erase some bad memories and make for better speeches to the media…..

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Por (D Miller) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

If the coach is tired, and the players are not responding to him, then there needs to be a change. Since we can’t replace all of the players. The only change that can be made is the coach. If he were to get hired somewhere else and do well, then oh well. He is not cutting it here. He has gotten them where they are, but I seriously doubt that he can carry them any farther.

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Por (Joseph Dunn) on November 19, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I don’t think it is time to fire Jim… it is sooooo easy for non-players and non-coaches to call for somebody’s head, isn’t it?

Just watched part of the video…...yep——- he is one tired dude.

Hope and pray this next recruiting class is REALLY a good group. Lord knows we need it.

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