South Florida has a new helper, former Tampa Krewe coach Dai Morgan. He helped the Krewe to a DII Men’s Club National Championship in 2010 and to second place in 2011 before taking a year off to focus on business commitments.
USF head coach Gordon Campbell persuaded Morgan to help with his young charges while he was out having double knee replacement surgery.
“I knew something was up when Gordon called me up and suggested we have lunch in Sarasota on his dime,” Morgan joked.
Morgan oversaw the very young Bulls squad throughout the Florida Summer 7’s season entering every tournament they could find to give the players valuable experience playing against men’s sides containing bigger and more experienced opponents than they would be facing in their University matches.
Both Morgan and Campbell are big fans of the 7-a-side game.
“7s is great for developing players for a number of reasons” said Campbell. “It covers the basics of passing, catching, one on one tackling, learning different defensive systems, reading the game and of course 7’s is great for fitness.”
The Bulls team took a few heavy defeats in the early tournaments but over the summer they continued to improve, making it to the quarter and even semi- finals some weekends, finally winning the Gulf Coast 7-a side Tournament hosted by the Pelican’s Rugby Club in nearby St Petersburg.
The Fall semester brought some new faces including some quality athletes new to the sport. The Bulls played 12 games in the fall and lost to eventual collegiate Florida Cup Champions UCF in the quarterfinals.
Both Campbell and Morgan agreed that the Fall season was good for both the players and the coaching staff to measure where they stood versus the competition.
“We won the matches that people thought we were supposed to win and we lost the games versus the opponents we were expected to lose to.” Said Morgan.
“The next step in our development is that we want to win those games that we are not expected to win.”
Campbell agreed and touched on two games that he felt were crucial in the progress of the club.
“We played UF up in Gainesville on a Friday night and played them really tough. The score got away from us near the end as we tired, but for 60 minutes I thought our lads played some really good rugby. It was the same thing in the quarter final of the Florida Cup in Tavares. We held a very strong UCF team scoreless until just before the half. Then we gave up a couple of soft scores and they beat us comfortably in the end. But there were a lot of good things that we took away from that game.”
The Bulls players were each given an individual strength and conditioning plan to follow over the Holidays.
“We lose our players pretty much from Finals week until they come back in early January.” Said Morgan. It was imperative that these fellas put in the hard graft over the break if we are going to challenge for anything this Spring.
The Bulls had their first week of practice last week and held their first ever Retreat at the school’s Riverfront Outdoor Pursuits Park in Tampa at the weekend.
“We had about 22 guys pitch up and take part in a great weekend of hard work and fun” said Morgan. “We are so fortunate to have such a great facility right next to campus and the Campus Recreation Department folks were wonderful.”
As to making the playoffs this year, Coach Campbell was realistic but optimistic.
“Look, we are in a very tough conference and only two teams will move on to the play-offs,” he said. “Our goal is to be one of those two teams. If you don’t have goals, how can you can measure if you have improved or not?”