USF Bulls hold open practice at Manatee High School

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BRADENTON, FLA. - Many of the stadiums around the Suncoast were full of spring training baseball fans on Saturday.

But at Manatee High School, the stadium was full of football fans.

“Him and I were just saying, we wish it was like August or something when football would be starting in a couple of weeks, not when baseball is going to be starting,” Jim Brown told ABC 7.

The University of South Florida football team took the field at Manatee High School as part of their spring football practice schedule.

“I wanted to do something different this year and for me personally just our team has been struggling the last couple of years and I wanted to get them in a winning environment and Manatee is the all time [most winning] high school team in the state of Florida,” said Taggart.

Coach Taggart is opening team practices to the public this year in an effort to help his team get comfortable playing in front of crowds.

“Hopefully just getting them accustomed to being in that type of environment and being able to perform in that environment no matter what and hopefully that makes a difference,” said Taggart.

He is used to the Manatee High School football crowds. Coach Taggart help lead the Manatee Hurricanes to back-to-back 5A state championship game appearances in the early 90’s.

Nick Sale says he watches all the Manatee high school practices.

“It is a beautiful day and I am just a football junkie.”

He was one of many in the crowd enjoying the college practice.

“I am in my glory now. We are all excited. We bought shirts last year,” said Eddie Knighton. She is the proud grandmother of former Manatee high school standout Derrick Calloway. one of nine true freshmen to see action for the Bulls in 2013.

“We will probably be the only one here with the number 8 on though,” said Knighton.

“We run our practice just like them so we can get ready for the next level,” said Manatee High School junior Kelvin McKnight. He and his teammates were in the stands paying close attention to the action.

“We are out here to watch them at practice to see if we can get better,” said McKnight.

The USF Bulls will play their annual Spring Game on Saturday, March 29 in Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is at 4p.m. and both admission and parking is free.