Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Colleges

Djulbegovic breaks through during USF's spring practice

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — With a new coach and all new assistants this spring, there is a clean-slate mentality to USF football. Every job is up for grabs, and every player has a chance to show something.

And as offensive line coach Walt Wells went through winter conditioning, he noticed when his linemen went through non-football competitions — pushing sleds or flipping tractor tires down the field — one player consistently picked high by his peers was tackle Mak Djulbegovic, a walk-on from the scout team who played in one game last year.

"That's great," Wells said. "But we're not tire-flipping on Saturdays."

Since spring drills started last month, Djulbegovic — known to coaches and teammates as "Mak D" — has continued to impress. And when assistants drafted players for today's spring game — after four "free agents" were signed — Djulbegovic, a sophomore next season, was the surprising No. 2 overall pick.

Wells, who will coach against Djulbegovic's Green team, has stopped being surprised by the 6-foot-6, 285-pounder.

"He's real quiet. He just goes to work every day. He's blue-collar, exactly what we want," Wells said. "He picks things up well. He competes. He's very athletic. He can bend. He can run. He has that … I call it 'farm boy' natural strength."

The last name — pronounced juh-BAY-go-vitch — is from his Bosnian-born parents, though Djulbegovic was born in Kentucky and moved to Tampa when he was 4. His father, Benjamin, took a job at USF and is now a professor of medicine and oncology with the Moffitt Cancer Center. Mak came to USF on a Bright Futures scholarship and started as an engineering major, though he's now a business major and considering a minor in psychology.

Djulbegovic was a multisport star at Carrollwood Day School who didn't take up football until eighth grade. He was the rare offensive lineman athletic enough to run the 800 meters and play basketball. Dabbling at tight end, he caught the first pass in Carrollwood Day School history in a jamboree but was physical enough to earn the nickname "Bosnian War Hammer."

Djulbegovic, then just 235 pounds, drew some interest from Division II and III programs but liked the idea of staying home and walking on at USF for "the D-I dream."

"I didn't want to regret anything in five years, to wonder, 'What could I have done?' " he said. "The first day, I was like, 'Wow! What am I doing here?' After the first season, things started getting better.

"Now I can see I can play with these guys. I feel like a part of the group now, so it's probably the best decision I could have made."

One reason Djulbegovic, battling for the right tackle job, was picked so high for the Green squad in the spring-game draft was an effort to neutralize one of the White's top players, defensive end Aaron Lynch, a transfer from Notre Dame who has established himself as an elite pass rusher.

"The guy is a special talent, and he pushes me every day," Djulbegovic said. "I feel like I'm able to push him in aspects of his game, and both of us make each other better. It's a good experience going against that guy."

Taggart won't even attempt to pronounce Djulbegovic — when he announced him as a draft pick, it was just "Mak D" — but says the walk-on has done a good job of being memorable this spring.

"He's competing. He's working hard. He's one of those guys who is getting better every single day," Taggart said. "He's catching on and an example for others out there. I told those guys, if they want me to remember their name, do something."

 
Comments
Jones: Maybe the Florida job isnít as good as we thought

Jones: Maybe the Florida job isnít as good as we thought

These are strange, unsettling times for the University of Florida.The Gators need themselves a football coach.They offer a terrific job. Maybe one of the best jobs in the country.Right?Uh, right? (nervous laugh)Well, weíll soon find out. Maybe this i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

GAINESVILLE ó At last, thereís some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.The Gators sent a group ó including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin ó to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about U...
Published: 11/20/17
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI ó After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE ó Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSUís first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Published: 11/18/17
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE ó Chauncey Gardner wasnít fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

GAINESVILLE ó Floridaís next head coach ó whether itís odds-on favorite Chip Kelly or someone else ó should be encouraged by Saturdayís 36-7 win over UAB.Not because the Gators (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak by beating up on a 7-4 Blazers te...
Published: 11/18/17
Matt Bakerís takeaways from Florida-UAB

Matt Bakerís takeaways from Florida-UAB

1. A milestone Florida probably doesnít want to celebrate: Johnny Townsend became the schoolís all-time leading punter with his 232rd career punt. But Townsend has legitimately been one of the teamís MVPs.2. It took far too long, but UFís tight ends ...
Published: 11/18/17
Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

GAINESVILLE ó Behind a balanced effort and six double-figure scorers, No. 8 Florida dominated North Florida 108-68 Thursday. Junior KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with 18 points. The balanced scoring helped Florida (2-0) dismantle the Ospreys (0-4) fr...
Published: 11/16/17
College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

The Timesí college football coverage team makes its picks for week 12 games:gametimeMartin Fennelly, @mjfennellyMatt Baker, @MBakerTBTimesTraci Johnson, @TBHomeTeamMike Sherman, @mikeshermanTom Jones, @tomwjonesJoey Knight, @TBTimes_BullsAgainst the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gatorsí next head coach?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gatorsí next head coach?

The Florida Gators are vetting Chip Kelly to potentially be their next head coach, but is he their first choice? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what the future holds for the Gators and whether the coach will be Chip Kelly,...
Published: 11/15/17