TAMPA -- For the University of South Florida's special teams, it's all about living up to your name.
It's what sparks the passion of the players under the watch of special teams coordinator Ray Woodie, who doubles as USF's assistant head coach.
Woodie puts all the special teams under an umbrella he calls "The Pack." Then he breaks it down to "Bomb Squad," "Seal Team," "Savages," "Money Team" and the "Quick Six." When Woodie wants to block a field goal attempt, he calls out his "Block Party" guys.
"The kids take pride in the special teams and the special units within the Pack," says Woodie, the former high school head football coach at Bayshore and Palmetto, where he also starred as a player.
Never miss a local story.
Woodie came up with the idea to name all of his special teams units and the players voted on the names. They've been partying ever since, and now the Bulls are ranked among the top special teams units in the country.
"We choose mentally and physically tough individuals who are very disciplined," Woodie said. "We call ourselves 'The Pack,' and the punt team is the foundation of the Pack, which is why we refer to ourselves as a pack of wolves. We pick guys who are capable of executing in the most difficult circumstances."
USF has the fourth- and eighth-ranked kickoff returners in the country in Rodney Adams and D'Ernest Johnson, who are averaging 30.5 and 29.1 yards, respectively. The kickoff return team is aptly called the Quick Six.
The Bulls have the 10th-ranked punt returner in the county in Tajee Fullwood, who is averaging 12.8 yards per return on 14 opportunities. USF is 16th nationally, averaging 13.1 yards per punt return. That unit is the Seal Team Six. The field goal team is the Money Team and the kickoff team is aptly named the Savages.
"The special teams are good because we have good players, first and foremost, and schematically coach Woodie has simplified some things so our kids can play fast," sUSF head coach Willie Taggart said, "He does a good job of teaching fundamentals and breaking things down for our guys and (he) takes a lot of pride in it."
Fullwood has shown his value in a multitude of ways. He hasn't lost a fumble on any punt this year and recovered the one he bobbled. Ball security is what makes the 6-foot-2, 203-pound sophomore out of Tampa Bay Tech so valuable, according to Woodie.
"The first thing you want with a punt returner is somebody who can catch the ball," Woodie said. "They can't have insecure hands."
Woodie wants his returners to catch the ball on the run and, if they have a defender in their face, to call for a fair coach. The rest is about setting up blocks.
"It's all about angles and fundamentals and staying on blocks and body on body," Woodie said. "It's a team effort. A runner can make one person miss, but he is usually not going to make two or three guys miss, You need help,"
Woodie has an advantage in that he saw Fullwood, Johnson and Adams in high school and was able to witness first-hand how they handle returns. Taggart also gave him free reign to use those guys how he wanted.
"I am not surprised at all in Woodie's success with special teams," Taggart said. "He has always been a very good coach and great leader, that's why I chose him to be in that position. He is one of those guys who, when you give him something to do, he goes all the way and is the best at it."
Woodie mixes and matches his returners, but everyone must want to excel and take pride in their special teams.
"D'Ernest is more of a downhill runner and Rodney is more of a fitness returner," Woodie said. "We use both of them depending on the situation. One thing (Taggart) does, he gives you a title and then lets you coach. I appreciate that. I saw Fullwood play receiver and defensive back in high school and knew he had good hands. He is 200 pounds and back there returning punts."
Fullwood got his opportunity to return punts when Hassan Childs got hurt and has since made the most of it. In his second game as a returner, he had a 45-yard return against Florida State and it was evident he was special, Taggart said.
"It's for the team. Whatever they need, that's what I'm going to do," said Fullwood, who turned down offers from FSU and Tennessee to sign with Taggart and the Bulls. "I'm thinking I can be one of those guys that can really make an impact, not only on my football team, but on my city. That's why I decided to stay here and play for USF."
Woodie was with Taggart when the former Manatee High quarterback great was head coach at Western Kentucky. Taggart has been giving Woodie more duties as they have worked together through the years.