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USF scores big AD hire with Michael Kelly of College Football Playoff

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The USF Bulls and their search firm vowed that they would not take long to replace departed athletic director Mark Harlan.

And on Tuesday, less than a month after Harlan left for the University of Utah, USF announced that they hired College Football playoff senior executive Michael Kelly, to return to Tampa to run the athletic department that he used to be part of.

The school announced the move here:

Kelly who’s been the COO of the College Football Playoff since it’s inception in 2012, was previously in Tampa as USF’s, associate athletic director for external affairs for two years (2001-02).

Previously to working for the CFP, Kelly had spent six years with the Atlantic Coast Conference, as a senior associate commissioner overseeing football, broadcasting and communications.

USF included these comments from him in the release:

“I am truly honored to return to the University of South Florida and Tampa Bay. This is a dream opportunity for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to President Genshaft and the USF Board of Trustees,” Kelly said. “It’s a very exciting time with the university and the entire region on such strong upward trajectories. I can’t wait to get started with our student-athletes, coaches, staff, Bulls fans, donors and alumni everywhere.”

Kelly also, has an extensive background and history with Tampa Bay and big events, as he was the executive director of the 1999 Men’s Final Four organizing committee for the event that was held at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg.

His excellent work with that led him to be the president of the Super Bowl host Committee in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl 35 (2001) and later have that same role in Jacksonville for Super Bowl 39 and in Miami for Super Bowl 41.

The Bulls currently reside in the American Athletic Conference, which is a compilation of leftover teams from the old Big East and some added teams from Conference USA. However, that League has nowhere near the revenue as the “Power 5” conferences, and it will be a challenge for Kelly, just like it is for the other schools, to raise money and try to level the playing field.

USF has to consider this a “home run hire” to replace Harlan, as Kelly brings tremendous credibility from college football’s most important post-season brand. And, because of Kelly’s relationship at the network TV level from his days with the CFP and also with the ACC, it will benefit the American Athletic Conference to have him now in the fold as well.

The Bulls will introduce Kelly at a news conference later this week.

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USF Bulls

USF QB Blake Barnett leads 4th quarter rally past Illinois

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The USF Bulls travel to “the Windy City” and save their best for last in a thrilling rally to defeat Big Ten opponent Illinois 25-19 Saturday.

Transfer quarterback Blake Barnett led an 18-point fourth-quarter rally throwing for 411 yards and the game-winning touchdown, as the Bulls improved to 3-0.

Trailing 19 to 7 entering the final frame, Barnett (above) threw a touchdown to Darnell Salomon from 14 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 19-14. Later at the midway point of the 4th, Barnett guided another 71-yard drive into the red zone, but when it stalled, Coby Weiss kicked 26 yard field goal to bring USF within two.

After the Bulls defense got to stop, and starting from his 15-yard line, Barnett got them rolling again. He hit completions of 17 and then, 25 yards to get the Bulls to the Illinois 40.

Then, after an incompletion and a couple of false start penalties, USF was facing 3rd and 20 at Midfield. That’s when Barnett lofted a pass down the left sideline to a wide-open Salomon for 50 yards and the eventual game-winning score.

Illinois secondary had blown the coverage leaving Solomon by himself. The Bulls got the two-point conversion and a six-point lead at 25-19.

Illinois had one last chance left, and freshman quarterback M.J, Rivers led them into USF territory, including converting a fourth down in the final :30. However, they could get no closer with Rivers throwing incomplete out of the back of the end zone on the final play of the game.

The win gives USF a second straight 3-o start under coach Charlie Strong and completes back-to-back wins over the Illini, including last year’s victory in Tampa in September.

The loss is especially stinging for Illinois and embattled Coach Lovie Smith, who used to coach the Buccaneers and the Bears. Smith, who did not win a Big Ten game a year ago, is under fire and has now lost 14 of his last 18 games dating back to the end of the 2016 season.

The Bulls also got a 136 yard rushing performance from Jordan Cronkrite that included a first-quarter three  yard touchdown run.

USF will next put their unbeaten record on the line, when they take on East Carolina next Saturday.

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USF Bulls

USF returner Terrence Horne showed “speed kills”

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

There is no substitute for speed in big time college football, and we know that for most of the prominent teams in the state, they have it everywhere.

And for USF on Saturday, a guy that they knew about but most did not, burst upon the American Conference and national scene. Terrence Horne (above), a true freshman and former track star at Miramar High School, set a USF and American Conference record for return yardage. This after he blazed down the sidelines with 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Bulls 49-38 upset of Georgia Tech.

That earned Horne the American’s Special Teams Player of the Week honors for weekend #2 of the season.

Horne very nearly broke his first kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday before being tripped up, but then put together two spectacular runs to the end zone in a wild first quarter in Tampa.

When it was all said and done, Horne had 264 yards worth of kickoff returns. At only 5’7, he doesn’t “stand tall” in stature, however, his play was large for the Bulls. Horne followed a 98 yard TD return, with an equally impressive 97 yard kickoff return- cutting from the middle down the Bulls sideline and uut racing everyone easily, again to the goal line

If you know Horne’s background, then it becomes more clear. He won the 4A State 100m dash championship earlier this year with a time of 10.4, and was being recruited by several prominent programs. Those included UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado and Florida Atlantic before signing with the Bulls in February

Interestingly, Horne had never had a kickoff return for a touchdown at Miramar High.

Saturday he told the media afterwards,

“It just shows what I can bring for the team. I’m always remaining humble. If you remain humble, God does great things for you. And, today was one of those days.”

The Bulls and head coach Charlie Strong, who’s staff found Horne in South Florida and coached him up to be in the second game of the season making big plays, hope there are more of those days, too.

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Bulls wild win over ACC foe Georgia Tech will get some attention

Josh Ciganek

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

After a string of nine lead changes, the USF Bulls came out victorious over their first “Power 5” opponent of the year in Georgia Tech. USF fought back from a ten-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to regain the lead and hold on for the victory.

Led by transfer quarterback Blake Barnett, the Bulls offense put together three consecutive touchdown drives in the final 12 minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away with the 49-38 victory. Barnett finished the game passing for 202 yards and tossing two touchdowns with only one interception.

He also led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were scored in the fourth quarter as part of the comeback effort.

Duran Bell Jr. and Tyrie McCants were also bright spots on the USF offense. Bell Jr. carried the ball 12 times for 69 yards and scoring a touchdown on a 14 yard run in the third quarter to put USF ahead 28-24 at the time. McCants led a receiving corp that saw six different Bulls catch a pass against the Yellow Jackets. McCants caught 10 passes for 99 yards with his longest being a 24 yard reception.

As expected, the USF defense had difficulty stopping the running game of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 419 yards behind the efforts of quarterback TaQuon Marshall. Marshall accumulated nearly 300 yards of total offense, as well as throwing for one touchdown and rushing for one. Tobias Oliver carried the red zone offense for Georgia Tech, scoring three times from inside the five yard line. Oliver finished the game with 97 yards on 18 carries.

The special teams play proved to be a huge momentum spark for USF early in the game. Terrence Horne ran not one, but two kick returns for touchdowns, the first being 98 yards and the second 97 yards.

South Florida now holds a 2-0 record under new head coach Charlie Strong. The Bulls will travel to Illinois next week for their first road test of the season.

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