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Bulls HC Strong on job security- “I’m not concerned”

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Charlie Strong has been receiving heavy criticism since his team went on a six game losing streak to conclude the 2018 season. Since then, he’s managed to only win an easy rout of South Carolina State in the past 10 games the Bulls have played in.

Saturday was supposed to be a day where Strong demonstrated, off a bye week, that his team could rebound and would take advantage of a fresh start to the season, as conference play began.

Unfortunately for Strong and the Bulls, just like their season-opening wipeout loss at home to Wisconsin, his team was blown away, again, this time 48-21 by the SMU Mustangs.

However, the third year head coach doesn’t seem to believe he’s at the point where he’s coaching for his job, yet.

In his Monday press conference, Strong was asked how critical is this next game is, not only for the morale of the team, but for Charlie and his staff, he said that they are “not concerned.”

“We gotta go play well and that’s for every game. And for myself and the staff, we’re not concerned. We know what we gotta get done, but we know that it’s a conference game. We gotta go play well in this game. Cant worry about what anyone else thinks, we know what we gotta go get done and just get our team ready to play.”

SMU absolutely routed the Bulls defense with five first-half touchdowns, including three TD passes by Strong’s former quarterback at Texas, Shane Buechele, as the Ponies built a 34 – 0 lead.

When Buechele, who sat last year as a transfer and SMU got the ball for the first time in the third quarter, they marched a quick 50 yards for another score. It was 41 – zip and SMU had emptied out Raymond James Stadium.

Yes, they had to play the last quarter and a half and the Bulls (now 1-3) inserted veteran backup Blake Barnett, because freshman starter Jordan McCloud had an injured wrist. And, Barnett got the team in the end zone during “garbage time” with three touchdowns.

But, make no mistake, USF was awful most of Saturday.

And now, the larger questions that will keep coming are: has Strong essentially given up coaching and motivating his team? And if not, how are they this bad all of a sudden?

Remember that they won 10 games and a bowl game in Strong’s first season. That was with former coach Willie Taggart’s players.

The struggles now, date back to a 7 – 0 start a year ago, where USF then lost the last five games in the regular season and next, their bowl game.

That was eyebrow-raising enough, but when the Bulls opened with the Big Ten powerhouse Badgers and were destroyed 49 – 0 to start the year, whispers became loud voices that Strong wasn’t cut out to turn things around.

It is no secret that Strong has complained for two years about everything from how USF travels, to not having an indoor practice facility, to not having an on-campus football stadium and having to play at the 65,000 seat Raymond James Stadium. That’s where at least half of the seats are empty for most of their games.

As for why the Bulls are averaging just over 80 yards in penalties a game? Strong explained that rather than it being a discipline issue, it’s that the refs in the American are quicker to throw flags.

“I don’t ever wanna blame the officiating but a lot of those guys are trying to move up so we get thrown a lot of flags in this conference and it’s what we gotta take a look at.”

It’s also no secret that this is the first year where USF is completely on the hook to pay Strong and that he had to take a pay cut from the $4 million plus per year that Texas was still paying him the first two years of his USF deal.

The Bulls followed up the awful debut with Wisconsin by losing to a bad Georgia Tech Team in Atlanta in game two. Then, the freshman McCloud gave some spark and optimism with how he played two weeks ago against FCS, Savannah State.

However, off the off week, the Bulls had no answers on offense in the first half of this game with SMU, while being held scoreless.

Yes, the Ponies are a great story, as they improved to 5 – 0 for the first time since Eric Dickerson and the “Pony Express” backfield of 1983.

But, the larger story is how big of a problem does USF now have with a coach that either isn’t interested, or in some combination, doesn’t know how to, get their season turned around in his third year?

And unlike Strong, we at F.F.I. believe the clock is ticking, and every game from here on out is a career make or break, if it already isn’t broken past repair in Tampa.

Abbey is a native Floridan who grew up a fan of all Tampa Bay sports teams. She’s recently graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Media Communication Studies. In her time at FSU, she was an In-Game Host for the Basketball and Baseball teams, and reported for Seminole Sports Magazine, producing feature stories that appeared on Fox Sports Sun. She’s excited to share her perspective on all of Florida’s Football teams, especially the Seminoles.

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USF Bulls

USF QB Barnett undergoing season ending surgery

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Barnett’s wild college career may be coming to an unfortunate end, sooner than expected. Multiple sources have reported that his ankle injury will require surgery that will keep him out the the remainder of this season.

Bay News 9 Tampa Bay reporter Chris Torello broke the news Thursday night.

It’s also been confirmed by Bulls beat reporter, Joey Knight.

Barnett suffered the injury in the Bulls Week 5 game against SMU. Last week, USF head coach Charlie Strong said that Barnett would not be available for the Bulls’ game vs. BYU and would meet with doctors to re-evaluate the injury. Unfortunately, the news was not good for the 23 year old, veteran quarterback.

Out of high school, he was heavily recruited and landed on Alabama’s roster as the starter before being quickly beat out by freshman Jalen Hurts. From there, he spent a season at Arizona State before transferring again to South Florida where he was named QB1.

In his first season with the Bulls, Barnett threw for 2,705 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 11 games, missing two crucial conference games with injury. He led them to a strong 7-0 start to the year before the team fizzled out on a 0-6 losing streak to end the season.

His second season in Tampa started off rockier when began the year with a 49-0 shutout against Wisconsin. It didn’t get much better as the Bulls found themselves with a 1-3 record in their first four games. In 2019, Barnett threw for 434 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Jordan McCloud, who is still nursing a shoulder injury, will continue to start for USF, with sophomore Kirk Rygol now at backup with Barnett down for the season. OC Kerwin Bell confirmed on Wednesday that McCloud should be ready to play by Saturday in their matchup with Navy.

As for Barnett, it is still up in the air as to whether this will be his final season as a college quarterback. Because he’s only played in four games this season, he could attempt to take a medical redshirt after already using his regular redshirt. However, he’s already been to quite a few programs, so it’s possible that he may just elect to end his college career.

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Former USF QB Quinton Flowers returns to Tampa in XFL

Abbey Radeka

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Next February, the XFL Football League will reemerge in its reformed version by Vince McMahon. On Tuesday, the league’s eight teams were making preparation’s with a draft of players. And, this includes the Tampa Bay franchise, The Vipers, who in the 5th round, selected former USF Bulls quarterback, Quinton Flowers. 

Even though his previous seasons in Tampa have been spent under center, he has been selected as a running back for the Vipers.

 

We wrote previously, that a local high school and SEC star, Aaron Murray was given to them as their starting Quarterback.

Murray has ties to the Tampa Bay area, as a native who led Plant High School to a State Football Championship. He’s also the Southeastern Conference all-time leader in completions passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career.

Murray briefly was with the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles from 2014-16.

He was last seen quarterbacking earlier this year in the now-defunct Alliance of American football with the Atlanta Legends (above) franchise. They selected Murray for the same regional interest of him having played college ball down the road in Athens, Georgia.

As for Flowers, in his time at USF he threw for 8,124 yards, 71 TDs and 23 INTs while also rushing for 3672 yards and 41 TDs.

Though he had a record-breaking career at USF (he owned or shared 34 school records), there was lots of debate about the dual-threat’s quarterback to succeed professionally.  Flowers was dominant as a run-heavy QB, and he became #1 in the schools career rushing attempts, career rush yards, single season rush yards, rush yards and attempts by a quarterback, rushing touchdowns in a season, career rushing touchdowns, and yards per rush in a season.

Many scouts felt as though he needed to consider a position change from quarterback if he hopes to succeed in the NFL, which ended up happening when he was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals, as an undrafted free agent in 2018 as a running back. After being waived the following summer, the Colts signed him to the practice squad, but then released him six days later.

Now, in the second ever XFL Draft, Flowers went number 37 overall, is returning to not only the same city, but same stadium that he took four years of snaps in during college.

The XFL have continued to fill out rosters in the Tuesday draft, with numerous players from Florida or Florida schools working out regionally for all of the clubs.

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