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Former Bucs QB-USF assistant Shaun King right fit for offensive coordinator?

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With the news that USF is now looking for a new offensive coordinator after Sterlin Gilbert left Wednesday to become McNeese State’s head coach, the solution may be already on Charlie Strong’s staff.

Former Buccaneers quarterback and now USF current running backs coach, Shaun King seems to be a logical choice to take over the offense for Strong. And while the Bulls floundered at the end of the 2018 regular season losing their final five games, one thing they did very well throughout the year is: run the football.

In fact running back Jordan Cronkrite finished with 1095 yards on the season and a 6.3 average per carry. He also had a five-game stretch where he ran for a hundred or more yards in every one of them. This included an October 6th game, where Cronkrite set the USF single-game record with 302 yards rushing against UMass.

While Cronkite’s numbers tapered off during the five-game losing streak at the end of the year, he still was very effective this past season overall. And, that bodes well for King getting at least a good look to take over the play-calling for the offense.

King was held over by Strong when he took over the job in 2017 after King had been hired by former coach Willie Taggart, as quarterbacks coach for the 2016 season. That year, King tutored Quinton Flowers during his junior season as the Bulls developed into a 10-win program and contended for the AAC championship.

Flowers went on to smash several school and USF career records after completion of his senior season in 2017.

King obviously has expertise in playing quarterback having done so at a very high level with Tulane, leading them to an unbeaten season in 1998. Then, King was later a second round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played for a couple of other NFL teams in having a six-year career.

He is most known for leading the Bucs to a 4-1 record at the end of his 1999 rookie regular season and helping get the Bucs to the 1999 NFC Championship game loss against the then-St Louis Rams. King started all 16 games the following year leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. He was a reserve quarterback in Tampa Bay for the next 3 seasons including the Superbowl-winning year of 2002.

So he not only has name recognition in the Tampa Bay area for recruiting, but understands offense and what USF has already been doing the last couple of years with Gilbert, he’s scheme and play calls.

There has also been some speculation that King might rejoin Taggart in Tallahassee at Florida State. This after the Noles offense of coordinator, Walt Bell, left earlier in the week to take the head coaching job at UMass after just one season with FSU.

King is not likely to get the offensive coordinator job at FSU, because there’s a higher anxiety and scrutiny about how bad Florida State was this past season by their standards. And, there will be much more pressure on Taggart and to get a high profile experienced coordinator for that hire. However, King could still end up on Taggart staff as a position coach, too.

So, now we wait to see if Charlie Strong is truly interested in elevating the most likely candidate off his staff to take over the play-calling, or if he will go outside the building, and look for a bigger name with more experience himself.

USF Bulls

Bulls OC Bell takes responsibility for shut out against Wisconsin

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In Friday night’s opener against Big Ten perennial contender Wisconsin, the Bulls had suffered their worst loss in program history and left fans wondering what has caused such a downward spiral in the program over the last year and a half? And in a 49-0 loss, its hard to tell which side of the ball is a bigger struggle for the South Florida program?

While both looked alarmingly bad, the lack of offense was the ultimate reasoning behind the shut out, which led coordinator Kerwin Bell to taking full responsibility when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

“I’m the OC so I take all the blame, that’s all on my shoulders,” said Bell. “I’ve been in that position before, I’ve been shut out before, it didn’t feel good and surely last Friday night didn’t also. I was very disappointed in our performance. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Bell offered somewhat of an explanation as to why the team came out looking so ill-prepared and resembling every bit the team that lost their final six games last season. He said it’s the style of offense he’s introducing and that it takes time to get a team fully acclimated to it, which is not a new feat for him.

“This system is a little bit different than what everybody runs in college football, it’s more of a pro style. A lot of thinking, a lot of going through progressions and receivers changing their route on the run,” he added, “It takes a little bit of time and I’ve incorporated this thing 3 or 4 times now in new systems and we’ll be able to handle it. We’ll get up to speed, we just need some success with it.”

Bell also touched on the absence of USFs star slot receiver Johnny Ford. While there’s been no explanation to why he sat out of last weekends game, the Bulls play-caller did say that having him back will free up the rest of the offense in a major way.

“Johnny missing the game was big for us. We had a lot stuff on him to handle some of their man coverages. He’s a great man beater for us. With him being out it really put a lot of extra emphasis on other guys and he really frees up the team because he’s got so much ability running and catching the football.”

Bell, as head coach, led Valdosta State to an unbeaten season this past year and the Division II national championship. His offense at Valdosta led the nation in scoring (52.0 ppg), ranked second in first downs (341) and was fourth in total offense (523.9 ypg), red-zone offense (.901) and pass efficiency (167.37).

He has been around the block, coaching at various levels of college ball plus the CFL and high school. In addition to his many stops along the way as a coach, he also carved out a professional playing career which lasted over a decade.

Although he may have a history of offensive success, he’ll have a short timeline to start seeing success under head coach Charlie Strong or it may be a foregone conclusion before USF ever begins American Conference play, that this will be Strong’s final year and would likely Bells, as well.

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USF Bulls

Bulls QB Barnett will maintain starting spot against Georgia Tech

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After the Bulls opened their season with the worst loss in USF football history against Wisconsin this past weekend, a lot of criticism has been directed at the two predominant faces of the program, head coach Charlie Strong and starting QB Blake Barnett. However, there will be no apparent changes to the make-up of this team any time soon. Strong announced Monday that Barnett will still be the “go to” guy to lead his offense.

Bulls beat writer Joey Knight reported from Strong’s press conference Monday afternoon.

Strong indicated that it was the initial two dropped passes by Jernard Phillips and Michigan transfer Eddie McDoom along with the failure to spring the run game that set then tone for the offensive failure on Friday night.

Still, Barnett was only 13-for-30 for 109 yards, two interceptions, a fumble, and three sacks. The Bulls had 157 total yards on the night with 40 of those yards coming on their final drive of the game, as they were already down 49-0. The loss makes this the 7th in a row for the Bulls, and fans continuing to question wether 23-year-old veteran quarterback has what it takes to turn the program around.

South Florida’s other option would be redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud, a Tampa native who as senior, completed 160 of 295 passes for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns. He led Sickles High School to a 12-2 record, district and regional titles, and a trip to the state semifinals in 2018.

At this point, the Bulls don’t really have much to lose by giving McCloud some playing time. He may be able to spark USF, where Barnett clearly has not been able to since last October. Clearly, if Barnett struggles again, then McCloud will likely see some action Saturday.

USF will play at Georgia Tech next Saturday, which has a new coach and was blown out by Clemson to start the season. And, the Bulls defeated the Jackets in a wild 49-38 game a year ago.

And, if the Bulls are not better, or at least competitive with the Yellow Jackets, it may be a foregone conclusion before USF ever begins American Conference play, that this will be Strong’s final year.

And, anyone that wants to argue with that, should put in the tape and watch how poorly his recruits and his coaches performed Friday night, when they had everything pointing to a huge game at home with the Badgers for months.

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