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USF Bulls

Lack of offensive punch Charlie Strong-USF undoing

Matt Zemek

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The South Florida Bulls played very hard for Charlie Strong on Thursday night against Temple. Facing the one team to beat the Memphis Tigers this season, the Bulls stood up to the folks from Philadelphia.

Strong’s defense allowed only 10 points to the Temple offense. Strong’s defense hasn’t always held tough this season. Wisconsin, Navy and SMU all overwhelmed USF. However, one of the reasons the 2019 USF defense hasn’t been perfect is that it received very little help from the offense in a majority of the Bulls’ games.

If you look at the overall points-per-game average against FBS opponents, it doesn’t seem that bad on the surface: 20 points per game. No, that’s not great by any means – not even good – but 20 points would have been enough to beat Temple on Thursday. USF’s offense didn’t come close.

Scoring 20 points against Navy might have applied more scoreboard pressure on the Midshipmen’s offense. Instead, Navy cruised, 35-3, knowing it didn’t have to take risks in the second half.

A 20-point showing from coordinator Kerwin Bell’s offense would have been enough to beat Georgia Tech in September. A 20-point showing in a few games would have USF on track to play in a bowl game. We wouldn’t be discussing Charlie Strong’s job security, if USF’s offense could be more consistent – not spectacular, not even good, but merely tolerable.

The Temple 17-7 loss – despite a valiant effort from Strong’s defense – brought up a key point about that misleading points-per-game average against FBS teams. (We’re not counting the 55 points USF scored against South Carolina State of the FCS.)

USF’s 20-points-per-game average is based on two games: a 48-point explosion against a terrible UConn team, and a 45-point outburst against East Carolina, which was USF’s best overall performance of the 2019 season. Those two games produced a combined 93 points.

The other six USF games versus FBS teams this year created 68 points.

Uh-oh.

You can do the quick math and realize that in six of USF’s eight FBS games this season, the Bulls’ offense has averaged 11.3 points per game. That is a disaster.

What is Charlie Strong’s ultimate weakness as a head coach, a weakness which has USF in line to go 4-8 this season (given a closing stretch of Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF, all likely losses for a team which is currently 4-5)? It is very simple: This defensive mastermind has not been able to surround himself with top-tier offensive coordinators.

When the story of Charlie Strong’s head coaching career is written, it will begin with the bottom-line point that while Charlie did well at Louisville – which gave his career forward momentum and the chance to coach at Texas – his success at UL was built on Teddy Bridgewater being an amazing college football player.

This doesn’t mean Charlie doesn’t deserve credit for building Louisville back into a nationally relevant program after Steve Kragthorpe failed to maintain what Bobby Petrino left him roughly a decade ago. Charlie deserves that credit. However, it definitely wasn’t offensive coordinator Shawn Watson who made UL’s offense go. It was Teddy.

That reality flows into the rest of Strong’s head coaching career.

Strong took Watson with him to Texas. It very quickly became apparent that Watson was in over his head, and that Teddy made Watson, not the other way around. Strong flailed and scrambled in the attempt to find the right offensive coordinator at Texas. He eventually begged and pleaded with Sterlin Gilbert to join him, when Texas administrators pressured Strong to make changes on his offensive staff.

Gilbert did improve the Texas offense to a degree, but not enough to save Charlie’s job in Austin. Nevertheless, when Strong went to USF, he took Gilbert with him. His new offensive coordinator had earned that much.

The one year at USF which took flight under Strong was the first year. In 2017, the Bulls were AAC contenders because of a loaded offense which made Strong’s life easier. Once again, though, the reality was that the quarterback carried the offense and made the coordinator look good. It wasn’t a case of the coordinator tapping into a quarterback’s previously unlocked talent.

Quinton Flowers carried Gilbert and the USF offense that season. How do we know this? Because Gilbert floundered without Flowers the next year in 2018 Gilbert performed horribly in the late-season rivalry game against UCF, eliciting legitimate fan outrage and creating the need for a new hire.

Kerwin Bell was that hire. He had paid his dues in the profession. He did deserve a chance. Yet, Bell has plainly not made the grade this season.

We arrive at the sad but true realization that Charlie Strong has not picked high-level offensive coordinators. Head coaches – especially ones who have backgrounds as defensive coaches – have to get that hire right, more than any other hire with the possible exception of the strength and conditioning coach.

Charlie Strong’s USF tenure, and quite possibly his head coaching career, have run their course because of an inability to pick elite offensive coordinators. Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville and Quinton Flowers at USF carried Strong and his offensive coordinators. There has never been a season in which an offensive coordinator has made a defining and positive difference for one of Charlie Strong’s teams.

Get ready for another coaching search at a Florida-based FBS program.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

USF Bulls

Report- Alabama will hire Charlie Strong as consultant

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Former USF coach Charlie Strong has decided on a new role for the upcoming 2020 season, and it won’t be in Gainesville.

ESPN college football insider Chris Low reported Tuesday morning that Strong has agreed to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama as a defensive “consultant” for this season

As we wrote last week, Strong had visited Saban and the Tide about the possible position on his staff, while considering a similar opportunity to join either Dan Mullen’s Gators staff or a couple of others in a consulting role. None of this will affect the nearly $3 million that USF still owes him as the buyout on the final two years of his contract.

Strong was fired after the Bulls collapsed losing their final four games to finish 4 – 8 this season. They were beaten by 27 or more points five times this year, including the last two losses to Memphis and rival UCF. This combined with the Bulls having lost their final six games, including their bowl game last year, meant that Strong had lost 14 of his final 18 games.

USF hired Clemson Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott earlier about a week later and gave him a 5-year, $12 million deal to become a first-time head coach in FBS football.

There had been some debate about Strong’s buyout being the amount of compensation that was remaining on his original five-year contract that he signed when he took the job in December of 2016 after being fired by the University of Texas. That contract called for Strong to be paid to $2. 5 million on average for 2020 and 2021.

However, USF informed Strong in his termination letter that the amount would be approximately $3 million under clauses in his deal.

Saban has a history of taking in former head coaches to come to Bama and observe and assist as a consultant with either his offense or defense. He’s done this for the last two years with former Tennessee coach Butch Jones and obviously, took in both Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both of whom had been fired as coaches by USC at different stages.

Strong is known is an outstanding defensive coach from his previous days, as the Gators defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. He later went on to success at the University of Louisville before taking The the Texas head coaching job in 2014.

Strong was fired after three seasons in Austin in 2016, but immediately hired by USF to replace Willie Taggart.

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USF Bulls

Former USF coach Strong to be consultant for Alabama?

Florida Football Insiders

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

And intriguing item popped up Friday morning involving former USF head coach Charlie Strong and him visiting Nick Saban the Alabama football program.

According to Alabama Insider and radio host, Aaron Suttles, Strong, who was dismissed last December after his third season with the Bulls, was in Tuscaloosa Thursday meeting with Saban and his staff:

Strong had also been reportedly talking with the University of Florida about a possible consultant role, which likely would not affect the nearly $3 million that USF still owes him as the buyout on the final two years of his contract.

Strong was fired after the Bulls collapsed losing their final four games to finish 4 – 8 this season. They were beaten by 27 or more points five times this year, including the last two losses to Memphis and rival UCF. This combined with the Bulls having lost their final six games, including their bowl game last year, meant that Strong had lost 14 of his final 18 games.

USF hired Clemson Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott earlier about a week later and gave him a 5-year, $12 million deal to become a first-time head coach in FBS football.

There had been some debate about Strong’s buyout being the amount of compensation that was remaining on his original five-year contract that he signed when he took the job in December of 2016 after being fired by the University of Texas. That contract called for Strong to be paid to $2. 5 million on average for 2020 and 2021.

However, USF informed Strong in his termination letter that the amount would be approximately $3 million under clauses in his deal.

Saban has a history of taking in former head coaches to come to Bama and observe and assist as a consultant with either his offense or defense. He’s done this for the last two years with former Tennessee coach Butch Jones and obviously, took in both Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both of whom had been fired as coaches by USC at different stages.

Strong is known is an outstanding defensive coach from his previous days, as the Gators defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer. He later went on to success at the University of Louisville before taking The the Texas head coaching job in 2014.

Strong was fired after three seasons in Austin in 2016, but immediately hired by USF to replace Willie Taggart

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