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Oregon reaches settlement in dismissing former USF Coach Leavitt

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
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The University of Oregon made it official late Thursday morning Pacific time that they have, in fact, dismissed their defensive coordinator and USF head coach Jim Leavitt.

The school announced that Leavitt will be paid significantly over the next couple of years as part of the remainder of his contract:

As we wrote Wednesday night, word broke in Eugene that head coach Mario Cristobal would not be keeping Leavitt for 2019. This after Cristobal was promoted last year to replace Willie Taggart and kept Leavitt, as defensive coordinator at the salary of $1.7 million dollars.

As this item from 24/7 Sports details, part of the agreement is that Levitt will be paid according to whether he sits completely out of coaching this year, and could be reduced should he find a comparable coaching job for 2019.

However, the “coaching carousel” cycle has basically died out in mid-February, and it’s unlikely that Leavitt will find a significant job for this upcoming season.

Leavitt rose to prominence in college coaching, as the original architect and head coach of USF program in the late 1990s. The Bulls made NCAA FBS history becoming the first school ever to move to Division One after fewer than four seasons of existence.

Leavitt was fired in January of 2010 after controversy at USF over him allegedly striking a player at halftime of a game that 2009 season. The school led by athletic director Doug Woolard, attempted to claim that the firing was for cause and that Leavitt had attempted to cover up the incident and change witness and the accuser’s stories. The school tried to not pay him any of his remaining salary.

Leavitt sued the school and the two sides eventually, reached a settlement a year later, where he was paid a reported $2.75 million dollars from his remaining contract.

From the Bulls, Leavitt coached in the NFL as a linebackers coach with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh, and then, he later coached a season at Colorado, as their defensive coordinator. Next, he came to Oregon to join Taggart, when he took that job two years ago.

The connection of Taggart and Leavitt is an interesting one that goes back to Taggart’s playing days at Bradenton Manatee High School, when Leavitt recruited him.

Would Leavitt elect to join Taggart at Florida State now? Would Taggart want him?

Does Leavitt simply want to sit back and enjoy his family, including young children, and get paid for 2019 by Oregon?

Time will tell.

USF Bulls

Bulls sticking with Jordan McCloud as starting QB

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After two less than stellar offensive performances by the Bulls to start the season, USF head coach Charlie Strong and OC Kerwin Bell decided to switch things up for week 3. Just two hours before game time, the team learned that Jordan McCloud would be the starting quarterback against South Carolina state.

In fact, the decision was made so last minute that the video board in Raymond James Stadium still showed Blake Barnett as starter.

And it turned out to be a good decision.

The Bulls pulled away with their first win of the season in a 55-16 domination over the Bulldogs.

And it’s looking like they Bulls are going to try to build a win streak by keeping McCloud under center next week.

McCloud’s starting quarterback career started off a bit shaky. In his first snap, he tossed an incomplete pass intended for sophomore slot receiver Johnny Ford for a loss of 3 yards. The Bulls lost 12 yards in its first two drives with three incomplete passes and a sack.

However, he settled down on the next drive and led the offense for a gain of 64 yards, complete with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Ford. McCloud finished the game throwing for 217 yards with three touchdowns, and rushing for 56 yards. Most importantly, he proved to be shiftier behind a spotty O-Line, which allowed him to complete more plays than Blake Barnett has this season.

The redshirt freshman is a Tampa native who as senior in high school completed 160 of 295 passes for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns. He originally played at Sickles High School in 2017, but transferred to powerhouse 7A State title contender, Plant High. That’s where he had a 12-2 record, district and regional titles, and a trip to the state semifinals in 2018.

While it’s likely that Barnett would’ve put up similar numbers against South Carolina State, his most recent loss against Georgia Tech last weekend marked an 8 game losing streak for South Florida, and there was something to be said for switching things up and trying out McCloud.

He was able to spark USF, where Barnett clearly has not been able to since last October.

Coach Strong knows he needs to capitalize on this momentum, before this season becomes his last in Tampa.

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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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