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Primer- USF UCF and FSU all in need of home conference wins

Jamil King



Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 of college football in Florida brings a couple of intriguing games, while the others seem one-sided. The Noles will host NC State, the Gators welcome Towson, USF opens conference play with SMU and the Knights will host UConn. Last week the Noles were able to beat Louisville, the Gators blasted Tennessee, and the Knights lost dramatically to Pittsburgh.

Florida State was finally able to hold onto a lead in a big game. No, it wasn’t vs. a ranked team, nor was it a pretty win, but it was a win. Cam Akers continues to showcase why he is one of the best backs in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, as he is leading the Noles offense.

QB James Blackman was forced to exit the game last week against Louisville with a knee injury and transfer Alex Hornibrook stepped up and led the Noles in the second half to the win.

Now, Hornibrook may be in line to make his first start as a Nole. The Noles defense might have their hands full against a Wolfpack team that has scored 27 points or more in every game this season. In what looks like will be a high scoring game, can the Noles play a complete four quarters and go over .500?

UCF is coming off a heartbreaking loss last week. Pittsburgh knocked off the Knights with the similar “Philly Special” play at the goal line, like the Eagles did to the Patriots. Now, the Knights get to regroup. The offense had some struggles, especially early, last week, but should bounce back in a huge way against the Huskies, who they will play as AAC members for the last time.

UConn heads back to the Big East next year and becomes a football independent.

Expect the Knights to roll against a defense that has allowed over 30 points in back to back games. UConn struggled on the defensive side of the ball against the Indiana Hoosiers, as they allowed 38 points and a total of 430 yards of offense.

The Gators have a huge game next weekend against Auburn, but it is essential they are not looking ahead to that. They still have a game this week against Towson. The Tigers are 3-1 and play in the Colonial Conference in the FCS. The Gators should win the game, but it might not be a cakewalk.

QB Kyle Trask will need to be at his best not just for this win, but to gain confidence going into next week.

The Gators have not been as dominant on the ground as they had hoped and should establish that early and often in this game. Playing two FCS schools in four weeks isn’t ideal to evaluate exactly what this team is, but it is what is on the schedule and will look to work out the kinks before hosting the Auburn Tigers.

USF will host SMU, who just beat rival TCU, in their conference home opener. The Mustangs have a pair of dangerous WRs that will challenge a talented defensive backfield the Bulls possess. Stopping James Proche, Reggie Roberson Jr, and QB Shane Buechele will be the way the Bulls win.

On offense, frehsman Jordan McCloud looks to be the new man under center. After playing against South Carolina State and getting a BYE week what does the attack have up their sleeve for SMU?

Finally, Florida Atlantic has won two games in a row against easier opponents, since losing the first two-game against ranked teams. QB Chris Robinson has been playing great during this two-game winning streak, and as long he stays hot, the Owls have a chance to be atop the C-USA.

This weekend they will travel to Charlotte a game that will be shown on the NFL Network. The Niners will be led by running back, Benny LeMay who is averaging 6.8 yards a carry.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

USF Bulls

New Bulls coach Scott eagerly embracing new challenge

Florida Football Insiders



Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a runner-up finish in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game loss to LSU, former Clemson co-offensive coordinator, and new USF head coach, Jeff Scott is now going full throttle in his first few days back in Tampa with his new program.

Scott posted on social media Friday morning that one of his top priorities is to reconnect with all of the jigh school coaches in and around the Tampa area:

This is not unfamiliar for the first-time head coach, as this was part of his role was procuring players for Dabo Swinney’s Tigers out of West Central Florida.

Scott also gave access to the Tampa Bay Times and beat writer Joey Knight on his inaugural meeting with his new team Thursday at the USF facility.

And, Scott began by prioritizing his team in the meeting room having the seniors sit in the front with the juniors behind and then, the underclassmen behind them.

It will be a challenge over the next season or two for Scott to revitalize a program that essentially went “off the cliff in the middle of the 2018 season.” That’s when the Bulls under Charlie Strong lost their remaining six games, including their bowl game and then, were blown out twice early in the 2019 season to drop to 1-3.

USF regained their footing in the middle of the year wining against lesser American Athletic Conference competition in a couple of games, but promptly lost out, including their final 4 games to finish 4-8. That resulted in Strong’s firing.

The 39 year old Scott had Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become an assistant coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and then, co-offensive coordinator for the last three years.

The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence,  rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and then, a 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. In a bid to repeat as National Champs, the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.

Alas, the “fairy tale” did end well, as LSU behind Heisman winning QB Joe Burrow, defeated them 42-25 Monday night in New Orleans.

There’s some more that USF fans can be excited about and Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. His  current Clemson group likely has at least two more NFL wideouts, too.

After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.

And Scott, the son of former FSU and Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott, appears to be the guy to change it all.

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USF Bulls

Coordinator musical chairs all related to Willie Taggart

Florida Football Insiders



Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Now that head coaching hires have been made at the prominent jobs in the state and around college football, the musical chairs of assistants and specifically coordinators is also fascinating. And in the case of FSU, USF and FAU they are all interrelated to former USF and FSU-now FAU, boss, Willie Taggart.

In Boca Raton, the new FAU coach has announced his first coordinator hire and it’s none other than his former defensive consultant at Florida State, his former defensive coordinator at Oregon and the former USF head coach, Jim Leavitt:

Taggart had brought Leavitt on board, as the season began to unfold in Tallahassee, initially, to consult, but eventually as a defensive coach on the field.

The tandem came together in Eugene, Oregon three years ago, when Taggart left USF and was hired by the Ducks. He then brought Leavitt with him from being the defensive coordinator at Colorado.

However, Leavitt did not follow Taggart to Florida State in 2018, as had been reported that he would. He stayed behind for one more season, in Eugene.

Meanwhile, Taggart had a disastrous 5-7 first season with FSU after having hired former Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett to run his defense. Meanwhile, Leavitt was fired after the 2018 season by Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and then, was available to come join Taggart this year.

However it was to no avail , as Taggart was fired himself, on November 3rd after just nine games into his second season.

Continuing, Taggart had hired Kendal Briles to run his offense in 2019 from Houston, but Briles had previously been at, wait for it… Florida Atlantic as the OC. And now, there’s word of where Briles is headed, and, that’s to the University of Arkansas, as their new offensive coordinator.

The Hogs made a surprising coaching hire of former Georgia offensive line coach, Stan Pittman, who has never been a head coach at the college level before. Desperate to improve in the SEC West, Briles up tempo offense did help the Florida State in terms of increases of  yardage per game and points per game output this past season.

Meanwhile, back at USF, new coach Jeff Scott had already announced on Sunday that former FAU defensive coordinator and head coach for their bowl game, Glenn Spencer, is his new defensive coordinator in Tampa.

Spencer has extensive experience, especially as a defensive assistant and coordinator for over a decade at Oklahoma State.

Staying with the “musical chairs” connected to his current and former jobs:

On Monday evening Scott also announced that Charlie Weis Jr., the son of the former Notre Dame coach and Patriots offensive coordinator, would be joining his staff with the Bulls.

Weis had most recently been the offensive coordinator for… guessed it again, the last two years at Florida Atlantic taking over for Briles with Lane Kiffin. But, Kiffin did not take Weis with him, when he left FAU for Ole Miss two weeks ago. And, Taggart did not retain Weis.

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At 27 years of age Weis is still the youngest coordinator in FBS football.

So, to recap: Taggart and Leavitt are back together for the third time in four seasons in the third different location.

Spencer and Weis, who were the coordinators at Florida Atlantic for Kiffin, weren’t kept by Taggart, but are now are now both at USF, where Taggart and Leavitt used to be head coaches.

And Briles, who coached for Taggart and for part of the year with Leavitt in Tallahassee is now on his way to the SEC with the Hogs.

It’s never dull with a coaching carousel.

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