The USF Bulls will start their 2018 campaign, the second under Charlie Strong, Saturday night against Elon. The Bulls will be looking to replace some key players from last season’s team that went 11-2 with a Birmingham Bowl win to cap the season.
It all starts at the quarterback position where former 5 star recruit and Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett takes over for Bulls legend Quinton Flowers.
Barnett, who opened the 2016 season as Alabama’s starting quarterback before serving as a backup for the Sun Devils last year, beat out red-shirt junior Brett Kean and red-shirt sophomore Chris Oladokun. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Barnett is going to be a much more significant presence by size than Flowers was. While he won’t be able to make some of the miraculous running plays Flowers could, Barnett’s arm could unlock a new wrinkle in the Bulls attack.
The Bulls will also have a new running back in Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite. In his limited time at Florida he had 302 yards on 75 carries with four touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, USF will be asked to replace six starters. The defensive line will anchor the Bulls defense this season. They may not have the same quality as the 2017 unit had, but they have a lot of quantity. And a D-line rotation can go a long way for a football team.
On the opposite end of the field, the Elon Phoenix are no cupcake. They are coming off an 8-4 season and an FCS playoff loss in round one. Elon’s defense returns eight of its top nine leading tacklers, including middle linebacker Warren Messer, who led the way with 114 tackles last season.
And a sophomore quarterback Davis Cheek, who was fourth in the CAA in pass efficiency last season and was named the conference offensive rookie of the year.
With the Bulls at home, they should be able to have an easy time with Elon, but that’s why you line up and play.
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