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USF introduced new AD Michael Kelly Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a return to a previous stop in his distinguished college athletics career, Michael Kelly was formally introduced as USF’s new Vice President of Athletics Friday.

Kelly, who has been the Chief Operating Officer of the College Football Playoff since 2012, was brought in to replace Mark Harlan, who departed on June 1st to be the new athletic director at Utah.

Kelly, who was previously an assistant AD at the school in 2001-02, takes over a program that has some pluses, not the least of which is a strong football program under coach Charlie Strong. It also has a women’s basketball program that is a perennial NCAA tournament team. The same with USF softball, and the last two years, the baseball team has also been in the NCAA postseason.

Men’s Basketball has largely been a mess for the last 20 plus years of play, including the firing of former coach Orlando Antigua during an NCAA investigation two years ago.

The bigger struggle is that USF is not a “Power Five” conference and suffers from the lack of significant revenue, because of it.

Kelly, who will be paid $625,000 annually plus incentives, did not shy away from USF having to battle that hurdle to compete:

“Obviously we’ve always had very aspirational goals at the University of South Florida. We’ve built a huge athletic department…Frankly, right now, we want to focus on being the very best that we can be. We are in a great league right now (the American Conference). How do we dominate that league? …That’s our goal right now. When we build the tradition, one champion at a time…we’ll be the best positioned school in the country if anything else happens (conference expansion).”

As we wrote previously, Kelly has previous experience as assistant commissioner of the ACC, handling football, broadcasting and communications. That means he understands how those leagues operate and succeed, intimately.

One of the first challenges will be to try to keep Strong from bolting, like Harlan did, for one of those bigger jobs in the short term. Strong is due to make over $5 million this season, but most of that money is still being paid by the University of Texas.

This has lead to widespread speculation that Strong might jump, especially, if USF has a successful year, in December to another school.

But, that’s in the future, in the present, Kelly’s task is to stabilize the entire department in Tampa, and through fundraising, specifically, do the best job he can in increasing revenue outside of what the American has in television, etc.

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USF Bulls

USF QB Blake Barnett leads 4th quarter rally past Illinois

Florida Football Insiders

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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The USF Bulls travel to “the Windy City” and save their best for last in a thrilling rally to defeat Big Ten opponent Illinois 25-19 Saturday.

Transfer quarterback Blake Barnett led an 18-point fourth-quarter rally throwing for 411 yards and the game-winning touchdown, as the Bulls improved to 3-0.

Trailing 19 to 7 entering the final frame, Barnett (above) threw a touchdown to Darnell Salomon from 14 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 19-14. Later at the midway point of the 4th, Barnett guided another 71-yard drive into the red zone, but when it stalled, Coby Weiss kicked 26 yard field goal to bring USF within two.

After the Bulls defense got to stop, and starting from his 15-yard line, Barnett got them rolling again. He hit completions of 17 and then, 25 yards to get the Bulls to the Illinois 40.

Then, after an incompletion and a couple of false start penalties, USF was facing 3rd and 20 at Midfield. That’s when Barnett lofted a pass down the left sideline to a wide-open Salomon for 50 yards and the eventual game-winning score.

Illinois secondary had blown the coverage leaving Solomon by himself. The Bulls got the two-point conversion and a six-point lead at 25-19.

Illinois had one last chance left, and freshman quarterback M.J, Rivers led them into USF territory, including converting a fourth down in the final :30. However, they could get no closer with Rivers throwing incomplete out of the back of the end zone on the final play of the game.

The win gives USF a second straight 3-o start under coach Charlie Strong and completes back-to-back wins over the Illini, including last year’s victory in Tampa in September.

The loss is especially stinging for Illinois and embattled Coach Lovie Smith, who used to coach the Buccaneers and the Bears. Smith, who did not win a Big Ten game a year ago, is under fire and has now lost 14 of his last 18 games dating back to the end of the 2016 season.

The Bulls also got a 136 yard rushing performance from Jordan Cronkrite that included a first-quarter three  yard touchdown run.

USF will next put their unbeaten record on the line, when they take on East Carolina next Saturday.

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USF Bulls

USF returner Terrence Horne showed “speed kills”

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

There is no substitute for speed in big time college football, and we know that for most of the prominent teams in the state, they have it everywhere.

And for USF on Saturday, a guy that they knew about but most did not, burst upon the American Conference and national scene. Terrence Horne (above), a true freshman and former track star at Miramar High School, set a USF and American Conference record for return yardage. This after he blazed down the sidelines with 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Bulls 49-38 upset of Georgia Tech.

That earned Horne the American’s Special Teams Player of the Week honors for weekend #2 of the season.

Horne very nearly broke his first kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday before being tripped up, but then put together two spectacular runs to the end zone in a wild first quarter in Tampa.

When it was all said and done, Horne had 264 yards worth of kickoff returns. At only 5’7, he doesn’t “stand tall” in stature, however, his play was large for the Bulls. Horne followed a 98 yard TD return, with an equally impressive 97 yard kickoff return- cutting from the middle down the Bulls sideline and uut racing everyone easily, again to the goal line

If you know Horne’s background, then it becomes more clear. He won the 4A State 100m dash championship earlier this year with a time of 10.4, and was being recruited by several prominent programs. Those included UCF, Cincinnati, Colorado and Florida Atlantic before signing with the Bulls in February

Interestingly, Horne had never had a kickoff return for a touchdown at Miramar High.

Saturday he told the media afterwards,

“It just shows what I can bring for the team. I’m always remaining humble. If you remain humble, God does great things for you. And, today was one of those days.”

The Bulls and head coach Charlie Strong, who’s staff found Horne in South Florida and coached him up to be in the second game of the season making big plays, hope there are more of those days, too.

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USF Bulls

Bulls wild win over ACC foe Georgia Tech will get some attention

Josh Ciganek

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

After a string of nine lead changes, the USF Bulls came out victorious over their first “Power 5” opponent of the year in Georgia Tech. USF fought back from a ten-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to regain the lead and hold on for the victory.

Led by transfer quarterback Blake Barnett, the Bulls offense put together three consecutive touchdown drives in the final 12 minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away with the 49-38 victory. Barnett finished the game passing for 202 yards and tossing two touchdowns with only one interception.

He also led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were scored in the fourth quarter as part of the comeback effort.

Duran Bell Jr. and Tyrie McCants were also bright spots on the USF offense. Bell Jr. carried the ball 12 times for 69 yards and scoring a touchdown on a 14 yard run in the third quarter to put USF ahead 28-24 at the time. McCants led a receiving corp that saw six different Bulls catch a pass against the Yellow Jackets. McCants caught 10 passes for 99 yards with his longest being a 24 yard reception.

As expected, the USF defense had difficulty stopping the running game of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 419 yards behind the efforts of quarterback TaQuon Marshall. Marshall accumulated nearly 300 yards of total offense, as well as throwing for one touchdown and rushing for one. Tobias Oliver carried the red zone offense for Georgia Tech, scoring three times from inside the five yard line. Oliver finished the game with 97 yards on 18 carries.

The special teams play proved to be a huge momentum spark for USF early in the game. Terrence Horne ran not one, but two kick returns for touchdowns, the first being 98 yards and the second 97 yards.

South Florida now holds a 2-0 record under new head coach Charlie Strong. The Bulls will travel to Illinois next week for their first road test of the season.

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