USF is getting set to open a critical third season for the tenure of coach Charlie Strong Friday night against a strong Big Ten program in Wisconsin.
And, Bulls Quarterback Blake Barnett took to the podium Monday to discuss that, a new offense, and the 2019 schedule:
— USF Football (@USFFootball) August 26, 2019
Barnett said they are getting right into a challenge like this to start the season and thinks it’s great for the program. Barnett told the media,
“We’re excited….For us to play them (the Badgers) is a great opportunity for us and this program….We’re really looking forward to this opportunity. We know it’s going to be a great game. It’s something we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
He further said the team has a really tough schedule, but it is something he and the team are excited for.
He is right as after facing the Badgers, the Bulls will face ACC foe Georgia Tech on the road. They will also meet a fellow group of five-member BYU at the end of September.
With a challenging schedule, this season the Bulls will need more leadership, especially in the first year under a new offense and it’s coordinator, Kerwin Bell.
Regarding the new offense, he says it’s very dynamic with a lot of moving parts. USF will count on the 1-2 running back punch of Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford to make explosive plays like they did a year ago.
Barnett says he feels more like a leader this season. He thinks the guys trust him more on and off the field, “I try to take time and get to know the guys and spend genuine time with them.”
This is something fans will like to hear coming from the 23-year-old veteran quarterback. And he said Monday, he’s not an in your face hyped up kind of leader, but more of a guy that says things when they need to be said and the guys listen.
The Bulls have gotten off to fast starts in both of Charlie Strong’s first two years, but faded badly with six straight losses to end 2018. Now, they want to have a strong beginning and end to the 2109 season.
That starts Friday night.
Lack of offensive punch Charlie Strong-USF undoing
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.
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.
Bulls host Temple in key battle for post-season hopes
A critical game for the USF Bulls potential postseason hopes will get underway Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium and on national TV.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 7, 2019
The Bulls come off of an easy 45 – 20 win at East Carolina for their third victory in the last four games and their run game is a big reason why.
Senor and former Gator transfer Jordan Cronkrite is once again putting together tremendous numbers, recently. This as, he has run for over 100 yards in all three of those wins. In fact, Cronkrite has tallied 75 or more yards and 4.5 yards or better average in all of the Bulls last four games.
This comes on the heels of their first four games of the year, when Cronkrite didn’t have more than 30 yards rushing in any of them and USF went 1 – 3. In fairness, Cronkite is healthier now than he was in the beginning of the season and is showing explosiveness between the tackles.
Offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell wants to utilize the run to help offset the shaky quarterback play that the Bulls have had for much of the year. Part of that is freshman, Jordan McCloud’s injuries that included: a wrist and shoulder problem earlier in the season. Then he had an ankle injury which took him out of the second half of the East Carolina game.
Meanwhile for Temple, they come in at 5 – 3 but off back-to-back blowout losses at SMU and at home to UCF. The Knights in particular torched them for 63 points in their last game. However, Owls quarterback Anthony Russo has been solid with 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions on the season.
Temple does have wins out of the conference against in Maryland and Georgia Tech in September and also upset Memphis back in October for the Tigers only loss of the season.
Back to the Bulls. They need a victory tonight to get to five wins before the gauntlet of playing Cincinnati Memphis and at UCF to finish their season. A potential bowl game seemed far, far away when USF and coach Charlie Strong was blown out early by Wisconsin and SMU.
However, give the Bulls credit, they’ve played hard and won some games to make themselves relevant. Still, those are arguably the three best teams in the American Conference, right now, to end the season after tonight. And, they all will all be looking to win to get into the championship game.
Again, time for USF to take care of business.
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