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.
Bulls sticking with Jordan McCloud as starting QB
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.
Regarding how Blake Barnett took the news that McCloud would be starting, Strong said: "Blake is a professional and he understands. He was good with it." @USFFootball
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) September 16, 2019
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.
Bulls OC Bell takes responsibility for shut out against Wisconsin
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.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) September 4, 2019
“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.
Florida Gators5 days ago
Gators lose QB Feleipe Franks to horrific leg injury
Tampa Bay Buccaneers1 week ago
Bucs already shuffling roster on short week
Miami Dolphins3 days ago
Report- Dolphins could have Minkah Fitzpatrick deal by Tuesday
Florida State Seminoles5 days ago
Clock controversy punctuated latest FSU collapse Saturday