Entering into what has the likely potential to be his last game as USF’s head coach, Charlie Strong didn’t have too much to say about his upcoming match up with their state rival. Throughout the season, Strong has repeatedly has repelled questions about his job security, saying he can only be focused on that week’s opponent. And in their final week of the season, he’s got a chance to reclaim the “War on I4” title from UCF and earn some respect back for the Bulls.
But much like he’s been all year, Strong seemed unenthused and disinterested when addressing questions on Tuesday on how the Bulls are preparing for their upcoming rivalry contest.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 25, 2019
“We’re gonna have to tackle well. They’re a big play team, they like to keep the ball outside not he perimeter. Gabriels done a great job of throwing it down field and finding the receiver to go and make plays. They’re a very physical group of receivers they go up in traffic and catch to and they just flat out run it.”
On how they’re going to produce some offense that his been struggling to find it’s rhythm all season, he explained that it’s going to require the O-Line to step up and block and taking better care of the ball.
“Defensively they’ve just done a great job of putting pressure on teams. When they get teams down they just keep putting pressure on teams. We gotta be able to just block them on offense and just got try and create some plays where we just get first downs and just drive the football and don’t turn it over and give it back to them”
While UCF has underperformed this season compared to the previous two, they are still a dangerous team with a good chance of making it into a good bowl game. The Knights are the obvious favorites going into the matchup, with a defensive and offensive front that will give the Bulls fits all evening.
However, Strong believes that they’ll have a fighting chance if the team can play with confidence and more consistent.
“We’re going into their place and we’re going to have to play with a lot of confidence and we’re gonna have to play all three phases. We’re gonna have to show up and be consistent in how we play.”
UCF is playing to extend their rivalry streak to a third year in a row, while the Bulls will be trying to restore, at least partially, a disastrous season by wrapping it up with an important win.
That’s the beauty of rivalry week, most of the time it’s anybody’s game, and a win against your rival can salvage what has been a year of mostly disappointment.
Dabo Swinney endorsement helped USF get Jeff Scott
It’s often said in the job hiring process: “it’s not what you know, but whom you know” that can help you get the gig. And, when it came to USF looking to hire Clemson a co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, “the whom” was his boss, Dabo Swinney.
On Wednesday, Scott met the media and USF fanbase in a huge press conference setting on campus in Tampa, and in his opening remarks made it very clear that one of the big reasons he was so interested in taking over the Bulls was the endorsement of his boss:
"This is one of them jobs you want!" Thanks for the love, Dabo! 🤘 pic.twitter.com/J8LgWTKnIZ
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 11, 2019
“He (Swinney) said: great university, great location, great conference, great recruiting base right in your back yard…you can win there. And, they have a great athletic director in Michael Kelly.”
Kelly, who was formerly an associate commissioner of the ACC before joining the College Football Playoff, as COO, has been on the job at USF for about a year and a half. And, he used his previous dealings with Swinney through the conference and the CFP to help him get his hire.
Swinney would know about taking advantage of opportunities, as he was made the interim coach at Clemson 11 years ago and has now built them into a powerhouse in the ACC and the national college football landscape. The Tigers just entered the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive year and will be going for their third championship in four years later this month.
Scott, who agreed to a five year $12 million deal, has been part of that as co-offensive coordinator for the past five seasons. And, he agreed to leave that post to come to USF to resurrect a program that as recently as three seasons ago, was in the top tier of the American Conference.
But, it will be a challenge to get USF back on track, as the Bulls lost 14 of their last 18 games over the last season and a half under Charlie Strong. And, the losing has seen fan base dwindle to fewer than 15,000 people at any of their home games at the end of this past season.
Scott, who’s had the chance to work with All American QB Trevor Lawrence and previously in his assistant career with the Tigers helped develop Clemson’s receivers. That includes previously working with the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams who all have gone on to NFL success.
And, that definitely brings some credibility on Scott’s resume.
Still, when Bulls Kelly that phone call reaching out for both Swinney’s opinion and help in hiring Scott, that probably set it all to the new Bulls boss.
And four days after their ACC Title Game win, he was standing at a podium in Tampa.
USF officially hires Clemson coordinator Jeff Scott
The USF Bulls coaching search to replace Charlie Strong lasted only eight days and his replacement has a National Championship pedigree.
The school announced late Monday afternoon that they have hired Clemson offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, to become their fifth head coach in program history:
Great Scott! We got our guy!
Jeff Scott named head coach of USF football.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 9, 2019
Scott, who actually shares the offensive leadership with Tony Elliott, will receive a five year deal to leave the Tigers and come to West Central Florida.
Bulls atheltic director Michael Kelly said in their statement about the hiring of Scott,
“Jeff is a very bright, enthusiastic and driven leader for our program and we are thrilled to welcome him to USF and back to Florida, where he was born and where he has recruited so well for Clemson for many years,” Kelly said.”
“He is a young and extremely gifted offensive mind, a developer of high-level talent and an elite national recruiter who brings the experience of having played an integral role from the beginning in helping to build one of the most successful programs in college football.
“We are thrilled that he and his wife, Sara, and their daughter, Savannah, are joining our Bulls family and will be part of the exciting future of USF football.”
As we wrote last night, Scott is Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become a coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and now to co-offensive coordinator.
The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence, just rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and a Saturday night 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. The Tigers will play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.
Scott will reportedly stay and coach the Tigers in the CFP Playoff bid, as they attempt to repeat as National Champions.
Further, there’s some more that USF fans can be excited about: Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. He currently has one of the best groups in the country.
After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.
Scott tweeted this photo Monday evening with his daughter showing him signing an agreement with USF:
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) December 9, 2019
Scott will bring knowledge of coaching from Clemson, as well as his stint as a high school coach. His father Brad, was also a coach in college, spending time as an offensive coordinator himself at Florida State, then onto South Carolina, and settling at Clemson.