Since Charlie Strong’s arrival to USF, we’ve wondered what his assistant coaching staff would look like. Would he retain some of Willie Taggart’s assistants, or would he bring in his staff from Texas to take over an 11-2 football team returning starters nearly across the board next season? These questions started being answered over the weekend.
Sterlin Gilbert Named Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
On Thursday, Strong made his first hire by bringing his offensive coordinator at Texas, Sterlin Gilbert, on board.
Coaching in the spread-heavy Texas high school football circuit for nearly a decade, Gilbert jumped to the collegiate ranks as an offensive coordinator in 2012 with stops at Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green, and Tulsa.
At each stop he helped developed quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo, James Knapke, and Dane Evans, all of whom posted at least 3,000 yard passing seasons with him at the helm. His work with Garoppolo, best known now as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots, earned him the 2013 FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year award.
In Austin this past season, he helped elevate the Longhorns from 75th to 30th in offensive S&P+ and unleashed running back D’Onta Foreman, who took home the Doak Walker Award and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after breaking the 2,000-yard mark and averaging a nation best 184.4 yards per game.
Now he takes over a Quinton Flowers led unit that finished seventh in offensive S&P+ and number one in Explosiveness. We’ve already speculated over the talk of Strong potentially altering the pace of the offense to help the defense, so we’ll see what Gilbert has cooked up with a plethora of returning weapons at his disposal. (It’s worth noting that Texas’s offensive pace was actually much faster than USF’s last year.)
Shaun King Switches to Running Backs Coach
After a week of speculation about whether the former Bucs QB and St. Petersburg native would stay on the USF staff, the answer to that question was yes, he is indeed staying...as running backs coach.
It can’t be stated enough how important King was in the further development of Quinton Flowers this season. Flowers accounted for over 4,300 yards of total offense this season, broke his own single-season touchdown pass record with 24, and improved his completion percentage to 63%. It will be interesting to see how he does working with the likes of D’Ernest Johnson, Trevon Sands, and a returning Darius Tice from injury. (And presumably Flowers too, since he regularly carries the ball.)
King’s return is also huge from a recruiting standpoint, helping with continuity for kids already committed in this upcoming class.
Brian Jean-Mary Named Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach
Another guy following Strong from Austin to Tampa is Brian Jean-Mary, who was named Bulls defensive coordinator/assistant head coach on Sunday.
Jean-Mary has been with Coach Strong since 2009, serving as linebackers coach at both Louisville and Texas before finally getting the role as DC at USF. In his three years at Texas, he helped coach four All-Big 12 LB’s including 2015 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Malik Jefferson.
The bar won’t be high for BJM when he starts, as he takes over a Bulls defense that was a disaster under former DC Raymond Woodie in 2016. The USF defense finished an abysmal 110th in defensive S&P+, giving up 31.6 points per game, so he won’t have to go far to see immediate improvement.
The intriguing element of Jean-Mary’s resume is that he also doubled as Strong’s recruiting coordinator at UT, helping land back-to-back top-ten recruiting classes in Austin. He will certainly play a major role in trying to lure #1 defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and others to this class. Jean-Mary is also an Apopka native, setting up a recruiting force in both Texas and Florida on Strong’s staff.
Charlie Williams Named Wide Receivers Coach
Another of Strong’s assistants at Texas, Charlie Williams, was pegged as the next wide receivers coach.
Williams brings a mix collegiate and professional experience, having coached at Miami, North Carolina, and the Indianapolis Colts before joining Strong at Texas in 2016. Most notably, he was Tony Dungy’s wide receivers coach for the Bucs from 1996-2001.
He will take over a receiving corp still ridiculously loaded with returning talent including Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Tyre McCants, and 2016 four-star wideout Darnell Salomon who wasn’t even really needed during his freshman campaign.
Two more additions were made to the coaching staff on Wednesday and fits the criteria of coaches that Strong is putting together. One is yet another former Strong assistant from Texas while the other has deep ties to South Florida.
Matt Mattox Named Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Strong continues to bolster his coaching staff with his assistants from Austin as he named Matt Mattox as his offensive line coach/run game coordinator on Wednesday.
Behind a great offensive coordinator is a great offensive line coach and Mattox has followed Sterlin Gilbert to his various stops at Bowling Green, Tulsa, Texas, and now USF.
While the accolades of D’Onta Foreman in 2016 have already been mentioned, Mattox also played a huge part in the success of sophomore Connor Williams. The Longhorn left tackle took home First-Team All-American honors and was named an Outland Trophy semifinalist this season.
He takes over an offensive line that was left in pretty good shape by former coach Darren Hiller, a unit that ranked fourth in opportunity rate this season.
Corey Bell Named Defensive Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Like Taggart before him, Strong will try to maintain a presence in Miami and naming Corey Bell as Defensive Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator solidifies that.
It makes sense bringing Bell on as recruiting coordinator in regards to his deep connections to Dade County.
As a Miami native, Bell has made several stops in his coaching career throughout the area. He’s served as head coach of Miami Edison High School, Director of Football Operations at the University of Miami, head coach of American Senior High School, and defensive backs coach at FAU before landing the job in Tampa. Him taking over recruiting operations will be a major coup for Strong and his staff.
It should also be noted that his tenure as defensive backs coach in Boca Raton left more to be desired. While FAU corners Jalen Young and Raekwon Williams Jr. did make Conference USA Honorable Mention this season, the secondary ranked 107th in DB Havoc Rate as part of an entire defensive unit that ranked 128th, that’s right, dead last in Defensive S&P+.
Justin Burke Named Tight Ends & Special Teams Coach
Rounding out Strong’s offense is Justin Burke at tight ends and special teams coach, who becomes the youngest on the 2017 staff.
At 29 years old, the former NC State/Louisville quarterback played for the Cards during Strong’s first season there in 2010 before becoming a grad assistant under the veteran coach.From there, he would follow Strong to Texas, serving as a special assistant for offense and special teams.
Now in his first positional coaching role, he inherits a dynamic duo in Elkanah Dillon and Mitchell Wilcox, both of whom showed their capabilities catching and blocking in 2016.
We’ll have more updates as more coaching hires are made.