One note before I get started: it’s not fair to compare a four-year starter like Matt Grothe to someone like Mike Usry. That’s why there’s a list for starters and a list for backups. Also I didn’t rank anyone who hasn’t played in a game. Here we go.
1. Quinton Flowers
2. Marquel Blackwell
These two are a cut above all the others. Going into 2017, you could rank them either way. After this season, Flowers will almost certainly be the undisputed GOAT.
3. B.J. Daniels
4. Matt Grothe
Again, you could switch these two without much argument. You all know which way I lean in the Daniels/Grothe debate, but it’s very close. There’s also not much of a gap between my first pair and my second pair.
5. Chad Barnhardt
A good to very good quarterback and an archetypal team leader. Not quite on the same level as the players above him.
6. Mike White
White may be the only USF football player who has ever transferred and thrived at another FBS school. It would have been interesting to see how he fit into the Gulf Coast Offense, but that didn’t happen. Worked out for the best, though.
It’s a pretty big gap from here to...
7. Steven Bench
Had a few chances to win the starting job, but could never hold on to it. To be fair, he was probably held back by USF’s terrible system in 2013-14. We saw enough of Bench as Flowers’ backup in 2015 to see that he would have been OK in the Gulf Coast Offense.
8. Ronnie Banks
Banks started most of the 2003 season in Mike Hobbie’s spread. He was a fair enough pocket passer, but really lacked mobility. I think he was ruined mentally by the TCU game that year, in which USF could not block anyone and Banks was sacked around 178 times. Jim Leavitt got so desperate in the second half that he replaced Banks with Brian Fisher, who was not actually a quarterback. To this day there are TCU defensive linemen showing up at Ronnie Banks’s home and place of business to lay some more hits on him.
9. Pat Julmiste
In the pack of below-average USF starting quarterbacks, Julmiste wins out on volume. He started enough games that eventually he had a few good ones, like against TCU in 2004. Was quickly replaced by Grothe in 2006 and only made a brief cameo in the Papajohns.com Bowl after Grothe was injured.
10. Bobby Eveld
Had that one moment of magic against Miami, but then did nothing else of note. On the plus side, Skip Holtz burning his redshirt in 2012 was so pathetic that it got him fired faster.
11. Glen Gauntt
We counted him as a starter because he was anointed the starter going into the 1999 season, after Barnhardt graduated. He was fine as a backup, but was ineffective as a starter. After 1 1/2 games, he was replaced by Blackwell and was rarely heard from after that.
12. Matt Floyd
13. Courtney Denson
Neither of these guys had it. Floyd started three games as an injury replacement, then lasted just over a half as Willie Taggart’s first starting QB. Still, that’s longer than Denson lasted in 2005. He was pulled in less than one quarter of his only start, at Penn State. Denson continued to struggle as a backup and eventually moved to wide receiver; Floyd was benched and disappeared.
Worth noting the bench is pretty shallow on backups because a lot of them eventually became starters.
1. Grant Gregory
Gregory was an ideal backup. He couldn’t freelance or run as well as Matt Grothe, but he was plenty capable of running his dad’s offense. If God forbid anything had happened to Grothe in 2007 or 2008, I would have been fine with Gregory taking over. Took one for the team against Syracuse in 2007 and kept playing with a bloody, smashed-up face.
2. Brett Kean
Kean has showed good control of the offense in mopup duty and I think he could get the job done if he had to play more. On the other hand, it seems like Chris Oladokun will pass him up eventually.
3. Lance Hoeltke
Way back in 2011, Gary wrote a tremendous post about the man who was all set to be USF’s first starting quarterback, right up until he wasn’t. But he could definitely play, and in his brief appearances during that inaugural season he proved it.
We’ve often talked about trying to put together an oral history of the 1997 season, or some other, even more ambitious project. If we ever get one off the ground, I would absolutely want Hoeltke to be a part of it.
4. Brian Fisher
I always laugh when blogs like Tomahawk Nation deride certain passers as being running backs who play quarterback. Brian Fisher really was a running back playing quarterback. It’s debatable whether he counts as a starter or a backup, because he did technically start a game at QB in 2003. But I think that was situational and not Jim Leavitt saying “Brian Fisher is my starting quarterback,” which is all it would have taken for me to count him as a starter.
You really had to be there to understand why Fisher is ranked above so many actual quarterbacks. He was the only player on that wretched 2003 USF offense (with the possible exception of Huey Whittaker) who could make magic happen. He completed 16 of 24 career passes and even threw a touchdown pass to Elgin Hicks on a wild broken play against TCU. After that play the color analyst (Sean Salisbury?) blurted out, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re lookin’ at a FOOTBALL PLAYER!!” which was inadvertently perfect because Fisher was certainly not a quarterback.
5. Carlton Hill
Hill was a highly-touted quarterback recruit and showed promise in an extended look against West Virginia in 2005. After that season Leavitt was apparently ready to hand the offense to Hill in 2006, but academics (among other things) ultimately led to him leaving the team.
6. Kevin Patullo
In addition to being the holder for two Gramatica brothers, Patullo made a few late appearances in 2000 and 2001 as one of Marquel Blackwell’s backups and did OK.
7. Evan Landi
Landi made two appearances as a backup quarterback in 2009. The next year he converted to tight end, where he turned into a pretty good player. Then in 2012, when Matt Floyd took a cheap shot in Skip Holtz’s last game and went to the sidelines, Landi had to come in and play quarterback because everyone else was hurt. Landi actually got the offense moving, but when Floyd was cleared to go back in he came out. The crowd really hated that, but it was quickly forgotten when Skip settled for a sad field goal down 27-0. Skip Holtz was just the worst.
Fun fact: Landi is the only left-handed quarterback USF has ever had.
8. Anthony Severino
USF’s third-string quarterback in 2007. He completed one career pass, but it was a very memorable one that we’ll talk about this fall.
9. Mike Usry
I don’t remember him at all (sorry Mike, if you’re reading this). 7 for 12 lifetime with an interception.
10. David Mullins
Completed 0 of 6 lifetime passes with two picks, then converted to linebacker. Career passer rating: -66.67.