From Tampa... The Daily Stampede Group. An unrehearsed program providing inside opinions and forecasts on major USF issues of the day. Here’s the moderator, John McLaughlin.
ISSUE ONE!!! Overwhelming offensive talent but a slightly different system with new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. Will Gilbert let Quinton Flowers do what he does, or will he needlessly put the brakes on him and his teammates ELEANOR CLIFT!!!!!!
Nick Simon: We were all freaking out about Charlie's "slowing the offense down to help the defense" comments when he first got here in December, but he's since realized that not adhering to #LetQCook would be monumentally stupid. There will be slight tweaks, but they'll be fine.
Carl Zee: I have a very bad feeling that Gilbert is going to hamstring Q this upcoming season. The system that CWT had figured out allowed Q to run all over the field if necessary, but Gilbert seems to like the pocket passer more. If we don't see any read-option, one of our biggest weapons is gone. Seems that Q is becoming a better passer, but his biggest weapon is his mobility. Had CWT stayed, Q would likely break the rushing record at USF. If Q doesn't do that regardless, then the offense likely isn't producing to full potential.
Connor Akeman: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There is simply no need for Sterlin Gilbert to make any drastic changes to this USF offense. Even in losing stud RB Marlon Mack and WR Rodney Adams to the NFL, the Bulls have tons of offensive firepower. Quinton Flowers should continue to run and throw all over teams (I don't see any of these opponents stopping him) and with plenty of depth at WR and RB, the USF offense will continue to be lethal regardless of coordinator.
Nathan Bond: From what I've seen during spring and fall practice the offense will be more explosive than last year's team. How? More vertical shots and fewer sweeps and pop passes. This offense will run the ball up the middle with D'Ernest Johnson and a rejuvenated Darius Tice then nine routes all day er'day. I said in TDS Slack that I wouldn't be surprised to see Flowers get closer to 4,000 yards passing than 1,500 yards rushing, and I believe that.
Collin Sherwin: Let. Him. Cook.
Sterlin Gilbert seems like a pretty bright guy. If someone hands you a Rolls-Royce, don't try and make it a Buick. You'll see a slightly quicker pace, some different play-signaling, and of course a few wrinkles, but the base of this offense ain't changing. 8-12 plays at most, with multiple options depending on what the defense gives you. Lots of read option and play action. Don't mess with success.
Jamie DeVriend: I’m pretty sure it will turn out fine, but it is really easy to overthink this.
ISSUE TWO!!!! Brian Jean-Mary brings new energy and attacking swagger to the USF defense. But can they tackle and get stops? Will the defense improve enough for this team to reach its full potential MORTON KONDRACKE!!!!!
Nick: Welp, finishing an abysmal 110th in defensive S&P+ last year, it sure can't get a whole lot worse. (Unless they decide to completely bottom out and become Texas Tech levels of awful.) From everything we've seen and heard, the kids are responding to BJM in a similar manner as they did when Tom Allen was here in 2015. For that, I'm expecting them to take a step forward this season. Will they be dominant? Not likely. But I'm expecting them to hover around the 70's in S&P+, which will be enough to push the team over the edge.
Carl: It can't be any worse than last year, and they have the benefit of not only BJM, but Charlie Strong. I expect we'll see a valley of difference.
Connor: Here is where I think a competent coordinator will make a difference. Brian Jean-Mary will get these guys to make tackles and hopefully force a ton more stops than 2016. Jean-Mary will be the sole play caller on defense and with some key players returning, now with some (not so positive) experience under their belts, I think we will see legitimate improvement on this side of the ball.
Nathan: In our first podcast of the 2016 season, I mentioned that the defense would miss Tom Allen's rah-rah attitude on the sideline and they did. Add in former defensive coordinator Raymond Woodie's complete ineptitude at calling a game and that just made matters worse. New DC Brian Jean-Mary will have the defense closer to the 2015 version than the 2016 version. Even though he's never been a DC in college, I just trust him so much more than Excessive Sweater Woodie. The 2017 defense will blitz hard and fast from every part of the field. I've seen CB Deatrick Nichols line up as the nickel corner and come off the edge and look good doing it. This should be a much better tackling team under head coach Charlie Strong and BJM.
Collin: I am less sure about this than any preseason question. I think we can ascertain that Raymond Woodie was a pretty terrible coordinator, but he also didn't have tons of talent with which to work. Despite that, thee was no excuse for the lack of adjustments, which really hurt in the two losses (478 yards rushing by FSU, a Temple fullback beating your ass single-handedly).
The defense is a year older with lots of returnees. On that alone they should be better. But an upgrade in coaching, especially tackling technique, could be a real boon to their points allowed. Just not enough input yet to tell, but if I had a guess I'd say they finish in the 60-75 range in S&P. Which would be a massive upgrade.
Jamie: It’s hard to imagine this defense being any worse than last year. The improvement might be a bit of an illusion because the schedule is so bad, but there will be some legit improvement too. They only have to be average for USF to get where it wants to go. I think they can do that.
ISSUE THREE!!!!! On a scale of 1 to 19.5, 1 being absolute metaphysical impossibility and 19.5 being complete certitude, rate the likelihood of USF's defense being good enough to win a championship PAT BUCHANAN!!!!!!
Nick: Uhhh, 17.4. I think they rise to the occasion.
Carl: 14.65. I expect the defense will have improved enough to give the offense the chances they need. Honestly, I'm more concerned about the offense and the first question. If the offense can emulate last year's output, then we'll be fine. If they don't... I'm not gonna think about that.
Connor: 10.5. I won’t get too carried away.
Nathan: Eight. If the defense just improves to middle-of-the-pack good, they will run away with the conference. There's a lot of talent on that side of the ball that was either not ready for action or underutilized in 2016.
Collin: 17.6412. Because they don't have to be that good: this offense is a video game. Good offense can carry marginal defense. If the D can just get an extra two stops a week and force around two more turnovers every three games, that'll be plenty.
Jamie: 16. There’s a lot of defensive brainpower on this staff. If BJM can’t make it work, Charlie Strong will.
Pat Buchanan: John, how are you still doing this? You’ve been dead for over a year.
John McLaughlin: I’m not a human being anymore! The Disney people recorded every word I ever said on this show and made an animatronic that thinks like me and talks like me.
(John’s faceplate falls off. Everyone screams and a stage hand rushes in to pop it back in place.)
NEXT ISSUE!!!! How long will Charlie Strong stick around! Some think he will take the first better offer he gets. Others think he may be here awhile. Will Strong leave any time soon JACK GERMOND!!!!!
Nick: I still think Florida Gator head coach Charlie Strong will be a thing that happens in 2019, but it would not shock me at all if he's one and done after this season. That's life at this level of college football but as SB Nation's Bill Connelly always says on Podcast Ain't Played Nobody, if you consistently nail your head coaching hires and find the right fit, the attrition won't matter (Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, etc.). If Charlie does leave in December, get UTSA's Frank Wilson on the phone ASAP.
Carl: I give Charlie 2 years. This year, next year, gone. He's too big of a name, and if he wins things both years there's no chance he doesn't get snapped up by a larger program.
Connor: Two seasons. I would like to think one year is too short, so two feels right. Charlie will leave for a big and better opening as he should. If two years from now USF has a couple conference championships, is continuously ranked, and has a big-time bowl win under its belt? Mission accomplished in my opinion.
Nathan: Two years. But, long enough to get the construction of an indoor practice facility started. I asked him if he'd rather have an IPF or an OCS and he didn't hesitate to say IPF because he "needs something to show recruits". So thank you for your two years and the indoor practice facility Charlie and good luck in Gainesville.
Collin: From what I can surmise: he's deuces whenever a bigger budget school needs a good coach and is willing to pay him.
USF Athletics isn't always the most professional or well-funded operation, and when you're coming from Florida, Louisville (the non-traditional school unicorn) and Texas, there's a significant dropoff in revenue, staff, and just how things get done. Your dietitian might work with all the athletes instead of just one team. Your chiropractor might only be part-time. And what do you mean these pictures and logos painted all over the walls haven't been upgraded??
It can be hard to backtrack in resources, especially for someone like Strong that's been a part of the best. If you're used to having a private plane at your disposal 24/7, asking a travel coordinator to ensure you at least get an A boarding pass on Southwest can be a real pain.
USF is lucky to have Strong, but barring some massive capital infusion, they are so significantly behind P5 schools in resources it'll be impossible to catch up during his tenure. The upside is he's got a huge buyout, and USF might extend their streak of coaches coaching for free to two straight seasons.
Jamie: I’m sure Strong will take the first good offer to hit his desk. Oddly enough, USF might keep Strong for a second year if they go 13-0 because he wouldn’t ditch them before a New Year’s Six bowl, would he? If they somehow fall short, he’s out the door.
ISSUE FIVE!!!! In what year will USF's new on-campus stadium open MICHAEL BARONE!!!!
Carl: 2030, or five years after I win the lottery.
Connor: I don't think this is happening. No funding and the locations seem tight. As much as I want this to happen, I'll believe it when I see shovels in the ground.
Nathan: My daughter is four months old. She will be a sophomore in high school in 2032 when the stadium opens.
Collin: 2029. The first event might be a CONCACAF Gold Cup match.
Jamie: I’ll be optimistic and say 2026. Five years to fundraise it, three years to build it.
LAST ISSUE!!!!! What will USF's record be in 2017 MONICA CROWLEY!!!!!!
Nick: (deep breath). 12-1. I can't pull the trigger on calling for an undefeated season. Can't do it. Here's how I see things playing out. USF starts off 9-0 with every game except Temple and Cincy being #BEATEMDOWNS. Then, welcoming a by then top-25 Houston team to Tampa on Nov. 4th, they get Ed Oliver'd and lose that game. With two weeks to stew on it, a pissed off Bulls team blows the doors off Tulsa, wins a closer than expected game versus a C. team that has figured things out by that point of the year, and then beats Houston/Memphis in the conference title game to punch their ticket to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl.
Carl: Regular season: 12-0. Memphis is the only team that worries me for some reason, but they're not on the schedule. I expect USF handles Houston and Tulsa at home and C. hasn't improved enough to stop Q under any offensive scheme. Nobody else on the schedule worries me, and those three teams will all be tougher than the game against Illinois (unless Lovie either performed dark magic, or made a deal with the devil. That's literally the only chance they have.)
Connor: 14-0. I really do believe USF will handle this regular season schedule easily. Game #12 at C.Florida worries me the most, but not enough to predict a loss. The toughest challenge will be an AAC Championship game and a bowl matchup of some sort, but they win those too. There you have it, 14 wins. Call me optimistic or delusional, but this is happening.
Nathan: 14-0 and a NY6 bowl. I'm a homer.
Collin: They will be favored in every game for a reason. This schedule is trash, and they're full of seniors that know they can make history. If Quinton stays healthy (and even if he doesn't... Oladokun and Kean have really been impressive), I think they get it done. It's college football and weird stuff happens and you'll come out flat a couple times, but that Memphis game last year really showed me something. This team has big, brass balls when needed. Those will be called on at least once this season.
13-0. See you in Atlanta for New Year's.
Jamie: Yeah, I can’t pick an undefeated season either. That’s so hard to do. On the other hand, this schedule is SAWFT. I’ll predict 11-1, then a slobberknocker against Memphis or Houston in the conference title game (hopefully in Tampa). If they win that, off to the Peach Bowl where their chances of winning will all depend on the matchup. I still think a top-tier power running team wipes the floor with this defense.