The University of South Florida Bulls football team is getting ready to face the Marshall Thundering Herd on Thursday in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at 8 p.m. on ESPN which smack dab in the middle of the early signing period which begins Wednesday and ends Friday. We had a chance to speak with the coaches today at the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center ahead of the game.
Balancing Recruiting and Bowl Game Prep is a Must
It’s a hectic time for the USF coaching staff as they try to put together a good 2019 recruiting class as well as prepare the 2018 team for the final game of the season and USF career for the seniors.
“That’s what we asked for as coaches, obviously, right?,” defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said. “It is what it is. We all know recruiting is the lifeblood of any program and obviously that’s a big priority for us. But, we also owe to the seniors and the current team that we’re on to give them the best opportunity to win...We’ve had some late nights, game planning and recruiting, but that’s part of the job.”
BJM said the defense will be ready and motivated for the game after the difficulties they faced this season stopping the run and getting off the field on third down.
“The morale’s been good and that’s something you always want to make sure that your guys are up for the bowl game,” Jean-Mary said. “Everybody always hears it every year, ‘the team that’s most motivated, has the advantage...I don’t think they liked the way the year ended so there’s a lot of motivation out there.’”
While the season numbers look bad for the defense, they played well enough to beat Temple and up until that fateful punt in the fourth quarter on Black Friday, had held the Knights in check for most of the game, albeit without their starting quarterback. The defense is young a every position and should only get better next season.
Any Surprises in Store for Signing Day?
Despite losing multiple recruits leading up to signing day, the Bulls should be in good shape heading into Wednesday.
“You always feel like you would only bring kids in that can help the program and fix some of the issues that you have,” Jean-Mary said. “We obviously wanted to load up on some defensive backs this year and we feel like we’re in on some really, really good defensive backs. We’re an old-school as far as our coach who believes you have to win at the line-of-scrimmage, so we’re always going to try to bring in some high-quality offensive and defensive linemen.”
USF seems to be targeting JUCO cornerback Kelvin Clemmons and it appears it’s down to the Bulls and Kentucky for his signature. He also visited Toledo and UTEP.
The Bulls also got a commitment from Coffeyville Community College cornerback McArthur Burnett last week to help shore up the defensive backs unit who will return 10 scholarship players, three of which did not see action in 2018.
“[We] want to obviously replace some of the numbers we lost from seniors, but the main thing, especially where we’re at as program is we want to find difference-makers,” Jean-Mary said.
Head coach Charlie Strong doesn’t anticipate any surprises on Wednesday.
“We know who we’re gonna get. It’s already done,” Strong said.
Justin Burke Will Call the Plays on Thursday. Who will Be the OC in 2019?
As I reported last week, special teams coach Justin Burke will call the offensive plays on Thursday after former offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert took the head coach job at McNeese State. I mentioned in the story that Burke’s experience with Strong through three different stops, plus being his quarterback made the choice an easy one for Strong.
“Well, I know Justin and Justin played quarterback for me and he worked with us at Louisville and Texas with me so I made the decision that he’s going to be the playcaller,” Strong said.
#USF head coach Charlie Strong also stated he hasn’t interviewed potential offensive coordinators yet.— Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) December 17, 2018
“I’m not concerned about that right now. I want to focus on finishing the season with this team.” #USF
Realistically, Strong has until mid-January to hire a new offensive coordinator and get them settled and in place for spring practice. I believe Strong will carefully consider all of his options and that it will not be someone already on staff with the Bulls.