It was a beautiful early afternoon on Harbour Island as head coaches, athletic directors, and media from Marshall and South Florida all gathered outside Jackson’s Bistro and American Social to discuss the upcoming Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and enjoy the festivities with fellow board organizers. A few brief hits for local media overlooking the riverwalk were followed by a fun joint press conference which had USF Head Coach Charlie Strong all smiles, especially when the coaches received the hysterically large and long Gasparilla Bowl beads. Former USF OG Jay Mize, Bucs great Mike Alstott, and WWE’s Titus O’Neal FaceTiming from Japan were a few of the special guests in attendance.
Strong looks to end the year on a high note
Coach wasn’t all positive when he talked about the outlook over the last half of the season however, “you look at the five game slide we had…it negated those seven wins so we need to get back on track.” Strong then reiterated the blame should be put on him and the staff for the slide. “We didn’t do a good job, I didn’t do a good job myself, I take the blame for those five games cause we didn’t do a good job preparing the team.” One final game gives the program a chance to end the year on a high note. “We have a national audience….we’re gonna be the only game on that night so it’ll give us a chance to show our program,” Strong noted exactly two weeks prior to kickoff.
Offensive questions heed no answers ahead of bowl prep
Bulls fans were in for a surprise on Wednesday when it was announced that Sterlin Gilbert would accept the Head Coach position at McNeese St. There were no answers on who would be his replacement, but discussions are underway with the coaches back from recruiting this weekend. With finals over and bowl preparation starting next week we should have an idea of who will be calling plays, if the offensive philosophy will change, and who will be the signal caller. When asked about the status of injured QB Blake Barnett, Strong said “I think that we will know here in the next few days. I try to get them through their finals; we get us a practice in on Saturday and Sunday and then we’ll get ready for bowl prep and see exactly where he is.” There was also no word on the availability of other injured Bulls.
#GreenBreed19 looks to have a flurry of signees
In addition to bowl preparation, the early signing period is looming; and Strong clued us in on a few positions of need. “I told the guys right now we need to go get us linebackers, defensive backs and corners cause we lose our corners.” Linebacker has been an issue since Nico Sawtelle went down moving defensive end Greg Reaves from a position he had success in last season to a new and unfamiliar one, plus senior cornerbacks Ronnie Hoggins and Mazzi Wilkins will both be graduating. Strong also mentioned he plans on signing a full class of 25; the majority of them signing during this period. USF is currently sitting at 18 commits.
Playing at Raymond James Stadium is a unique opportunity
The senior class get the chance to play in their home stadium one last time and Strong talks about how important it is to play that one final game. “A lot of them may not have the opportunity to move onto that next level, it gives them another chance to be around their teammates and tell those stories and have fun before they play that last time.” The seniors will hopefully play to a large contingent of Bulls fans as Michael Kelly alludes to USF’s allotment being nearly sold out. “This is a huge opportunity for us, and we expect to sell out our allotment of tickets which would be a first,” Kelly explained during his brief media availability. “Having a great crowd, not only what we can do as Bulls fans but for the community. For us to be able to do all of the good work that we do now, be able to do it here in the market is awesome. I look at it as a win-win for the community, our fans can see us, kids can play in front of them one more time. It should be a feel good thing for the whole Tampa Bay community.”
Nothing, but respect between the two former UF coaches
Doc Holliday is a perfect 5-0 in bowl games while coaching at Marshall, and Strong isn’t surprised by that mark. “I have a lot of respect for Doc…I’ve known him a long time. He was always that recruiter in Florida that everyone was talking about. I told him I said he was the first guy from out of state that everyone talked about. Look at his team right now, he has a very young team but they’ve been very productive they’ve won some big games and have played really well.” Doc Holliday talked about suiting up against the Bulls with similar respect towards Coach Strong. “It’s their athleticism, you take a look at their tape, and located where Charlie is, being the kind of recruiter he is, he’s gonna have good players at every position, so the athleticism at the skill positions will be a challenge for us, and a challenge we will have to work hard to be prepared for.”
When asked who they would nominate to win the belly flop contest, Doc Holliday said to much laughter “the guy who wins the belly flop contest can’t play. So you have some guy who’s a little overweight but can’t play football but he’s gotta be good at something so maybe he wins the belly flop contest.”
When asked who exemplifies South Florida football, Coach Strong said “Johnny Ford is probably the most exciting, he’s a little guy you don’t think much of him just looking at him, he’s shorter than I am, but the thing he does, he’s just exciting to watch when he has the ball in his hand.”