According to multiple reports, South Florida Bulls head coach Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert have named Arizona State and Alabama graduate transfer Blake Barnett the starting quarterback for USF’s season opener versus Elon on September 1, beating out redshirt junior Brett Kean and redshirt sophomore Chris Oladokun.
BIG NEWS: @MikeCairns5 and myself have been told that BLAKE BARNETT is the starting QB for #USF vs Elon on September 1st.— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) August 23, 2018
Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert informed the QBs of his decision this morning.
Let the drama begin.@SpecSports360 @BN9 #HornsUp #BullSpeedAhead pic.twitter.com/xtWjHslPug
Was told the QBs were informed the decision to start Barnett is for Game 1 and they'll go from there. If things go well, don't see why the other two also wouldn't play. If things don't go well, other two might be forced to play. https://t.co/f4lWi0YTKj— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) August 24, 2018
Spectrum Sports’ Chris Torello and Mike Cairns were the first to report that USF has made a decision on who would be the first person to replace the GOAT Quinton Flowers. Tampa Bay Times reporter Joey Knight expanded on that by saying this is for game one. Then “We’ll see”.
The move doesn’t come as a surprise to most because while Barnett has only been with USF for a little over three months, it was clear there was a reason the California native was a five-star coming out of Santiago High School.
Barnett is every bit of the 6’5”, 217 lbs that he’s listed on the official USF website and while he looks like a young Brad Johnson, he’s anything but a stiff in the pocket. He shocked me (and even the coaching staff) with how mobile he is. He isn’t Flowers fast, but he can move around in the pocket to buy extra time and has shown no hesitation in pulling the ball down to take off.
Barnett possesses a rocket launcher for a right arm and showed he can make NFL-type throws during the portions of practice that were open to the media. I believe we will see the offense Gilbert truly wants to run with Barnett in at QB. What hurt the USF offense in 2017 was Flowers’ lack of accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and in the veer-and-shoot offense the quarterback needs to be able to hit those throws just as much as the deep ball, which Flowers did plenty of.
If this offense clicks with Barnett, there’s no reason why he can’t become the first USF QB to throw for over 3,000 yards, and frankly, with the weapons around him, 4,000 yards isn’t completely crazy. Wide receivers Darnell Salomon and Tyre McCants could both flirt with 1,000 yards receiving as well. It’d be fitting that the first time USF has a receiver eclipse 1k, two of them do so.
Where Does This Leave Kean and Oladokun?
With the QB battle seemingly over, what will Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun do now? They have been good teammates and waited patiently for their shot at the starting job. They said all the right things when the coaching staff brought Barnett in after spring practice and now they’re relegated to the bench...again.
For Kean it’s not so simple. Does he risk transferring to another FBS school and get just one year to play or drop down a level to play right away? As the primary backup to Flowers for two seasons, it seems like he’s more than capable of playing somewhere and was just dealt a bad hand.
For Oladokun, he’d have two more years to play if he transferred out to another FBS school. He was the talk of the 2016 fall camp when he was a true freshman. Former head coach Willie Taggart raved about his arm talent and he was my pick to take over for Flowers prior to the Barnett transfer. The Tampa native has a decision to make.
Barnett has two years of eligibility remaining and behind him is the very talented freshman Octavious Battle out of Georgia, as well as former Tampa Plant QB Jordan McCloud so it’s not a typical one year of a grad transfer and the old guys get another shot. This may have been their only shot.
It can be said that the two didn’t do enough in the spring to make bringing in another QB a bad idea. They also had a year head start on Barnett in the Gilbert offense and couldn’t separate themselves from him or each other.
I do think the best man for the job won the job, but it’s truly unfortunate that it had to come at the expense of Kean and Oladokun. Who knows, Barnett could come out September 1 and be a complete dud against Elon (it’s happened before) and we’re back to the drawing board at quarterback.
If Kean or Oladokun seek playing time elsewhere, don’t blame them. They both have the talent to start somewhere. It’s just that—for now at least—it’s not at South Florida.