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USF Football Spring Game: Offense Is Fun Again, Defense Making Strides

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How ‘bout that offense?

Will Turner/The Daily Stampede

The offense looked fun and the defense created havoc in front of over 3,000 fans at the USF football Spring Game today inside Corbett Stadium.

On the very first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Blake Barnett found senior tight end Mitchell Wilcox wide open down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown. The senior tight end finished his last spring game with two catches for 90 yards and a score.

The Daily Stampede’s Robert Steeg overheard one of the defensive coaches after the first few drives say that the offense was running plays they hadn’t run before in previous 14 spring practices.

“We’ve been setting that play up for the last couple practices,” Wilcox said. “We just installed [the opening play] this morning. We haven’t run that play before.”

The offense technically won the game 73-36, but the defense wasn’t as far behind as the score would indicate. The defense didn’t get points for sacks or TFL’s which would’ve made the game much closer.

The defense recorded 15 sacks, and 20 TFL’s on the day and held the offense to minus-58 yards rushing. Senior defensive end Greg Reaves lived in the backfield for most of the day as he transitioned back to DE after spending the last half of 2018 at linebacker.

“We were definitely upset with the way we played defense last year, especially the last six games,” Greg Reaves said. “At the start of spring we wanted to just reestablish our identity and I think we’ve taken steps and leaps toward that goal...I want our identity to be: Fun, Fast, and Physical.”

Head coach Charlie Strong was pleased with the progress each side has made in the spring, but acknowledges, there’s still room for improvement.

“I like how the offense came out and were able to operate,” Strong said. “Overall, I just loved the attitude of our players and how hard they worked and continue to get better.”

Bulls Nation should be excited about where this team is heading for 2019. There’s an extra pep in everyone’s step, they are happier, Strong is happier, and most importantly, they’re having fun again.

Quarterback Update:

  • Blake Barnett finished 8-of-16 for 135 yards, one TD, and one INT. He was sacked seven times. Barnett is the clear starter and though the numbers aren’t spectacular, he has improved each day.
  • Jordan McCloud finished 17-of-25 for 228 yards, two TD, and one INT. McCloud continues to entrench himself in the QB2 role for the Bulls in 2019. He had another solid outing and appears ready for the backup spot.
  • Octavious Battle finished 8-of-12 for 146 yards, two TD, and one INT. Battle has improved this spring from where he was early on and has shown flashes of promise. He did get hurt late in the game was seen with his right shoulder bandaged and iced up.

Running Backs

  • Trevon Sands showed some good hands and vision today. He had four carries for 18 yards, including a 23-yard run early, which he followed up with a 34-yard catch on a wheel route. He had a TD taken off the board due to a penalty.
  • Jordan Cronkrite (offseason surgery) and JuJuan Cherry (Shoulder) did not play.

Finding depth behind Cronkrite is one of the top priorities of the offensive staff in the summer heading into fall camp.

Wide Receivers

  • Johnny Ford had six catches for 30 yards, including a touchdown.
  • WR Stanley Clerveaux had five catches for 59 yards, and put a defender on skates.

Defense

  • Ten different Bulls recorded sacks, led by Reaves’ three. LB Andrew Mims had two sacks.
  • Nick Roberts, McArthur Burnett, and Daquan Evans each recorded an interception.
  • Nickel corner Vincent “Smoke” Davis had three tackles, one sack, and two TFL.
  • LB Antonio Grier had four tackles, one sack, and 2.5 TFL.

The defense wasn’t allowed to blitz more than five people and still got tons of pressure on the quarterback. The pieces are there to had a solid defense once again.