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Retool and Rebuild

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After Friday’s abysmal showing against Tulsa, it’s become clear that the only remedy for USF football is an injection of new blood.

NCAA Football: East Carolina at South Florida Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

USF’s 42-13 ass-kicking at the hands of Tulsa on Friday was merely the latest dismal output in a COVID-19 afflicted college football season that cannot end soon enough.

Pre-snap penalties, an inability to get third-down stops on defense and the quarterback roulette once again returning were just a few of several issues that once again doomed the hapless Bulls to a blowout loss against a conference foe at Raymond James Stadium.

In our Daily Stampede Group predictions before the season started, I said that what mattered more that wins/losses in a year where spring ball was completely wiped out was this roster showing modest improvements across the board from the first snap of the Citadel game until the last snap of whatever the last game would be. Through six weeks of play, it’s apparent that it’s not going to happen.

It’s also apparent that the only way out of this hell that USF has found itself in is completely tearing the roster down and injecting a dose of new faces and talent into the bloodstream of this program. Because it’s not going to turn the corner with the personnel here.

To put it mildly, the core group of players who have been in this program since 2017 have seen some shit.

Some of them experienced being on the losing end of the most psychologically damaging loss in program history. They all played under a staff that stunted their development and, in retrospect, clearly treated this program as a rehab stint. A holdover gig until some power five program magically whisked them away (spoiler: that didn’t happen). Losses piled up, assistant coaching changes didn’t work and any hope of being a part of a winning culture on Fowler Avenue went out the window. Which leads us to where we are this exact moment.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at South Florida Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

As Jeff Scott enters an open week where he said he’ll re-evaluate everything, he can look to Dallas and College Park as a few examples of how to play this.

Last year, SMU exploded under then second-year head coach Sonny Dykes. The Mustangs posted a 10-3 record, their best mark since their program was blown to smithereens by the death penalty in the ‘80’s. The catch? Between year one and year two, the staff quickly overturned their roster by bringing in 31 transfers and 19 true freshmen on scholarship.

Yesterday, Maryland officially kicked off the year two of the Mike Locksley era. While they looked absolutely horrendous in a 43-3 loss at Northwestern, the makeup of the 2020 Terrapins is almost night and day compared to last year’s team, with 57 brand new players (39 freshmen and 18 transfers) suiting up for the Big Ten school. Again, it’s not pretty right now for Locksley, but he has something to build on.

For Scott and USF, that’s the move. That’s your only way out of this. Who knows how the pandemic will affect the transfer process but the sooner you can hit the portal for guys who can play immediately and get verbal commits like Gabe Nealy and Timmy McClain on campus, the sooner you can actually begin to build your vision with newcomers like Omarion Dollison already having a year of experience under their belt.

I do want to make clear that for the current group of players suiting up in Green and Gold, the Charlie Strong era leftovers if you will, none of this is their fault. They’re good young men who in spite of the aforementioned failures of the program have worked hard, busted their asses and have done their best despite going on three years of a losing culture.

Jordan McCloud may not necessarily be ‘The Guy’ at quarterback, but he’s done his best to rep his hometown proudly and blossomed as a leader off the field. The offensive line has been unobjectionably horrendous over the last few years but they’re still in the trenches grinding it out every week. And yes, Nick Roberts has been pilloried for the image of him walking to the locker room with his pads off in the middle of the game on Friday, but he’s also worked hard for this program and has come up with key turnovers in the secondary over the past few seasons.

This current group of Bulls deserved better and unfortunately, it’s not going to work out for most of them. That’s how college football works out sometimes. A dramatic deconstruction and reset of the roster is needed and then, and only then, can USF begin its climb back up.