Well, well, well how the turntables…. As it turns out, the reports of college football’s death were greatly exaggerated (at least for now). Our long national nightmare is over. And to paraphrase one of our greatest thespians in an award-winning piece of cinematic art, Green Street Hooligans, Saturday is finally Football Day for USF.
The Bulls will kick off the Jeff Scott era against FCS opponent The Citadel. The Bulldogs are no stranger to playing FBS opponents, as they have played Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech over the previous five seasons. The Bulldogs, while being well trained, will not just roll over and play dead in these “buy games”. In fact, in the previous five seasons they have two victories over FBS opponents, South Carolina in 2015 and Georgia Tech last season.
How has Citadel been able to beat these more talented teams? The answer lies in their scheme.
The Citadel Offense- Protect Your Knees
I regret to inform you that The Citadel runs the triple option. And they are very good at it. The Bulldogs have been in the top ten in rushing nationally in each of head coach Brent Thompson’s five seasons. The formula is simple.
The Bulldogs ran the ball 85% of the time and averaged over 61 carries a game last season. They will run, get themselves into third down and short situations and convert third downs. Last year against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs converted 8 of 16 third downs. For the 2019 season, Citadel converted 43.48% of their third downs which ranked 18th nationally.
When you convert third downs, you not only sustain drives but also control the clock. When you are able to control the clock, you can limit the amount of possessions the other team has. In their win against Georgia Tech, Citadel held the ball for over 41 minutes. While time of possession isn’t everything, (as you can see here ) if your opponent isn’t sharp on offense it creates the perfect recipe for an upset.
“It’s been my history, it’s usually about the second or third series when guys start to say, ‘Wow, coach, you’re right. That was faster than what we’ve been practicing,’” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “It’s just how quick they can grasp it on Saturday is gonna be the key.”
Let’s take a look at the Citadel offensive scheme.
The Citadel returns their quarterback Brandon Rainey, who was also their leading rusher. They also return four of their top five players in both rushing and receiving. They should provide a unique challenge for the USF defense.
The Citadel Defense- Bulldog Mentality
The Citadel defensive coordinator is Tony Grantham, brother of Florida DC Todd. Todd Grantham is known for his aggressiveness regardless of situation. Tony is no different. Citadel runs an aggressive 3-4 defense led by All-American linebacker Willie Eubanks III. Let’s take a look at the schemes of the aggressive Bulldog defense.
The Citadel is not going to play scared. They are going to come after the USF offense, and challenge them. However, their aggressive style can lead to big plays for their opponents. New USF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. has used RPOs, motion, and other creative ways to attack aggressive defenses in the past. If the USF offense is clicking, the Bulldogs will be in for a long night.
The new staff certainly doesn’t get to ease in their first season. Jeff Scott has coached against The Citadel before, but that was as a coordinator against a previous DC. I’m not sure the last time Glenn Spencer played a triple option team. Perhaps during his head coaching stint at West Georgia. They certainly have an interesting matchup ahead of them in their first game.
The Citadel presents a unique challenge for USF, especially because this game hasn’t been on the schedule for all that long. The triple option offense and attacking defense that The Citadel runs are a match made in heaven. The offense tries to limit opponent possessions by holding the ball, while the defense tries to use their aggression to create turnovers. It’s is a formula that Navy rode to great success last season. While The Citadel presents some interesting wrinkles, USF is the more talented team. They should be able to handle the Bulldogs. If they can come out of the gates quickly, they can put The Citadel in a really tight spot. While the Bulldogs pass well for a triple option team, they are not built for comebacks.
Coach Scott has put together a great staff and seems to have his players motivated. There is a definite positive buzz around the program. The Bulls appear to be headed in the right direction. Hopefully they can take another step forward on Saturday.