As the 2021 college football season has ended for the USF Bulls, it’s time to reflect upon the season and look forward to some much needed optimism going into the offseason.
This team did exactly what experts and those in the media thought they would do this year
And that’s okay! USF was projected to finish last in the AAC this year for the second straight season, and there was a good reason for that. The shell of a progrum left behind by Charlie Strong, coupled with the COVID-19 2020 season and the mass exodus of players left a very young team with a second year head coach. This year they entered the season with question marks all around the offense, a defense that was identical to the bad one in 2020, and even more freshmen and transfers waiting in the wings. They had a few chances to not finish last in the conference with close losses against Tulsa, Houston, ECU, and UCF, but ultimately that’s where we ended up, last.
We harped on progress being the indicator this year, and not wins and losses
In a general sense, we did get progress from week one against NC State to week thirteen against Central Florida. Coming out of that NC State game, USF had essentially no offensive identity and more question marks at QB with the poor play of Cade Fortin and Timmy McClain.
Defensively they were non-existent outside of a turnover, and overall the team got punched in the mouth. After that game, they still had a few struggle moments throughout the season, with blown leads against a few conference opponents, but outside of that Tulane game, they were able to establish an offensive identity with a dynamic true freshmen quarterback.
They also made a much needed move at defensive coordinator and (thus far) are looking to return a lot of the positive production going into the next season.
Veteran leadership aplenty going into 2022 season
All four captains from the 2021 season are returning, including two anchored offensive linemen (Brad Cecil and Demetrius Harris), a standout linebacker (Dwayne Boyles), and the experienced voice at safety (Mekhi LaPointe). Additionally, LT Donovan Jennings, LB Antonio Grier, and CB Vincent Davis all have indicated they will return for USF next year, providing leadership at multiple positions. This will allow the coaching staff to continue chasing depth, especially at positions along the offensive line, defensive line, and linebackers. The depth that is currently there will continue to grow stronger under the guidance of AJ Artis this offseason.
Attrition is going to happen this offseason
Especially with the one-time transfer rule in place due to the COVID-19 season. Some of it has already happened, quarterbacks Jarren Williams and Cade Fortin are in the portal already, as well as key contributors like WR Bryce Miller and K Jarred Sackett. However, Jeff Scott has noted there is some serious buy-in from players who are looking to be around the USF football progrum when they do turn the corner and putting together a winning season.
To add upon it, when players transfer out, players usually transfer in, and Coach Scott knows the importance of being able to balance high school recruiting, JUCO transfers, and the transfer portal. We have already seen the Bulls pull one of the best receivers from the Tampa Bay Area (Javohn Thomas) and recruit the state of Florida very well in the class of 2022 (5 out of 8 commits are from Florida). They received a JUCO pledge from a stud linebacker out of Coffeyville with Jhalyn Shuler, and received transfer intentions from former Clemson RB/Slot receiver Michel Dukes and two D1 defensive linemen with James Ash and Nick Bags. As we have been preaching they aren’t done yet.
Offensively, it’s time to tailor this offense around your budding star at quarterback
We saw how dynamic Timmy McClain can be in his true freshmen season. He possesses elusiveness in the pocket, the ability to stretch for time outside the pocket, and patience to let his receivers develop their routes to deliver darts to his targets. Its time to move out of the Clemson-lite offense that Charlie Weis Jr and Jeff Scott were running with Cade Fortin/Jordan McCloud style quarterbacks and move into a more energetic offense that fits the strengths of Timmy McClain.
Just like in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ You can always phone a friend to get some advice, and for Scott and Weis to build up this offense into a powerhouse they’ll need to use a lifeline. An old acquaintance with Jeff Scott, Willy Korn has been the offensive coordinator for Coastal Carolina since 2019 and has lead the Chanticleers into a dynamic offense averaging 40 points per game and almost 500 yards per game in 2021. QB Grayson McCall, in his career, has thrown for over 5,000 yards, 71% completion percentage, 50 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, he has also added over 800 yards rushing and 11 rushing touchdowns. Korn and Scott were at Clemson together, Korn as a quarterback under Dabo Swinney and Scott was his wide receivers coach, so there should be familiarity there.
Another name to potentially call would be Jeff Grimes, the offensive coordinator at Baylor, who has been around for a while and been all over the country with stops at Rice, Auburn, LSU, BYU. He made his way to Baylor this past offseason under second year head coach Dave Aranda. Grimes has led a resurgent Baylor offense led by Gerry Bohanon who has thrown for 2,100 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only six interceptions, adding 300 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns in a dynamic, fast-paced offense. The true strength of Baylor’s offense has been running the ball, where they have averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Running back duo Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner have collected 1,000 yards from scrimmage each and averaged over six yards a touch.
Defensively, this could be a one year turn around for a new DC
The War on I-4 proved what most of the world knew about Glenn Spencer’s conservative approach to defense, and that in 2021, you need an aggressive defense to get your players in the best position possible. With Glenn Spencer out of the picture, and Jeff Scott reportedly getting a lot of interest in the vacant role at defensive coordinator, the new DC’s face in the building will be a refreshing one. Bringing in some much needed depth at defensive line and linebacker, and maybe changing the scheme from a 3-3-5 to a 4-2/4-3 can also help out greatly for a new coordinator. Ultimately, this next coordinator needs to be enthusiastic and ready to bite.
Special teams is finally a bright spot, pay Da Prato whatever it takes to keep him here forever.
Seriously, with Brian Battie and Jimmy Horn at kick off return, Spencer Shrader booming field goals, Xavier Weaver returning punts, and Andrew Stokes developing from punting down under, this could be a unit that USF won’t have to worry about for quite a while. Having a dedicated special teams coach has been a blessing for this team in an effort to turn the corner, and it almost won them a few games too.
Three major milestones need to happen this offseason
- Continue to build this culture under Jeff Scott. There may have been some hesitancy with the old Clemson guidebook Jeff Scott touted in his first week, but the culture he is building here is becoming uniquely USF. The support he is providing to not only his football players, but the other teams on campus by engaging those other coaches and attending games is amazing to see, especially at a massive university like USF is.
- Continue to engage the community, both via high school recruitment and relationship building. CJS’s familiarity with the Tampa Bay Area continues to pay its dividends with recruiting, and his approach to having his assistant coach’s have multiple area schools to visit and build relationships with is amazing to watch. Now with the new NIL deal for college athletes, you can extend that reach outside of the schools’ campus and get involved with the community. Businesses like Irish 31, College HUNKS, Mission BBQ should continue to support these players because of the relationships that the coach’s have with the area. Also, the online support for USF needs to be a priority with the USF Twitter Herd movement.
- Continue to build the relationship with the school and administration. This one is obvious for those that have been around, but Jeff Scott needs to continue to do what he can to bring light to the ground breaking ceremony on the Indoor Performance Center. This will show the school that the juice is worth the squeeze with engaging in Athletics. That can go further into the On Campus Stadium announcement, which the school needs to recognize as the most important event for the school in the 21st century.