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USF Football: Three Pressing Questions As We Head into the Season Opener at NC State

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Will the Bulls show improvement in 2021?

NCAA Football: South Florida at Cincinnati Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just days away from the 2021 South Florida Bulls kicking off year two under Jeff Scott at NC State on ACC Network. There will be plenty of questions answered as we progress this year, but let’s discuss three of the most pressing questions facing the Bulls in 2021.

Will the defensive line show improvement from last year’s dreadful showing?

The defense was bad last year. There’s no ways about it. Whether on the ground or in the air, the Bulls were giving up chunk plays and touchdowns to whomever wanted one. USF allowed 97 first downs on the ground, and 99 first downs through the air. They gave up 20 rushing touchdowns, and 21 passing touchdowns. It wasn’t so much pick your poison as an opposing team, it was which unit do you want to run up your stat line with?

The root cause (outside of the obvious playing in a pandemic) was atrocious defensive line play. USF recorded seven sacks and 42 TFL in 2020 (7 TFL, 1 sack vs. The Citadel). The DL was responsible for just three sacks, and a paltry 13.5 TFL. That’s just not going to cut it for USF to have any success in 2021. The Bulls return every lineman who registered a TFL, plus some others who had playing time in 2019, but didn’t have much of an impact last year. Blake Green, Thad Mangum, Kevin Kegler, Kelvin Pinkney, Tyrone Barber, Rashawn Yates, and Ryan Thaxton have all been playing football for nearly a decade. They need to step up and create more chaos than they have ever before.

DC Glenn Spencer has had a full spring, summer, and fall camp to install more exotic schemes, stunts, and blitzes to help the DL improve, but he can’t send six or seven rushers on every play, the defensive line has to be able to beat their blockers more consistently than they have over the last few years.

Can Cade Fortin stabilize the quarterback room?

Quinton Flowers aint walking through that door. It’s been three long seasons since the GOAT left USF, and since then it’s been a revolving door of “oooof” ever since. Blake Barnett? Nope. Chris Oladokun? Don’t get us started on what the staff did to him. Kirk Rygol? lol, no. Jordan McCloud? Absolutely not. Noah Johnson? Nah. Katravis Marsh? Not yet.

Enter North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin.

Fortin was hand-picked by head coach Jeff Scott in December of 2019 to be his guy to usher in the new era of USF football. Except a pandemic hit. He got COVID, missed two weeks, fell behind, got hurt at Cincinnati, came in for a drive vs Tulsa, looked good, got hurt again, and missed the rest of the year.

Fortin hasn’t stayed healthy for an entire year since high school. The only time he stayed healthy was the year he missed due to being in the transfer portal. Cade has looked the part of the steady hand at QB since spring practice began in March. He jumped out in front for QB1, and held on to it through fall camp. He’s been impressive on and off the field for USF, and finally has talent at the skill positions to make the offense fun.

Just stay healthy and throw lots of touchdowns. Seems simple enough.

Can the coaching staff learn from their 2020 in-game mistakes?

Listen, we get it. It was a pandemic season, they didn’t have their full resources, and again, it was a pandemic. But, man alive the coaching staff had some growing pains in the in-game decision-making department.

Hopefully Jeff Scott, Charlie Weis Jr., and Glenn Spencer are taking full advantage of having two Xbox’s and two PlayStation 5’s at their disposal in the players’ lounge, and running through end-game situations. Maybe even bring in an old Xbox-360 and play NCAA Football 14 for better understanding. Like not wasting a timeout late in the game at Temple, NOT calling that play for the two-point conversion out of the timeout. Figuring out how to manage the clock better at Memphis. Kicking a meaningless field goal up 30-20 midway through the 4th quarter instead of going for it on 4th and 4 from the Memphis 26 only to lose by a point anyway.

All the little things new head coaches are seemingly bad at, Scott and company need to be better.

It’s one thing for a player’s decision or missed play to cost the team a touchdown or game, it’s another one entirely if the coaching staff blows it for them before giving the players a chance.