From Tampa... The Daily Stampede Group. An unrehearsed program featuring inside opinions and analysis on major issues of the day. Here’s the moderator, John McLaughlin.
ISSUE NUMBER ONE!!! Jeff Scott quickly named Cade Fortin as USF’s starting quarterback. Can he hang on to the job all season FREDDIE THE BEETLE BARNES!!!!!
Nathan Bond: Probably not. Cade’s been hurt in every single season of football he’s played since his senior year of high school. Being made of glass doesn’t usually go away overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see him play, but I will be holding my breath every time he gets hit.
AJDNPO: I should start by saying that I’m very excited to see Cade Fortin in extended action for the first time since he got to USF, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his chops behind center. That said, I feel like the chances that we see one quarterback for the entire season are sub-fifty. USF hasn’t had a quarterback go wire-to-wire since Quinton Flowers departed. No matter how talented Fortin is, it’s often difficult to run away with the starting quarterback job when the team is struggling.
Nick Simon: I expect Cade to be the guy for the duration of the season. Jeff seems really locked in on having a definitive starter through good and bad, and I don’t imagine them pulling the rug from under him unless he’s really, really bad. It doesn’t mean we won’t see any of the other QB’s get reps, though.
Robert Steeg: All signs are pointing that Cade has improved this offseason as both a QB and a leader on this team. I think the only reason he won’t last the year as the starter would come from an injury as he seems to have a history with staying healthy.
Seth Varnadore: If it’s a matter of skill and performance, I believe Fortin has the ability to be the guy all year. The question for me, and I think many others, is can he stay healthy through the whole season.
Anthony Vito: Cade is definitely the guy Scott and Weiss trust with the offense, but as they say availability is sometimes the best ability. If Fortin stays healthy there’s no reason to believe he’s also the starter on Black Friday, unless Timmy McClain makes it a difficult decision.
Collin Sherwin: Probably not. There’s too much high-ceiling talent at the position behind him (hey Timmy McClain), and this offensive line holding up a traditionally-fragile QB for 12 games seems unlikely. Hope I’m wrong, but the math would say it doesn’t happen.
ISSUE NUMBER TWO!!!! The defensive line!! It’s been a real liability the last few years, and especially in 2020. Will we see any improvement up front this year MONICA CROWLEY!!!!!
Nathan: God, I hope so. A lot of experience and super seniors on this roster has to make some sort of difference, right? Plus having a full spring and fall to scheme up havoc plays has to lend itself to better results?
AJDNPO: I imagine they can’t be much worse! I found it a little bit curious that USF didn’t bring in more new bodies on the defensive line (they did grab two promising transfers, but neither played college football last year) and instead chose to double down on last year’s line by taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility. If the defensive line is going to be a much better product, a few players are going to have to play at a level thus far unseen in their USF careers.
Nick: There’s a ton of returning experience on the line and they’ve had a full offseason with Glenn Spencer now… so yeah, I don’t see why not.
Steeg: I think if Coach Glenn Spencer schemes it right, they should be able to create havoc regardless, but someone has to step up in that D-Line room.
Seth: I would think you will see improved play up front. Not only will these guys have another year of growth and development physically, but the whole defense will have a better grasp of Glenn Spencer’s schemes. In his second year, Spencer should be able to call for more movement and blitzing. These types of schemes would allow a smaller defensive line to exploit their quickness advantage.
Vito: There’s nowhere to go, but up! I have to remind myself this team had a full spring/summer/fall session for the first time under this staff and that could pay off bigger dividends than expected on the defensive line. Let’s hope a combination of super-senior experience and new transfers can get this unit to respectability.
Collin: Yes. Kelvin Pinkney and Kevin Kegler have shown flashes in the pivot, but they’re going to need some help from pressure on the edges so all the blocking isn’t towards the A & B gaps. There’s a lot of young bodies at D-end, but they’ll need at least two to emerge.
NEXT ISSUE!!!!! One area where USF is well stocked is wide receiver. Which receiver will lead the team in catches and yards this year, and can anyone be the first in school history to hit 1000 yards MICHAEL BARONE!!!!!!
Nathan: DeMarcus Gregory, the Ole Miss transfer. There’s a reason he went SEC out of high school, and we’ve seen glimpses of it during camp. I don’t think we get a thousand-yard receiver, but 822 might be in jeopardy.
AJDNPO: The receiving corps got a lot of exciting new pieces, and picking a favorite isn’t easy. I’ll go with Omarion Dollison, who at times looked like a genuine weapon as a true freshman on a bad offense last season. I don’t think anyone will get anywhere near 1,000 yards, but that could be a testament to the number of serviceable bodies at receiver rather than a lack of a passing game. Maybe.
Nick: This is the first time since 2016-17 that we’re going to have actual receiver depth, so I’m excited about that. I gotta go with Latrell Williams. He won’t reach 1,000, but he’ll emerge as the go-to guy for this offense.
Steeg: There’s some strong names in this wide receiver room, some great newcomers in Jimmy Horn and Demarcus Gregory. Then you get players who should take a huge step forward like Omarion Dollison and Xavier Weaver. But I’m gonna stick with a guy who continues to work his butt off. Bryce Miller will lead the team in catches and yards again. And bold take, he’ll come close to 1,000 yards.
Seth: I think we have a different answer for both. As far as catches, I think you see one of the slots like Bryce Miller or Omarion Dollison lead in receptions. Especially if they run those jet sweeps with the forward pitch. I believe Latrell Williams will lead the team in receiving yards. He’s explosive and can get on top of defenses. I don’t believe there will be one guy with monster numbers, however. I think the wealth gets spread around.
Vito: Dollison really feels like the breakout candidate here to add to his impressive rookie campaign, but I won’t be surprised if Xavier Weaver adds to his impressive spring by being that deep threat guy that puts up a ton of yards. You can really sell me on the WR depth this year.
Collin: Unless Jimmy Horn Jr. is the second coming, I don’t see it. This is a team that’s going to have to take whatever a defense gives them, as there aren’t breakout playmakers. They’ll survive, but not prosper as pass catchers.
ISSUE NUMBER FOUR!!!! There is really nowhere to go but up for USF football… but what would you consider improvement this season ELEANOR CLIFT!!!!
Nathan: Process > results. Do they respond after getting kicked in the teeth? Do they not quit? Is there a semblance of proof of concept by Black Friday? We need in-game coaching adjustments and strategy to be better.
AJDNPO: How the team plays is more important to me than how many games they win. USF was Extremely Not Good last year and faces a tough schedule with only one game in which they’ll be a guaranteed favorite (FAMU). Even substantial improvement from 2020 may not be enough to avoid an ugly-looking record. If they’re consistently competitive, get some breakout performances from young players, and Jeff Scott can get some momentum rolling on the recruiting trail, I’d be pretty thrilled.
Nick: Just show us upward trajectory and signs that the team is improving from week to week. I want the team that plays UCF in November to be miles ahead of the team we’re about to watch play at NC State.
Steeg: Winning more than 1 game is an improvement, but keeping the player’s attitudes in line, even when they get punched in the mouth, is key. Also, Scott, Weis, and Spencer need to show improvement in play calling and personnel decisions. Can’t have a Temple or Memphis mishap again.
Seth: I’m looking for consistency and identity. I’d like to end the year saying we know the starting QB for the next season and we know how a “Jeff Scott team” plays. I don’t think we got a full look at his blueprint for success last season.
Vito: Overall being competitive and showing proof of concept. It would be excellent to end the season with an idea of who your core players are and to not have massive roster turnover. Gotta build it brick-by-brick.
Collin: Improvement is beating any FBS team, and they will. I placed a large wager on Los Toros over 3 wins, so 3-9 for me is the absolute floor for this unit. I think they get there easily, and they have a chance to flirt with bowl eligibility, even if I don’t think they get there.
ISSUE NUMBER FIVE!!!! USF has a daunting schedule, especially out of conference… but which game might be ripe for the Bulls to pull an upset JACK GERMOND!!!!!
Nathan: I don’t think USF beats NC State, but BYU, Tulsa, and Houston are very winnable games if things break right for the Bulls.
AJDNPO: Apart from Florida and Cincinnati, it’s difficult to predict the relative strength of the teams on their schedule with much confidence. If I had to try to find a potential softer-than-expected spot, BYU in Week 4 will allow the Bulls to test their strength against a team that’s returning very little from last year’s extremely talented squad. It could be their most winnable nonconference game apart from FAMU.
Nick: UCF. Yeah, I’ll call it.
Steeg: Every year, going into a conference game where they seem entirely outmatched by a heavy favorite and a darling child, USF seems to catch lightning in a bottle and play well, but not always win. This year, staring Black Friday in the face, USF will upset C.
Seth: I keep coming back to that BYU game. The Cougars lost a ton from last years magical season. Oh, and they didn’t play anybody last year, which also contributed to their success. Maybe they reload, but I think they will be more down than people anticipate.
Vito: Most of these games USF is the underdog, but give me BYU. They’re coming off back-to-back top 25 match-ups before welcoming the Bulls to Provo.
Collin: Tulane should be a TD favorite in Nola, but that Willie Fritz modified-pistol plays right into USF’s hands. Bulls roll the Wave in Yulman.
PREDICTIONS!!!! What will be USF’s record in 2021 CLARENCE PAGE!!!!!
Nathan: A respectable 4-8. FAMU, Temple, ECU, and one of BYU, Tulsa, Houston, Tulane. You can talk me into five wins, but that’s my limit. This year sets USF up for even more progress in 2022.
AJDNPO: I have done some pretty serious mental gymnastics and I still can’t think of many scenarios in which the Bulls eclipse four wins or so. Still, like we discussed above, the win total is ultimately less important to me this season than the level of performance. I’ll go with a moderately encouraging 3-9 (that sounds sarcastic, but I mean it genuinely!), with a win over FAMU, a couple wins in the AAC, and a couple other games where the Bulls punch above their weight class.
Nick: 4-8. Again, as long as this team is showing noticeable improvement and proof of concept for the future, I’m good with it. Something similar to 2016 UCF, where everyone including opposing coaching staffs are taking notice of how quickly they’re putting things together.
Steeg: 6-6, bowl eligibility, and most importantly, progress and momentum going into 2022.
Seth: GIve me the over on 3.5 wins. Anything over 4 wins this year is gravy.
Vito: I always feel like the AAC year-to-year has one or two high-ceiling teams, one or two low-floor teams, and the middle is a dice roll. The bigger question is where does USF land in there? Projections say the low-floor teams, but we’ve seen programs in this conference make that “leap” just based on unexpected jumps in production. It starts and ends with QB play (and health) which has haunted this team for the past two years. I’m putting on some optimistic glasses here and saying 6-6, but I’m doing some gymnastics to get there.
Collin: My spreadsheets I am lucky enough to get paid to compile all day have USF at 4.5 wins this season. I think they get to four, and then it’ll come down to which side of the whistle they’re on to see if they get to five.