The off-season is over, the doldrums of panicking over a lack June content (yes, that’s a thing that happened), and USF football is right around the corner. There’s plenty of questions that won’t be answered until the Bulls take the field on September 3 versus BYU, but it doesn’t mean we can’t start asking some questions about the upcoming season.
Head coach Jeff Scott enters year 3 as the leader of a USF program that had let the mold, mildew, and termite damage get too bad before they had to rip everything down to the studs and start over. Throw in a global pandemic in his first year, and it’s been quite the uphill battle for him. But, now in his third season, he’s recruited most of the roster, has his people in place, and the only other thing left do is win.
With one of the toughest schedules in the AAC (9 of 12 opponents played in a bowl game in 2021), they may be hard to come by, but it’s not impossible—unlike how seemed in the previous two seasons.
Here are a few questions we’re going into fall camp wondering...
Who is QB1, and will Jeff Scott finally settle on a QB for the long haul?
In what felt like a game of musical chairs over his first two seasons, including anointing Cade Fortin QB1 only to pull him not even a half into his first start in 2021, it was thought coming out of spring practice that Timmy McClain had a firm(ish) grasp on the starting position.
Here comes former Baylor starting QB, Sugar Bowl winner, Big 12 champion Gerry Bohanon to throw everyone for a loop. The Baylor transfer has the talent (2,200 passing yards, 18 TD, 9 rushing TD in 2021) to step right in and start for the Bulls. It seems inevitable that Bohanon will be tabbed the starter.
A lot of people—rightfully so—started having flashbacks to Blake Barnett coming to Tampa, essentially pushing Brett Kean, and Chris Oladokun out the door (Thanks S****** G******). It’s not quite the same situation, but it’s very similar. USF fans have clung onto McClain’s talent and have picked him to be the next Great One. Meanwhile, Katravis Marsh is waving his hands in the air and shouting to the fans “I’m Still Here, Too”.
“It’s not my intention to really have a quarterback battle that’s going to linger on into the season,” Scott said in an interview with WDAE earlier this offseason. He’d ideally have a starter named during the first half of camp so whomever wins the job can have the full first-team reps for a couple of weeks heading into the BYU game.
Will the defense be serviceable under new DC Bob Shoop?
To put it nicely, the USF defense was atrocious under former defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. We can only assume the second “n” in Glenn stood for “Never blitz”. USF recorded a paltry nine sacks in 2021, and just 28 TFLs over the course of the season. The Bulls hit the transfer portal hard to stock up on talent across the defense, no more as evident than bringing in multiple transfer defensive linemen as they adjust to a more traditional 4-2-5 alignment under Shoop. Notable transfers Clyde Pinder Jr (UNC), Jatorian Hansford (Missouri), Rashad Cheney (Minnesota) all expect to make an impact along with true freshman Eddie Kelly, and incumbent DT Rashawn Yates.
With the talent on paper on the offensive side of the ball, the USF defense doesn’t need to be great, just good enough to keep the Bulls in games, and hold on to leads. Shoop has the pedigree to turn defenses around in short order, he’ll need to make this is best work yet.
Always remember: HAVOC PLAYS WIN GAMES
Will the increase in overall talent mask some of the in-game decision-making from Jeff Scott?
There’s an old saying: Talent hides a lot of problems, and winning cures all. For example, Quinton Flowers hid A LOT of problems in 2017 under the former coaching staff, then once he was gone, the warts started to show up. Then in a matter of two years, the Bulls became the laughingstock of the AAC.
This is by far the most talented team on paper USF has had since that 2017 season (they will not win 10 games this year so stop thinking that)—but there’s a lot of talent up and down the roster. But, under Scott to date, the Bulls are 0-5 in one-score games, and held leads going into the fourth quarter in three of those games. If the talent is there and clicks for the Bulls in 2022, then Jeff Scott must become a better in-game manager.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, but if USF is to take the next step in the development, then Scott has to improve on the little things as well. Calling timeouts at the right time (see: Temple 2020). Being able to get the team in the right play in critical situations (see: Tulsa 2021).
Players have to execute the plays, we get it. The coaches need to put them in the best position to do so.
We’re going to have to wait to find out these answers, but this is a good starting point as we ramp up toward COLLEGE FOOTBALL BABY!!!!