Hey USF: You’ve Got Quinton Flowers. Let. Him. Cook.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

I remember watching a Fall practice in 2014 and seeing Quinton Flowers do a Quinton Flowers thing. He broke the pocket, made two guys miss, and dove into the right side of the end zone for a 30+ yard TD. It was a “whoa” moment, and we could see what Willie Taggart saw in the player everyone else in college football wanted in the secondary, but no one else wanted as a quarterback.

We asked Taggart about it afterwards, and he was so excited about his new player he almost couldn’t get the words out. “He’s special.” He repeated it. But we still didn’t think he’d play that season with Mike White and Steven Bench in front of him. It turns out we wish he hadn’t, because can you imagine having Quinton Flowers in 2018? I’d take that over the limited experienced he gained playing the back half of a 4-8 season.

But I still didn’t want him as a quarterback in the Spring of 2015. Because to that point we had seen no adjustments from the West Coast Offense Taggart brought with him. Taggart famously said in his opening press conference “we’re going to run the football.”

And after 24 games, it seems about zero changes to that philosophy were made. Pour one out for Marcus Shaw losing two yards behind a pulling guard running “Power” over and over.

And then, all at once, it flipped. USF completed the third-largest in-season turnaround of the BCS era. The Bulls embraced Florida speed, and got religion from the Church of Spread in a hurry. They’re 20-4 since, with three of those losses to teams ranked at the end of the season.

Here’s Willie Taggart quote from just before the Miami Beach Bowl in 2015 on how they figured out how to put Flowers in position to win.

"He's just confident in what he's doing. You know, as a freshman, he didn't know. Our playbook was a little difficult for him. So we simplified some things, and tailored our offense around him and his ability. It's paid off big time for us, and now what we're all seeing is he's comfortable. You know, some of the things we're doing, he did in high school. That's helping us grow. 'Quinton, gimme some of the plays. Show me some of the plays you ran in high school.' 'I like that, let's run it.' You know he's comfortable running some of those things now, but it helped our entire football team because when he's playing well and confident, everyone else plays well and confident."

At another point that year, Taggart told us he basically asked Quinton “what are your favorite eight plays?” They ran them more. They went to Baylor as a staff to learn, and implemented parts of that high-octane offense. They made massive adjustments, but the biggest one of all wasn’t from the film, but to the philosphy: you have to scheme to the talent you have, not ask your talent to adjust to your desired scheme.

It got Taggart & his assistants a lot more money at Oregon, and left USF in a much better place than they inherited. No one can question Taggart’s recruiting chops, and when he decided to build around that talent, he went 11-2 and got the Bulls ranked at the end of the season for the first time ever.

It’s two games into a 12-game regular season, and USF has played two teams to whom they are far superior. But subtracting five straight touchdown drives at San Jose State, they haven’t clicked like they did last year. They look out of sorts. And they’ve lost their explosiveness, which is partially attributable to the loss of Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams. But they are so deep at so many positions... is that really it?

Flowers is now a Heisman candidate, but his numbers through two “cupcake” opponents are pretty pedestrian in the modern era of college football: 30/55, 398 yards, 4 TD’s, 1 INT, 36 carries, 137 yards rushing, 1 rushing TD.

So where did the magic go?

Q is never going to make stick throws on outs to the wide side of the field. He’s not going to stand in the pocket and deliver perfect balls. What he can do is force a defense to cover him as a runner, and use that match-up to let the playmakers around him find softer coverage. He can make brilliance out of the busted, because outside of Lamar Jackson there might not be anyone else in college football you’d want when the play breaks down.

He can lead one of the most formidable offenses in the game, as he did last season, but not if you want him be Dan Marino. He’s needs moving pockets, quick throws, and the space to be himself. A bunch of defenders clogging the box isn’t helpful to his skill set. He needs that linebacker left on an island or as a spy petrified to come after him, because no one wants to watch their ankles being broken over and over in the film room all week.

Which brings us to what the rest of the USF offense is doing presently. Why is Mitchell Wilcox acting as a fullback hybrid? That just drags another defender into the box, instead of forcing them to cover space.

Why isn’t USF putting playmakers on the edges? To be fair Rodney Adams and Marlon Mack aren’t here anymore, two huge breakaway threats in space. But D’Ernest Johnson, Darius Tice, and Trevon Sands can catch it and make people miss, and that’s before guys like Temi Alaka or Deangelo Antoine end up with the ball in go situations.

USF played a team they were much better than last week because of all the playmakers at the skill positions. Stony Brook played a ton of bend-but-don’t-break, lots of it Cover 2 shell. That’s not what you want to be running Four Verticals against, but at some point you say screw it and try to impose your will. Spread ‘em out, stems for everyone, have Tice or Johnson chip and slip to the flat as the safety valve, and send Wilcox or Dillon over the middle to split the safeties. Force them to choose who they want to cover. Then throw it high to whomever is one-on-one.

When you attack downfield so much they finally back that seventh defender out of the box, take your six (5 OL’s and an RB) against their six, leave one of them unblocked and read him so he can’t be right no matter what he does, and bust a run for huge yardage. If they dive hard at you, run-pass option their asses into the ground.

Your offensive line might not be great, so help them out: lots of screens to keep defenders in lanes, as well as to utilize the outstanding blocking wide receivers you have.

That’s what USF Football, with the athletes they recruit, should be. You don't line 'em up and punch them in the mouth: you get wide and fly by 'em.

It's only Week 2, and it's not time to panic. But we all know what USF can be because we saw it last year. It was breathtaking, and made Bulls fans from all over believe in their team again.

But the guy driving that train needs to be put in position to win. He needs a system that’s not conventional, but can be as effective as it is beautiful. He needs to be trusted, because he’s shown he can do it. He’s earned the right to be unleashed for his senior year.

Let. Him. Cook.

Comments

Let Q be Q

If Coach Strong screws up this season by handcuffing Flowers, USF may lose two season ticket holders. No excuses.

Everyone's going to a spread

Because it works. Even Nick Saban and Alabama are using spread ideas, and they can get pretty much whoever they want. Defenses can’t do much to stop it, so you see a lot of bend but don’t break.

So when you have the kind of athletes we do, who have shown that they thrive in a spread but aren’t much good in a pro set, you use a frigging spread. It doesn’t have to be the customized Baylor influenced Gulf Coast spread of last year, if Coach Strong has better ideas. It can be some other version. But a spread it must be.

Amen

Time to get back to the USF football of old. Let Q do his thing.

Let him cook!

Good article.

So what is the coaching staff's thought process?

Are they too stubborn to deviate from their system and tailor the offense towards one player? Or do they not realize what lead to Quinton’s ascension and what does and does not work for him? Like I really want to know if they even watched game tape from last year.

I think they go with what they know

Because they’re not smart enough to try anything else. It’s what bad, stubborn, or some of both coaches seem to do, especially defensive guys that seem to loathe high scoring shootouts.

It took nearly losing his job, and having the personnel for CWT to make a switch. Strong was faced w losing his job at Texas and sort of dipped his toe into opening things up, but he’s not feeling that pressure here.

He might when they are 3-3 at the end of September and people are pissed (this is happening)

The Lovie vs Strong matchup may as well be broadcast only on HAM radio, as it will set football back 40 years.

You're hired!

#OCCollin

Colin wtf?

brilliant writing… Some of your best work, again…. Let’s get you to the tbt…

Well said

Can you send this to Gilbert?

I trust you are calling out some of this bullshit at tomorrow's press conference?

Just because Charlie Strong can bench press you and all of your furniture doesn’t mean you should be afraid to ask these questions. Your fans and readers want answers just as much as you do, so go get em.

I second this

I would love to hear what Coach Strong has to say about this. I can’t imagine they didn’t watch the tape from last year. I also can’t imagine that the whole idea that they are keeping it vanilla against supposed "cupcake" teams only to unleash the "real" playbook later. So what gives!?

That's such a flawed way of thinking as well.

There is plenty of film on Gilbert and his offense. The conference opponents already know all they need to know about our play makers. We aren’t suppressing some big secret by not running our offense to its max capacity.

What we are doing however, is making sure that our boys have had zero game experience with a large portion of the playbook and then expecting them to get it right when it really matters, during conference play.

Yeah I really can’t think of any good reason for what they’ve shown in the field the first two games. That includes Coach Strong’s answer yesterday blaming the offensive line. He needs to evaluate his player’s strengths and with that. It’s not like CWT didn’t give them for years of his and misses to build off of.

Probably the most important thing you've ever written

Now don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions to CCS at your next media opportunity. You can be the voice of the fans.

This is dumb

We need to run the ball up the middle and pack the box. Let our big guys move their big guys. THAT’S how you play football in Florida. Get all these big, corn-fed lineman some reps!

But really, I completely agree. I mentioned in the preseason that I was worried about some of the lingo they were using when describing the future offense. "Power run" came up a lot and that sounded a lot like Taggart year 0 talk. Turns out, it was the exact same thing. This is the same offense we ran when we sucked… and guess what…. now we suck again. Hopefully this was Gilbert’s idea of a football rickroll and we’re going to go back to the athletes-in-space spread that Florida players are best at. Especially Q…. If you give him an inch, he’ll take 50 yards. But, he can’t move D-linemen out of the way.

… We are ranked 20/21…. Better than I thought we would be

Great post

I still dont get why the fuck every coach that comes here wants to do power run football. We are a fucking Florida team. What the fucking fuck. We aren’t goddamned Nebraska or Iowa. We got lanky guys that are fast.

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