Sunday, May 21, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: USF Bulls
USF Bulls 2017 Preview
2017 could be the year of the Bull in Tampa and in the AAC. Charlie Strong was bum rushed out of Texas, but the reality is that the chips were always stacked against his success there. Strong can still flat out coach, and he may have the best roster USF has ever had in their relatively short football history. In short, it would not shock me to see the Bulls playing in an NY6 bowl this December.
What to Be Excited About: Offense
One of the best QBs in the nation will be returning in Quinton Flowers, who sizes up as Lamar Jackson without the overall exposure. Flowers should be the absolute favorite in the preseason for AAC offensive MVP. He passed for 2812 yards last season with 24 TDs to just seven INTs, while rushing for 1530 yards and 18 scores. As he goes in 2017, so go the Bulls.
The offensive line returns three starters who started at least nine games last season in C Cameron Ruff, LG Jeremi Hall, and RT Marcus Norman. Sophomore LT Billy Atterbury started four games last season before a broken leg ended his season against Florida State. The only concern here is how this unit gels under their fifth O line coach in five seasons.
PK Emilio Nadlman will be the lone PK this fall after hitting all seven of his FG attempts last season.
What to Be Concerned About: Offense
There are two key areas of the offense that are cause for concern early, and that revolves around the loss of Marlon Mack at RB and Rodney Adams at WR. D'Ernest Johnson will get a full crack at taking over as the starting RB after rushing for 543 yards and eight scores a year ago, but he does not possess the same kind of explosiveness that Mack had, as he averaged just 4.89 yards per carry last fall. Darius Tice returns as a RS Senior as the primary backup.
As far as the receiving game goes, the Bulls lose 95 total receptions with Adams and Mack being gone, and nobody else caught as many as 30 balls last fall. Tyre McCants lines up as the Z receiver and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will line up as the X, but they combined for just 47 receptions last season, and will have to step up in a huge way in 2017.
What to be Excited About: Defense
Auggie Sanchez returns at MLB this fall after leading the team with 117 tackles last season. He also led the team with six sacks and eight TFLs. D Line leader Deadrin Senat returns at DT as well, and will help anchor down the middle of the defense. Kirk Livingstone showed pomise as a freshman last season, and will head into camp starting at DE. Bruce Hecotr returns at the other DT spot, and Mike Love moves into the starting DE spot that was open after a 27 tackle performance as a junior in 2016.
There is also decent depth on the D line behind the starters in terms of experience.
The secondary is positively loaded, with six DBs back who contributed a great deal last season in Safeties Tajee Fullwood, Jaymon Thomas, Devin Abraham, Khalid McGee, Deatrick Nichols, and Ronnie Hoggins.
Punter Jonathon Hernandez averaged 41.22 yards per punt last season as a sophomore, and he also returns.
What to Be Concerned About: Defense
This could be one of the most loaded defenses in the history of USF football in terms of talent, so there is not much to worry about. The only position that is really open as we head into fall camp would be at WLB, where sophomore Nico Swatell is staking his flag. There was no backup at the WLB position listed heading into spring, so depth at the LB position will be something that needs some focus as we head into the fall.
Schedule: 8/26 San Jose State, 9/2 Stony Brook, 9/9 at U Conn, 9/15 Illinois, 9/21 Temple, 9/30 at East Carolina, 10/14 U Mass, 10/21 at Tulane, 10/28 Cincinnati, 11/4 Houston, 11/16 Tulsa, 11/24 at UCF
USF, in my eyes, is in the best position of any G5 school in 2017 to break into the NY6 bowl lineup. The talent level is loaded, and USF is the absolute favorite to win the AAC. Of course, Houston was in a similar position last fall, and failed, but the Bulls are not dealing with a coach who may or may not be leaving any minute as they begin the Charlie Strong era. The hiring of Strong to replace Willie Taggart was a major move for the Bulls, and the needle is pointing straight up. USF looks like an easy 10 or 11 game winner this fall, and could be favored in all 12 games on the schedule.