I caught up with Nathan Bond of The Daily Stampede to get some insight into the Bulls as we prepare for NC State’s season-opener on Thursday night. His answers to my questions are below. I also answered some questions for Nathan, which you can find here.
1.) After what you saw from USF last season, how long do you think it’ll take this program to get back to respectability?
We know it’s going to take some time for USF to get back to where it was in 2016-2017 (if they ever do), but this team should be more competitive under year two head coach Jeff Scott. There’s an air of respectability that was lacking over the last couple years of the Charlie Strong era.
Four wins this year will go a long way into telling us where USF is heading.
2.) Despite the struggles, what were some of the positive takeaways from 2020? Does Jeff Scott have what it takes to be a successful head coach?
Um...They didn’t lose every single game, so that’s a start. It seems like Jeff Scott weeded out the right guys from the program who either didnt fit their style or didn’t fit the culture he’s trying to build. Jeff’s doing all the right things right now to build up a program that’s been in the dumpster for three years. Frankly, you have to take the 2020 for what it was—a complete shitshow from start to finish due to COVID. The team was hit hard with COVID-19 at various times through the year, and had two games canceled. Take the 2021 season as a true year one for Scott and company.
3.) I noticed that USF has turned over its roster with a whole bunch of transfers. Do you think that’ll make it more difficult for the Bulls to get off to a fast start this season, and which of those transfers do you figure will have the biggest immediate impact?
I think the schedule has more to do with USF not getting off to a fast start this year than the influx of much needed transfers. They come off this week’s game, and welcome top-ten Florida, plus throw in a road game at BYU, and you have the making for a 1-3 start to the year. Literally all of the transfers have a good chance to make an impact. The defensive backfield is completely overhauled with Christian Williams (Miami), Matt Hill (Auburn), Will Jones (Kansas State), and TJ Robinson (Rutgers) all factoring in for playing time. Colorado running back transfer Jaren Mangham will get involved as well. Plus Ole Miss WR transfer Demarcus Gregory, and Baylor WR transfer Yusef Terry will provide more explosive playmakers than the Bulls have had in a long while.
4.) I was a little surprised that Cade Fortin won the QB job over Jarren Williams, just based on how those guys played at their previous schools. How did the QB battle play out, and why did Fortin separate himself?
You shouldn’t be. Cade was in that loaded 2018 Georgia HS recruiting class with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Jarren Williams, and Emory Jones. He’s a talented player who Scott hand-picked to be “the guy” last year, but COVID, and a shoulder injury derailed him. He has the attention of the locker room, and it shows. Jarren was out of football for a full calendar year after transferring from Miami. His JUCO season was postponed and moved to the spring when he had decided to go to USF. He just missed too much time in and was too rusty to beat out Fortin who has been in the system for a full year now. A name to watch for on Thursday will be true freshman QB Timmy McClain. Coaches LOVE him, and he’ll have some packages in the game as well because of how dynamic he is as a running QB. Think baby Quinton Flowers.
5.) What’s an area where you think the Bulls will be better than most people expect?
Getting open. That was a massive issue last year, but the talent the wide receiver room has now is at least on par with a lot of schools. Gregory will be an issue for teams. Freshman Jimmy Horn Jr is a guy to watch for as well (he was teammates with McClain in HS). Throw in another year of experience for Tennessee transfer Latrell Williams, and “freshman” Omarion Dollison and there some actual real life talent that will annoy better teams as to why they are always getting open. (Think Zay Jones at ECU)
6.) Who’ll be the best player on this team when 2021 is said and done?
I’m betting on either linebackers—Antonio Grier, or Dwayne Boyles. Both have been in the program, and producing for three years, and are athletic enough to go sideline-to-sideline. The defense had issues creating havoc last year (seven sacks total in nine games), but with a full spring, s
7.) Hey, remember the Meineke Car Care Bowl? Truly, it was a game that happened.
First time in school history USF had ever been shut out. If that game happens today, no shot Mario WIlliams plays in that game. Bulls by 40.