College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the USF season with what you need to know.
USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Offense
– The offense went through a few growing pains – to be nice about it. Head coach Jeff Scott obviously knows how to run an attack after he served for years as the Clemson co-offensive coordinator, but his O – helped by OC Charlie Weis, Jr. – didn’t exactly have a decided schematic advantage averaging just 365 yards and 23 points per game.
That’s all about to change with ten starters expected to return, and that doesn’t even sound the most important guy on the field.
– The Bulls might have their quarterback. Jordan McCloud transferred to Arizona, but former North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin looked the part this offseason and should have a hold on the gig if former Miami starter Jarren Williams doesn’t rise up and rock in fall camp.
The passing game needs more pop and explosion, but four of the top five pass catchers are back. Bryce Miller averaged fewer than ten yards per catch in the slot, but he made 33 grabs, Omarion Dollison and Latrell Williams are veterans who should be able to do more, and Xavier Weaver has big play potential.
Helping the cause is an active transfer portal that lost a slew of backups and other parts, but brought in some interesting prospects headlined by former Auburn star recruit Matthew Hill.
– The offensive front has top be stronger after having a nightmare of a time keeping defenses out of the backfield. All five starters return with terrific size to go along with the experience. The running game wasn’t all that bad at times behind this group, and the backs are there to do more.
Kelley Joiner is a speed back who led the team with 368 yards and a score, and flashy Brian Battie is a smallish, quick option who averaged over seven yards per carry. However, Johnny Ford – a longtime part of the puzzle in a variety of ways – left for Florida Atlantic.
NEXT: USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Defense
4. USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The defense gets just about everyone back, and now it’s time to stop someone after allowing 441 yards and 40 points per game. There was no pass rush, not enough third down stops, and outside of a slew of takeaways, too many issues getting off the field. But again, this is a veteran crew and it starts with …
– The linebacking corps should be a big positive around veterans Antonio Grier and Dwayne Boyles. These two were 1-2 respectively in tackles, combining for 103 with their quickness overcoming their lack of bulk. There isn’t a whole lot of thump, but there are plenty of options for the rotation.
The front line now has to get into the backfield and be more of a wall. 6-3, 315-pound Kelvin Pinkney has the size on the nose, and Thad Mangum is a decent veteran with a 285-pound frame at tackle.
The ends have to get behind the line, though – the team came up with just 42 tackles for loss and a mere seven sacks with the linebackers doing most of the heavy lifting.
– The secondary allowed way too many big things, but they also came up with a slew of picks. Daquan Evans came up with a team high three interceptions, but Mike Hampton is gone from the other side and there’s some shuffling to do at safety with third-leading tackler Nick Roberts leaving and veteran Bentlee Sanders taking off for Nevada.
NEXT: USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Top Players
Best USF Bulls Offensive Player
QB Cade Fortin, Jr.
Call this a projection. The former North Carolina Tar Heel got a little time in with the Tar Heels and played in two games last year for the Bulls, but this offseason he looked and played like the guy who’s about to take over and lead the offense with more downfield plays.
The 6-3, 222-pounder still has to hold off Jarren Williams and good-looking freshman Timmy McClain, but it’s likely his gig to lose.
2. WR Bryce Miller, Sr.
3. RB Kelley Joiner, Jr.
4. QB Jarren Williams, Soph.
5. WR Omar Dollison, Soph.
USF Football Schedule 2021, Analysis
Best USF Bulls Defensive Player
LB Antonio Grier, Sr.
The 6-1, 222-pounder took over the linebacking corps over the last two seasons. He came up with 58 tackles with four sacks as a sophomore, and last year he led the way with 59 stops with three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. While he might not be a big thumper in the middle, he’s reliable and he can get all over the field.
2. LB Dwayne Boyles, Sr.
3. LB Andrew Mims, Sr.
4. CB Daquan Evans, Jr.
5. DT Kelvin Pinkney, Sr.
Top Incoming USF Bulls Transfer
CB Christian Williams, Soph.
The 6-1, 195-pounder could’ve gone anywhere. He ended up at Miami, saw a little time as a freshman, didn’t do much as a sophomore, and now it’s a Bull. He’s a big corner with a world of upside – the hope would be for him to fill in right away at Mike Hampton’s old job – but he might find a spot somewhere.
NEXT: USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
USF Bulls Biggest Key: Offense
Keep things moving. There wasn’t enough of a steady running game, the passing attack wasn’t consistent, and there weren’t enough big plays to rely on. Going forward with this veteran offense with a whole slew of good parts, converting on third downs is a big deal.
The Bulls seemed to hit everything in the wild and fun shootout loss to UCF, and they started the season converting 41% of their chances against Citadel from the FCS. In between they failed to hit 40% on third downs in any of the seven games and finished the season converting just 31% of the time.
USF Bulls Biggest Key: Defense
Find one thing this group can do really, really well. Find a positive identity that other teams have to worry about.
Coming up with sacks and pressure in the backfield might be it – at least from the linebacking corps – and the D was decent at taking the ball away, but teams that could run on the Bulls ran, and teams that wanted throw were able to throw.
Shockingly, USF did a nice job of holding down Cincinnati, but everyone else either ran for 200 yards threw for 270 or more.
USF Bulls Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Kelvin Pinkney, Sr.
Name your position and it could be the key to a good year – quarterback is probably front and center – but the defensive improvement has to start on the inside, and the 6-3, 315-pound Pinkney is the veteran bulk on the nose.
It’s his fifth season after working mostly in a rotation early on before taking on a larger role, making 57 career tackles with 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. The stats aren’t as big as his ability to hold up as the anchor.
USF Bulls Key Game To The 2021 Season
at SMU, Oct. 2
Just how much has the team improved over the last year? It’s going to be a really, really rough run early with at NC State, Florida, and at BYU before starting out the American Athletic Conference season going to SMU.
The finishing kick is a bear, and the home dates aren’t a breeze, so this is about as tone-setter as a conference opener gets. The Bulls won three in a row in the series before losing in 2019.
2020 USF Bulls Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: Opponents 92 – USF 37
– 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 71-of-141 (50%) – USF 38-of-124 (31%)
– Fumbles: USF 13 (lost 11) – Opponents 10 (lost 3)
NEXT: USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
USF Bulls College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction
USF has been the leaking balloon that finally lost all of its air last season in the first year under head coach Jeff Scott.
The program that went a stunning 11-2 in 2016 won ten games in 2017 – beating South Carolina and Texas Tech in respective bowl games. The 2018 team got off to a 7-0 start, and then …
Pffffffffft. The leak.
The Bulls have lost 22 of their last 28 games since that big start in ’18, going from 11 wins to 10, to seven, to four, to just one in the five-year drop.
Obviously, things aren’t going well when you go 1-8 – and that one win was against an FCS team – but to be fair, the Bulls had to go on the road to play at Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston.
Losing to East Carolina wasn’t okay, but the Temple loss was on the road and the last game was a shootout defeat to UCF. It might not have seemed like it, but the Bulls really did play better as the year went on.
Now the team returns loaded with veterans, depth, options, and more talent coming in from the transfer portal.
And now it’s time to pump things up again.
Set The USF Bulls Regular Season Win Total At … 3.5
This is going to be a far better team that should pull off a few upsets, and that’s what it’s going to take to come up with a good run.
USF will beat Florida A&M, and it has to find a way to get by Tulsa and/or Houston and/or Temple at home to start turning this around.
At NC State, Florida, at BYU, at SMU – that’s all in the first five games.
Houston, Cincinnati, at Tulane, at UCF. That’s November.
But it’s about how quickly the program can start to improve. The defense can’t and won’t be worse, there will be more big plays from the passing game, and the rebuilding job done last year will start to payoff.