The Q&A returns yet again this season for our opener on Saturday afternoon against South Florida. We chatted with their SBNation blog, The Daily Stampede. Their Week 1 opener against Wisconsin went about the same as our game did. Is that angering their fanbase and giving them some existential dread about Charlie Strong? Perhaps!
1) What were USF fans’ reasonable expectations going into this season, and have those changed after the ugly showing against Wisconsin?
The reasonable expectation was that USF would at least compete versus Wisconsin. I don’t think many people thought they’d win, but at least make it competitive late. After the two early drops and the strip/sack touchdown, we knew USF was going to lose. If they no-show again this week, then there’s gonna be some DEFCON 1 action in the USF Twitter streets.
2) What’s the general consensus on Charlie Strong? Is his seat warm at all or do you feel good about the direction he has the program going?
It’s not great from the fan perspective. Seven straight losses, all non-competitive games. He called for a culture change and cleaning after the year and honestly, I thought it worked. We’ll find out on Saturday if one loss leads to another. Charlie Strong’s contract is all but guaranteed through the USF Foundation, courtesy of former Athletic Director Mark Harlan (who’s at Utah now), USF will have a very tough choice to make if this season goes as sideways as last Friday looked. Do you pay Charlie to go away and start fresh, while possibly setting the USF Football Center back a few years or hold on to Strong, hope the ships rights itself and get the facility built? Who knows.
3) Barnett had a fairly bad game at QB in Week 1, is that due to his supporting cast on the line and skill positions or has he regressed some this year? ... I realize this is a tiny sample size so far
The offensive line was dreadful in week one. We kinda knew it’d be a work-in-progress, but left tackle William Atterbury does not look like a FBS left tackle..right now. He last played LT when he was a senior in HS. The hope is game experience will help him out. The drops by the receivers hurt tremendously, and few bad decisions by Blake Barnett didn’t help.
4) RBs didn’t have much effect at all on the Wisconsin defense in the first game but will probably have more success against GT’s smaller and more inexperienced line... Who should we be looking out for at that position?
The offensive line was dreadful in week one. They couldn’t open any holes and never moved the Badgers defensive line off the line of scrimmage. Now, Wisky’s d-line will be the best one USF sees all year. This week will be the real test to see how far the line has to go to decent-to-good. Watch for senior Jordan Cronkrite. He had 1,000 yards in 2018. Sophomore RB/slot WR Johnny Ford will get action from everywhere on the field. He’s the key.
5) Similarly, the Yellow Jacket offensive line is inexperienced and playing in an entirely new offense - who’s going to be in our backfield for the Bulls the most on Saturday?
While giving up 42 points on defense isn’t great, the Bulls did register 11 TFL, and three sacks versus Wisconsin. LB Patrick Macon had 15 tackles and 4 TFL, DE’s Greg Reaves, Kirk Livingstone, Darius Slade, among others have provided some good depth.
6) And finally, how do you see this game going? Is there enough data on either team to tell at this point? Do you have a score prediction?
USF needs to show something on Saturday at Georgia Tech if they want to have any shot of keeping the fan base at bay. They need to win to really curb the downward spiral the fans are in right now. IF they can’t win against a program transitioning from the flexbone to a more traditional offense, they’ve got problems. USF wins 24-17. And I don’t really believe it.
Thanks again to Nathan from The Daily Stampede for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll see you Saturday at Bobby Dodd for the home opener. Remember to wear sunscreen and hydrate. It’s gonna be hot. Go Jackets!