2019 USF Bulls Team Preview

After going 10-2 in year one, Charlie Strong led USF to a 7-0 start in year two and a #21 ranking in the AP poll, my computer model was unimpressed however and held the Bulls at 64th. Unsurprisingly, our computer overlords were right once again and the Bulls lost their last six, all by double digits, tumbling even further down to 96th by the year’s end.

Strong brings in a new offensive coordinator in DII national champ coach Kerwin Bell and a new DC in Brian Jean-Mary who was promoted from within to try and help turn things around. With recruiting slipping and their top rivals at an all-time high, they could use it.

Offense

Blake Barnett had big shoes to fill but did a solid job early in 2018 despite getting hurt. The former Alabama and Arizona State QB averaged 7.7 yards per attempt while dealing with injuries to his shoulder and ankle.

Two of his three top targets return in deep threat Randall St. Felix (20.6 YPC) and TE Mitchell Wilcox. Eddie McDoom is a Michigan transfer that could come in and start in the slot. In the run game, Florida transfer Jordan Cronkite is the man after averaging 6.1 yards per carry in his first year with the Bulls last year. Backup running back/slot guy Johnny Ford is a do-it-all speedster who could turn heads.

Seven guys who started at least two games last year return on the line and VT transfer Jordan Hopple will compete for snaps at tackle. With a healthier QB and a new OC, this offense should be better.

Defense

Letting UConn score 30 points kind of gives you all you need to know about this defense. They allowed a full extra yard per play in 2019 and 8.5 more points per game as compared to their 2018 numbers.

The line should be solid. Greg Reaves and Kirk Livingston return after combining for 4.5 sacks and 12.5 TFL last year, linebacker is a little bit more of a question mark where senior Nico Sawtelle will man the middle. He’ll be backed up by a highly touted JUCO transfer, Patrick Macon. The two outside linebacker spots are up in the air but underclassmen Dwayne Boyles, Vincent Davis, and Andrew Mims are the top options.

The secondary loses a couple of guys too, although the two returners are very good in safety Nick Roberts (three interceptions) and CB Mike Hampton (16 PBUs, two picks). UNC transfer KJ Sails comes in at corner and Notre Dame transfer Devin Studstill comes in to fill the hole at safety. Sophomore Bentlee Sanders is a guy who showed some potential last year and should get more playing time.

Depth is a bit of a concern on this team, but the starting 11 are pretty talented and should improve on last year’s numbers that were worse than expected.

2019 Outlook

The Bulls have two power fives and BYU in the non-conference, but all look winnable as Wisconsin comes to Tampa and Georgia Tech and BYU are on USF’s level. In conference, they get chances to pull upsets on Cincy and Memphis at home but the big War on I4 game against UCF will be on the road.

This team is underdogs in five games, but four of those are by four points or fewer. In fact, nine of 12 games are projected to be decided by six or fewer, so this feels like a season that could go pretty much any direction for the Bulls.

Schedule

DateOpponentopp. rankProj. Margin
30-AugWisconsin27-4.0
7-Sepat Georgia Tech69-3.6
14-SepSouth carolina StateNRn/a
28-SepSMU895.0
5-Octat Connecticut12913.8
12-OctBYU580.7
19-Octat Navy1105.9
26-Octat East Carolina1073.4
7-NovTemple702.4
16-NovCincinnati44-1.3
23-NovMemphis30-3.1
29-Novat UCF22-10.9

Average Projected Record: 6.6 wins, 5.4 losses (4.5 wins, 3.5 losses)