Thursday, June 21, 2018
USF Bulls

Takeaways from the USF football spring game

TAMPA – A few takeaways from Saturday's USF spring game, which was played on campus at Corbett Stadium in front of 3,452 sun-soaked fans. The controlled scrimmage used a running clock and awarded extra points for big plays and first downs on offense, and three-and-outs, turnovers and sacks on defense. The decision to use a running clock was mostly based on the fact that only seven healthy offensive linemen were available to play. The White (offensive) team defeated the Green (defensive) team 56-55.

Who will replace quarterback Quinton Flowers?

Wait until the fall for the answer to that one, Bulls fans. The candidates are redshirt junior Brett Kean and sophomore Chris Oladokun. Both took about the same amount of snaps and both threw for 127 yards and two touchdowns.  USF coach Charlie Strong didn't expect to name a starter after one controlled scrimmage, and Saturday afternoon proved he is a long way from having a clear-cut starter.

"We're still in the evaluation process,'' Strong said. "Both of them can make throws. Both can operate the offense. That's what we're looking for.''

Oladokun, who played  at Sickles, threw touchdown passes to Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite and Randall St. Felix. Kean threw his touchdown passes to Darnell Salomon and Tyre McCants. While there is competition for the quarterback starting spot, both said it is a friendly competition.

"We both want what's best for the team,'' Kean said. "We're both pushing each other and helping each other out. If I'm in and Chris sees something I didn't he'll let me know, and vice versa.''

Added Oladokun: "There's no pressure, it's just all about being ourselves. We both make each other better.''

Whoever does play quarterback will have many options at wide receiver

The top two receivers in the spring game were freshmen. Redshirt freshman St. Felix caught four balls for 65 yards and a touchdown.

"We knew that he had the ability,'' Strong said. "He's got really strong hands. And he has enough speed where he can get on top of defenders and go up and catch the ball.''

True freshman Zion Roland, a former Admiral Farragut player, had four catches for 41 yards.

Salomon's touchdown catch was 43 yards after he blew by the defender. He was a go-to receiver last season and will be again this fall.

"I think Darnell is one of the best receivers in the conference, if not the country,'' Kean said.

USF quarterback Chris Oladokun (10) looks to throw to open receiver in the first quarter during the Spring Football Game at the University of South Florida Corbett Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, April 14, 2018. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Look for defensive improvement

That's what the defensive players believe, anyway. The offensive line was thin, but the defense found a way to get nine sacks. There was also a nice interception by Jaymon Thomas. Josh Black, a former Sickles standout, had 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

"I think we can be really good,'' Black said. "We've just got to keep pouring everything we've got into it. This is our second year in this defense and we know we can execute it better than we did last year.''

The biggest loss on defense is linebacker Auggie Sanchez. While he will be hard to replace, there is optimism after Saturday's game.

"Honestly, I feel like we can do better,'' senior cornerback Mazzi Wilkins said. "We can be as good as we want to be. We have the guys to do it.''

USF running back Duram Bell (32) is tackled by USF (Green Team) defensive tackle Kelvin Pinkney (96) in the second quarter during the Spring Football Game at the University of South Florida Corbett Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, April 14, 2018. OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Mitchell Wilcox could have a monster season

The redshirt junior tight end and former Tarpon Springs standout caught 17 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns last season.  Expect that to double. He was on the Mackey Award watch list last season, which is given to the top tight end. He'll be on it again this season. Wilcox is the most experienced tight end on the roster, and the plan this season is to use him some in the slot in the spread offense. He caught two passes in the spring game and had two others thrown at him. But coaches didn't need to see what Wilcox can do. They already know.

"It's a lot more responsibility but I'm more than capable of doing it,'' Wilcox said. "I think the plan is to get the ball in my hands and it's been showing in this camp.''

Who will run the ball?

Like at quarterback, there is no clear-cut starter. Dave Small carried 11 times, the only running back with double digit carries. Elijah Mack, Trevon Sands, Duran Bell, Jr. and Cronkrite all got carries. Strong may be able to use several backs instead of relying on only a few.

"They all ran well,'' Strong said. "They all contributed. When you have backs like that it's hard to single out one guy. They all did their jobs.''

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