Four games in, Flowers not yet in full bloom
For a guy considered the quintessential dual-threat quarterback, Quinton Flowers stands sturdily in the pocket with the best of them.
Consider the immediate wake of USF's 55-35 loss last weekend to FSU. With his back to a concrete wall in a Raymond James Stadium media room, Flowers dug in and gazed straight ahead as a swarm of TV cameras and tape recorders surrounded him on three sides.
"I feel like we lost focus and we didn't do what we were supposed to do," Flowers said regarding a prolonged funk in which his offense totaled 59 yards in nine scoreless possessions. "Me as a quarterback, like I always say, I have to keep those guys locked in, and that's something I didn't do."
Such sound bites have endeared Flowers -- a 22-year-old captain -- to his teammates. Routinely, blame is assumed, credit dispersed. Moreover, he regularly makes himself available in the aftermath of a performance, whether he sparkles or struggles.
"There is a standard I set myself at," he said recently.
One-third of the way into his junior season, Flowers -- who became a father on Monday -- still is trying to reach it. For all his mobility and moxie, he still hasn't delivered a complete game in 2016. At one juncture he prospers. The next, he presses. A deep spiral in stride will be followed by a one-hopper in the flat.
Nonetheless, Flowers is on pace to run for 1,000 yards (after gaining 991 last season). With eight touchdown passes already, he's also on track to eclipse his own single-season mark (22) set in 2015.
But his completion percentage (51.7) is down from last fall (59.1), and he already has tossed three interceptions after being picked only eight times last season.
"He's done some good things and helped our football team (and) our offense put up some good numbers," Coach Willie Taggart said. "But he can be better than what he is. ... I feel like he wasn't being himself a lot in these first four ball games, for whatever reason."
Now, as the Bulls embark on a stretch of eight conference games in a nine-week span, consistency becomes more essential. Another stagnant stretch (like the one against FSU) or early stumble (like the one at Syracuse) could prove costly.
The Bulls need their stand-up guy to step up. Even more.
"Especially with decision-making, he can make some better decisions," Taggart said. "And he can get back to being Quinton, you know, doing what he does the best."
Taggart's tone betrays nary a trace of indictment of Flowers, who still possesses the third-best pass-efficiency rating (157.3) in the American Athletic Conference and ranks third in total offense (296.2 ypg). To the contrary, the Bulls fourth-year coach comes across as more carnival barker than critic, as if trying to goad more greatness from his 5-foot-11 cornerstone.
Hey, you think Quinton's good now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
"Quinton can be better," Taggart said.
So why the momentary lapses?
The reasons could be diverse. Certainly, few could blame Flowers for the distraction of impending fatherhood (Amayah Flowers was born Monday in south Florida). Or perhaps as the key cog in the Gulf Coast Offense, he periodically has tried to create something from nothing.
Both of his interceptions against FSU occurred on first down, with the Bulls already in a deep hole.
"I think he tried a little too hard the last game," co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist said. "You try too hard to make plays at times, you really get off schedule from a quarterback standpoint."
Poor decisions have been accompanied by indecision. Overthrows on deep routes are bound to occur, but many fans remain frustrated over Flowers' inconsistency with shorter throws.
"Again, it goes back to being locked in to what your job responsibility is," Taggart said.
"I think when we see those bad throws from Quinton, it's usually that -- something surprised him and it shouldn't have surprised him. And it usually surprises him because he's not locked in and for whatever reason that is, we've got to make sure he's locked in to make those easy throws."
No mortal flaws here. The way Taggart sees it, every perceived glitch is correctable, and there's hardly a need for Flowers to look over his shoulder pads.
Despite missing Tuesday's practice -- typically the lengthiest of the week -- for his daughter's birth, it's believed he re-assumed first-team reps the following day.
"He’s locked in to what we’re doing and had two good practices (upon his return)," Taggart said Thursday.
A dual threat with a singular focus. If it continues, perhaps the best really is yet to come.