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Jordan McCloud, Blake Barnett to vie this week for USF starting QB job

Charlie Strong says his decision will come ‘fairly quickly.’
USF quarterback Jordan McCloud (12) scrambles away from Georgia Tech linebacker Jordan Domineck (42) during the second half of Saturday's game in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won, 14-10. [JON BARASH | AP]
Published Sep. 9

TAMPA ― After eight mostly dreadful quarters to kick off the 2019 season, USF coach Charlie Strong announced Monday that his starting quarterback job again is up for grabs.

But his comments seemed to suggest redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud will become the third quarterback from a Hillsborough County high school to start for USF when it faces Division I-AA South Carolina State on Saturday.

“It’s gonna unfold fairly quickly because really our two work days are Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Strong, who will let McCloud and beleaguered senior Blake Barnett vie for the job in practice.

“You turn it into a competition, and you let those two guys go in and just see who’s gonna come out. ... They’ll get an opportunity this week in practice, then you go into that game and we’ll put the right one out there.”

RELATED: Joey Knight’s takeaways from USF-Georgia Tech

Barnett, who started 10 games in 2018, has struggled mightily so far this year, though his protection and run game have been nonexistent. He has completed 50 percent of his passes (25-for-50) with two interceptions, and ranks 121st nationally in pass efficiency (73.60).

In Saturday’s 14-10 loss at Georgia Tech, he was replaced by McCloud late in the third period. On his third play, McCloud tossed a 20-yard scoring strike over the middle to Johnny Ford, and later hit tight end Mitch Wilcox on a fade route for 54 yards.

That drive ended with tailback Jordan Cronkrite fumbling on the goal line. McCloud finished 4-for-5 for 90 yards. “It’s great the way he stepped up,” senior safety Devin Studstill said immediately afterward.

“Jordan has not played as much as Blake has played, but the opportunities he has been given, he’s taken full advantage of it and he’s done a really good job,” Strong said.

“So we can’t be afraid to make that change, but...we have a chance to sit down with both of those guys, and they’re gonna understand just exactly where they are.”

A Plant High alumnus and younger brother of former Hillsborough County career prep rushing king Ray-Ray McCloud, Jordan McCloud evolved into a Class 7A first-team all-state pick in his lone season as a Panthers starter.

He threw for 2,426 yards and 26 touchdowns in ’17, ran for 389 yards and six TDs, and guided Plant to the state semifinals.

If he starts Saturday, he’ll join Bobby Eveld (Jesuit) and Chris Oladokun (Sickles) as the only quarterbacks from a Hillsborough high school to start a game for the Bulls.

“Whatever Coach Strong decides, that’s what it is,” McCloud said after Saturday’s game. “And if I have to step into that role, I’ll be ready. I have a lot of leaders around me on offense.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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