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USF morning after: Charlie Strong stands by offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell

Strong still believes in the Bell system, though it has barely shown up in three of USF’s four games
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11) tackled by SMU linebacker JC Rispress (32) while throwing during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, September 28, 2019. SMU won, 48-21. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11) tackled by SMU linebacker JC Rispress (32) while throwing during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, September 28, 2019. SMU won, 48-21. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Sep. 29, 2019

TAMPA ― Though he’s not exactly swimming in votes of confidence these days, Charlie Strong nonetheless issued one of his own Saturday night.

USF’s beleaguered coach still believes in new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell’s pro-style system.

“I have a ton of confidence in Kerwin,” Strong said following USF’s 48-21 loss to SMU, the program’s ninth in a row against a Division I-A foe. “When you watch the tape, it’s there, it’s a matter of us just executing it.”

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Exactly when recognition leads to results is anyone’s guess. Subtract the Bulls’ 55-16 romp of Division I-AA South Carolina State, and the Bulls’ offensive numbers are abysmal.

In its three contests against I-A foes, USF has averaged 10.3 points and 4.1 yards per play. It has managed only 173 rushing yards on 86 carries, an average of barely 2 yards per attempt.

Meantime, Bulls quarterbacks have completed only slightly more than 50 percent of their throws (53-for-98) for 588 yards in those three games, and have been sacked 18 times. The 10 sacks USF allowed Saturday tied the program single-game record set against TCU in 2003.

Yet three days before the SMU game, Bell said he sensed his players were starting to grasp his complex system, to be able to operate it without thinking. Similarly, Strong seems confident the Bulls are on the cusp of a breakthrough.

One-third of the way through the regular season, any such breakthrough seems far off.

“I know this, he’s installed a system...that works for us,” Strong said. “Now it’s all about us just executing that system.”

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

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