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Four takeaways from USF’s first preseason football workout

Coach Jeff Scott says the Bulls will have a quarterback competition, not a "controversy"
Members of the USF defense do some early running at Friday's practice at the Morsani Practice Complex on campus.
Members of the USF defense do some early running at Friday's practice at the Morsani Practice Complex on campus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 7, 2020

TAMPA ― New USF coach Jeff Scott isn’t concealing the fact he has a raging quarterback competition looming the next month or two.

Nor is he concealing the quarterbacks themselves.

Scott allowed his three primary candidates ― redshirt sophomore Jordan McCloud, North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin and graduate transfer Noah Johnson ― to speak to reporters after the Bulls’ first preseason workout Friday. Here are a few takeaways from those sessions, and our observations of the day in general.

Related: USF Bulls return to football practice with no players in quarantine

* Scott isn’t putting a timetable on when he’ll name a starter, indicating two of Clemson’s most prominent recent quarterback competitions ― including Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence in 2018 ― weren’t settled until after the season began.

Considering the Bulls had only one spring practice and precious little summer work together, the competition could stretch even longer.

“We’re not gonna have a quarterback controversy, we’re gonna have a quarterback competition,” Scott said.

“The other thing I told our guys is, ‘This is not gonna be one of those situations where it’s ding, ding, ding, here’s the winner. Everybody else go sit down.’ This is gonna be one of those years where on Friday morning, we might find out that No. 1 and 2 are out (due to COVID-19), and No. 3, let’s go, you’re the starter.”

USF quarterback Noah Johnson (0) warms up during the early part of Friday's practice on campus.
USF quarterback Noah Johnson (0) warms up during the early part of Friday's practice on campus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

* McCloud, thrust into action last year when Blake Barnett was ineffective (and ultimately injured), is listed at 193 pounds but said Friday he’s around 196. He said he ended the ’19 season weighing 183.

* All signs indicate Scott has created an engaging atmosphere that encourages players to address the sport’s pressing issues (COVID-19 care, social justice, name image and likeness legislation). He has established a “Bull Council,” composed of 16 team leaders and representing every position group, that met again Monday.

“We’re talking as a team, we’re talking between coaches, between players, making sure that we’re going about this the right way,” Fortin said, “and making sure if people are uncomfortable, that they have that voice they can use and make that statement if they choose to.”

Players representing no fewer than three conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West) have unified to make public statements calling for ― or demanding ― measures such as an additional year of eligibility for players who opt out of the ’20 season due to COVID-19 concerns, greater safety protocols, and even a share of their league’s football revenue.

“All the things that are going on, it’s not players versus coaches or anything like that,” Scott said.

“My message to the guys is, the platform that you guys have as being part of a team, you’re gonna get an opportunity after every practice to get in front of the media, and you’re gonna get an opportunity to share any thoughts that you may have after games, after practices. And my goal is for us to be able to accomplish a lot of things together.”

* Though coaches typically resist singling out a newcomer or transfer after one practice, Scott did mention new tight end Mitchell Brinkman (Northern Illinois) made a “really nice catch” during a pass-skeleton session. He also noted receiver Latrell Williams, who spent parts of three seasons at Tennessee before arriving at USF last fall, had “a really good day.”