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USF quarterback must be able to stretch field, Jeff Scott says

The Bulls coach says the best passer among his quarterbacks ultimately will win the starting job.
USF quarterback Cade Fortin, a North Carolina transfer, throws a first-half pass during Saturday's 28-7 loss at Cincinnati.
USF quarterback Cade Fortin, a North Carolina transfer, throws a first-half pass during Saturday's 28-7 loss at Cincinnati. [ AARON DOSTER | AP ]
Published Oct. 6, 2020

TAMPA — As his convoluted quarterback derby approaches its third month, USF coach Jeff Scott dropped one of his biggest hints Tuesday on which of his four candidates ultimately could secure the starting job.

“The guy that gives us the best chance to win is the guy that throws the ball the best,” Scott told reporters following Tuesday’s practice, which he described as one of the best Tuesday workouts the Bulls have had.

“We’ve got some guys that can do a good job just managing the game, but we’re not going to win many games.”

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That suggestion indicates Scott and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. might — might —be leaning toward North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin for the long term. Though he struggled with his accuracy (2-for-6, 14 yards) in his Bulls debut Saturday at Cincinnati, Fortin clearly brandished the most velocity of the three quarterbacks who played in the 28-7 loss.

Former Tar Heels teammates, including current Bulls cornerback KJ Sails, have lauded Fortin’s arm strength. Former Heels center Charlie Heck, who competed at the East-West Shrine Game in January, said Fortin has “a cannon of an arm.”

Scott said he saw “a little bit of movement” in the quarterback battle during Tuesday’s practice but wouldn’t get more specific. Through three games, USF has not executed a pass play longer than 28 yards; its 4.6 yards per pass attempt is by far the lowest average of the nine American Athletic Conference teams that have played a game.

“Turn on the film and watch some of the other people in our league, and they’re throwing for 425 yards a game,” Scott said. “We’re not going to win a lot of games 13-7 right now. So we’ve got to have somebody that can truly stretch the field and allow us to be very aggressive in our passing attack.”

Bulls to hold tryout for kicker

Scott announced he’s holding an open tryout Wednesday for a kickoff specialist, indicating seven candidates already have passed the required physical and COVID-19 screenings.

Other hopefuls must wait until the next round of walk-on tryouts in the spring, Scott added.

The Bulls are down to a pair of kickers — Newsome alumnus Spencer Shrader and Arkansas transfer Jared Sackett — now that veteran walk-on Coby Weiss has retired for unspecified health reasons. Weiss is remaining with the program as a student coach and already is helping relay defensive signals, Scott said.

“To me, we need a kickoff guy that can kick it out of the back of the end zone,” said Scott, whose team has managed only two touchbacks in eight kickoffs.

“In this age of football, pretty much everybody has a guy that can kick out of the back and take a touchback and move on. So that’s the No. 1 thing I’m looking for out of any of you walk-on tryout kickers who are listening to this.”

Related: A closer look at East Carolina, USF's homecoming foe Saturday

As for USF’s field-goal frustrations, Scott believes the Bulls will improve. Sackett’s 45-yard try from the left hash at Cincinnati was wide left by a few inches but extended USF’s streak of consecutive games without a field goal of 40 or more yards to 26.

“You may not believe me, we’re probably 97.5 percent on all field goals during practice,” Scott said.

“I mean, it’s incredible, it’s as good as I’ve ever seen. And we’re zero percent, I think, in the game. But that’s going to come, I really do believe.”

Parker breaks through

Count Plant High alumnus Leo Parker among the scout-teamers who have seized the rare opportunity for game action at a time when depth charts are being decimated nationally by COVID-19.

A redshirt freshman, Parker made his collegiate debut at Cincinnati, carrying seven times for a team-high 51 yards on the Bulls' final drive.

“He’s been on the scout team and he’s been doing a good job on the scout team, breaking some runs and things,” Scott said. “So he kind of got my attention, so I decided to travel him this week and wanted to give him an opportunity to play, and he ended up being our leading rusher.”