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Sophomore Cade Fortin has early lead in USF quarterback competition

Through four spring practices, the North Carolina transfer is “probably the MVP,” his coach says.
USF quarterbacks (from left) Timmy McClain (9), Jarren Williams (1), Katravis Marsh (12) and Cade Fortin (6), are pictured during spring practice on campus Tuesday.
USF quarterbacks (from left) Timmy McClain (9), Jarren Williams (1), Katravis Marsh (12) and Cade Fortin (6), are pictured during spring practice on campus Tuesday. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 3
Updated Mar. 3

TAMPA — The tidbit that Jeff Scott tossed at reporters Tuesday bore a saline aftertaste, like a grain of salt.

It may behoove USF fans to digest it as such: Through four spring practices, Cade Fortin appears to be leading the latest Bulls quarterback derby.

“Cade Fortin is probably the MVP so far in my opinion through four days,” Scott said.

That assessment could change by week’s end, when the Bulls will have two more workouts, including a closed scrimmage on Saturday. But so far, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound North Carolina transfer — whose 2020 season was disrupted by quarantine and injury — has been “phenomenal,” according to his coach.

“The way that he has improved and just sped up his processing, delivering the ball, it’s like a completely different player than where he was last year at maybe the beginning of fall camp just getting here,” Scott added. “And I think again, that’s having a year to digest the playbook and what we’re asking him to do.”

Scott’s plaudits hardly were limited to one passer Tuesday. As the program stages its third extensive QB competition in the last four seasons, the second-year coach indicated he feels better about the position’s depth across the board.

“I feel like we have several guys legitimately that could earn the starting spot,” he said. “I’m not sure that I felt that way overall with the quarterback room last year; just a little bit too inconsistent. But it’s still under evaluation.”

As for the job’s other three candidates, Scott had these takes:

Miami transfer Jarren Williams

“I’m really, really excited and pleased with Jarren Williams. ... Very talented. I think he’s a really smart player, instinctual, has a really good arm. He’s probably the one just mentally trying to learn the offense, a little bit further behind than a couple of the other guys.”

Redshirt freshman Katravis Marsh

“Katravis Marsh has probably the strongest arm of any quarterback I’ve coached — that’s a pretty strong statement right there. It doesn’t mean he’s a better quarterback right now; he has a long way to go. But just as far as arm talent, he can make some absolutely incredible throws. We saw that a little bit last year. He kind of had to mature, grow up, and I feel like he’s doing that a little bit.”

Left-handed freshman Timmy McClain

“He looks like Michael Vick out there at times. There’s certain times he doesn’t really know what’s going on and he can get himself in trouble, but he has a very, very smooth release. ... He’s got elite change of direction and speed with the ball in his hands, so he’s a guy that we’re awfully excited about.”

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