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Five takeaways from USF’s spring football game

The quarterback competition isn’t over yet, but Cade Fortin looks like the Bull to beat.
Jarren Williams made his USF debut in Saturday's spring game.
Jarren Williams made his USF debut in Saturday's spring game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 27
Updated Mar. 27

TAMPA — USF’s first full spring of the Jeff Scott era finished Saturday with a spring game at Raymond James Stadium. Here are five takeaways from the Green team’s 31-21 win over White:

1. Cade Fortin looks like the Week 1 starting quarterback.

Cade Fortin was USF's top passer during Saturday's spring game.
Cade Fortin was USF's top passer during Saturday's spring game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Coach Jeff Scott repeatedly has praised Fortin’s development this spring, and it showed Saturday. Fortin finished 14-of-23 for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the Green team. Beyond the numbers, he had one of the day’s best throws (a 50-yarder to Xavier Weaver on the first play from scrimmage) and one of the best runs (a 23-yard scramble).

USF’s other experienced option, Miami transfer Jarren Williams, was shakier as the White team’s starter. He finished 9-of-19 for 98 yards and a touchdown plus what would have been a fumble in a normal game.

Related: What a fall without football taught USF’s Jarren Williams about his Miami missteps

Scott doesn’t see an advantage to naming a starter this early, so expect the competition to continue into the fall. But Fortin looks like the Bull to beat heading into the offseason.

2. Timmy McClain is a name to know.

USF freshman Timmy McClain has dazzling athleticism, which he showed off in Saturday's spring game.
USF freshman Timmy McClain has dazzling athleticism, which he showed off in Saturday's spring game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Scott has compared the three-star early enrollee to Michael Vick because of his athleticism. That’s a little lofty after one spring, but the left-handed Sanford native can clearly be a dynamic weapon. He’s a shifty runner (six carries for 30 yards) and can zip passes into tight windows.

“He did not look like your typical freshman,” Scott said.

But there were times when McClain did. He underthrew at least three open receivers in an 8-of-13 day. Still, his flashes (one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown) are enough to show his sky-high potential.

3. The rushing attack remains a work in progress.

USF's run game didn't look dynamic Saturday, but the Bulls were down several offensive linemen.
USF's run game didn't look dynamic Saturday, but the Bulls were down several offensive linemen. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

After rushing for slightly under 4 yards per carry last year — 81st nationally — USF’s run game still sputtered Saturday. The Bulls’ backs gained only 90 rushing yards on 24 carries (3.8 yards per attempt) in the first half, with Yasias Young accounting for the only rush of at least 10 yards.

But don’t put too much stock in the performance. Scott said the Bulls were banged up along the offensive line, forcing younger players into more action than they might have otherwise gotten. This remains an aspect to monitor — and one that will have to continue to grow if USF’s offense is going to click correctly.

4. The deep passing game still has room to develop, too.

Katravis Marsh threw two excellent deep completions Saturday.
Katravis Marsh threw two excellent deep completions Saturday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

USF’s vertical passing struggled last season; the Bulls ranked second-to-last in the AAC and 106th nationally at 6.2 yards per attempt. Aside from Fortin’s game-opening bomb to Weaver, USF didn’t have another successful deep attempt in the first half.

There were flashes in the second half, though. Katravis Marsh completed a 67-yard pass to Bryce Miller and a 48-yarder to Garret Reynolds.

Related: Could USF football go deep in 2021? The idea is no longer a stretch

Although Scott wishes his offense had connected on a few more deep balls, there was some progress. That’s crucial, because Scott’s offense relies on stretching the field vertically to open up more run lanes.

5. The transfers are making early impacts.

Kansas State transfer Will Jones was one of USF's top defensive performers in the spring game.
Kansas State transfer Will Jones was one of USF's top defensive performers in the spring game. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

USF’s push in the transfer portal for immediate contributors, especially in the secondary, looks successful.

Will Jones (Kansas State) led Green with six tackles and forced a first-half fumble with a jarring hit. Matthew Hill (Auburn) had a pair of tackles, and Riverview High alumnus TJ Robinson (Rutgers) played well in red-zone coverage.

Related: Florida’s early 2021 college football viewing guide

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