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As spring practice starts, how does USF’s latest QB competition shape up?

Four of the Bulls’ five scholarship quarterbacks are on campus this spring.
USF sophomore quarterback Timmy McClain (9) made nine starts as a rookie last season and would seem to have the upper hand in the 2022 quarterback derby. But coach Jeff Scott says the competition is open.
USF sophomore quarterback Timmy McClain (9) made nine starts as a rookie last season and would seem to have the upper hand in the 2022 quarterback derby. But coach Jeff Scott says the competition is open. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2021) ]
Published Feb. 25

TAMPA — When USF coach Jeff Scott held up a blank sheet of paper to reporters Thursday, indicating no one has secured a spot on the 2022 depth chart, he essentially waved a green flag of sorts.

Setting off his third quarterback derby in as many seasons.

“There’s new players. There’s guys that were here last year that are not here,” said Scott, who also will have a new offensive coordinator in veteran Travis Trickett.

“So how do we know who the best guys are? We haven’t had one practice with this year’s team, and we’re about to do that. And I think that’s really how it should be each and every year. You’ve got to earn it all over again.”

The Bulls embark on spring practice Tuesday with four scholarship QBs on campus. That number will increase to five when 6-foot-4 pro-style freshman Gunnar Smith of Lake Mary High reports in June. One of the quintet, sophomore Jordan Smith, returns to the position after switching to safety last year but currently is sidelined following shoulder surgery.

And though Scott won’t say it outright, sophomore incumbent Timmy McClain presumably will take the first snap Tuesday.

“I think Timmy’s been doing a good job in the offseason,” Scott said.

Thrust into the starting role three games into his freshman year last season, McClain occasionally skidded on the learning curve but displayed mobility, moxie and promise at other times. The left-hander’s final numbers: a 55.3-percent completion rate, 1,888 passing yards, 238 rushing yards (1.9-yard average), five touchdowns and seven picks.

While that body of work fostered some hope among the fan base, it evidently didn’t warrant McClain being coronated the starter going forward.

Which leads to the other options. Third-year guy Katravis Marsh, who briefly entered the transfer portal over the winter, was welcomed back by Scott after reconsidering. A 6-5 right-hander, Marsh has made two career starts, completing 20 of 41 passes last season with a TD and three interceptions.

“Excited to have him come back and join us,” Scott said Thursday.

“My typical policy on the portal is, when you get in the portal it’s a one-way road. But really, kind of looking at our situation, Timmy was our only returning quarterback on scholarship on the team, and I just felt like it was the best for our team to give him the opportunity to come back for at least another year and see how that goes with the competition.”

The other contender — and clear wild-card candidate — is 6-3 freshman Byrum Brown, one of 80 scholarship players already on campus. One of three finalists for North Carolina’s Mr. Football Award in 2021, Brown totaled nearly 5,000 yards (including 3,703 passing yards) at Rolesville High last season and has made a profound first impression with his new teammates.

“Byrum Brown has been outstanding, he really has,” Scott said. “If you ask any of our players about the newcomers, Byrum really has kind of risen to the top.”

Brown will have a chance to bolster that initial impression starting Tuesday. The Bulls will hold 15 practices over the next five weeks, culminating with the spring intrasquad game April 9 at 6 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

“Coach Trickett has a great background as a quarterback teacher and developer in places that he’s been,” Scott said. “And he’s done a really good job with that group so far, and it will be fun to watch those guys compete.”

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

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