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USF looking for growth after Timmy McClain’s freshman season

The Bulls want to see more consistency out of their quarterback now that he has a year of Division I-A ball under his belt.
USF quarterback Timmy McClain looked very much like a true freshman last season. “He made a lot of plays where you went, ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ Jeff Scott said. "And then he made plays where you would go, ‘Wow, that was not a good play right there.'"
USF quarterback Timmy McClain looked very much like a true freshman last season. “He made a lot of plays where you went, ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ Jeff Scott said. "And then he made plays where you would go, ‘Wow, that was not a good play right there.'" [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 31

TAMPA — Questions continue to swirl around USF sophomore quarterback Timmy McClain.

Will he be consistently great? Or will he continue to be inconsistent?

Through 11 of 15 total spring practices, McClain appears to be on the right track, USF coach Jeff Scott said Thursday afternoon, minutes after handing McClain a chip given to players for having an outstanding practice session.

“Last season Timmy played like a talented true freshman,” Scott said. “He made a lot of plays where you went, ‘Wow, how did he do that?’ And then he made plays where you would go, ‘Wow, that was not a good play right there. That was a freshman mistake.’ But you have to go through that. You have to learn from that.”

Scott then referenced the dramatic improvement of former FSU quarterback Charlie Ward, who went from throwing 17 interceptions in his junior year to winning the 1993 national championship and Heisman Trophy the next.

Related: Why USF Bulls aren't streaming their spring game

“There’s sometimes a price you pay for getting that experience,” Scott said. “And I think Timmy had a learning experience last year.”

In 11 games, McClain completed 145 of 262 passes for 1,888 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was also sacked 23 times, often a result of holding onto the ball too long.

The most notable case of that was on the last play of the season with USF trailing UCF 17-13.

With 12 seconds remaining — after a wild final drive of 11 plays and 80 yards in which McClain was sacked twice but also made two spectacular escapes and completions — USF had the ball at the UCF 3-yard line on third down with no timeouts.

Beneath a thunderous roar of jumping, screaming Knights fans in the Bounce House, McClain took the snap and scrambled left. Defenders tripped him and his knee touched down at the 8-yard line. McClain threw the ball in desperation and was intercepted.

The refs, however, ruled McClain was sacked, then after explaining the ruling to Scott, announced through the booming loudspeakers that time had expired during the play and the game was over.

It’s a resounding memory, McClain said Thursday, that serves as an example of what he needs to improve on.

“I should have just thrown the ball away, instead of trying to run it in,” McClain said. “Just throw it away and live for another play. Those are the kind of decisions that I need to improve on.”

Welcome home

Bulls linebacker DJ Gordon IV and defensive back Aamaris Brown came to USF this year via the transfer portal from Minnesota and Kansas State respectively — leading to a homecoming full of possibilities.

Gordon, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound sophomore, played his high school ball down the road at Plant City, while Brown, a 5-10 184-pound freshman, played at Armwood.

So far, so good for the local returnees, Scott said.

“They have had great springs,” said Scott, before adding that Brown already has stepped up as a vocal leader.

“(Brown) has made as many plays as anybody and he has great energy and the players are attracted to his energy and playmaking ability,” Scott said. “He has definitely had a positive impact.”

From the court to the gridiron

Bayron Matos, a freshman forward on the basketball team, had never played football before this week, never put on pads or a helmet.

But there he was the past four days, participating in practices, collecting a couple of sacks and blocking a field-goal attempt.

Does that mean the 6-foot-9, 275-pound Matos will be turning in his sneakers for cleats?

It’s still very much in the experimental stage.

“He’s very serious about it,” Scott said. “Sometimes basketball guys come out and they just dip their toe in it and that’s it. But (Matos) is passionate about it and he’s eager to learn.”

If Matos does make it, it most likely will be as a defensive end.

Familiar QBs back for alumni game

A most-impressive list of 43 former USF players — including 15 with NFL experience, five Super Bowl champions and 17 who received all-conference recognition with as Bulls — will play in a flag football alumni game during halftime of the USF spring game, April 9 at Raymond James Stadium.

Facing off at quarterback will be none other than two USF greats, B.J. Daniels and Matt Grothe.

“This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” Scott said. “And because of COVID, this is the first year we’re able to pull it off.”

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