TAMPA — Sometime Sunday, USF coach Jeff Scott made one of the hardest no-brainer decisions he’ll ever make with the Bulls. He named Baylor transfer Gerry Bohanon the starting quarterback over incumbent Timmy McClain.
Identifying Bohanon as the starter was the easy part. The first time he stepped on campus (for his official visit), he watched film with the staff until 1 a.m. When the Bulls tallied the grit score for players’ work ethic and leadership during summer workouts, Bohanon was second on the team.
When every offensive player confidentially listed the unit’s top three leaders on the eve of preseason camp, Bohanon finished in the top three ... despite having not yet taken a single rep with them. No other quarterback received a vote.
When Scott gathered his team to address a sloppy start to practice a few days later, he didn’t have to say a word; Bohanon stepped in to tell his new teammates they weren’t living up to the standard.
“The best part about it?” Scott said Tuesday. “Everybody listened.”
Bohanon backed it up on the field. Through 10 practices, Scott said Bohanon completed 80 percent of his passes — 13 points higher than anyone else. His decision-making graded out at 90 percent, even though he was new to the offense.
And everyone around the program knows how Bohanon helped turn two-win Baylor into a Big 12 champion — the kind of transformation the Bulls would love to experience. His consistency and knowledge could be the difference between turning some of last fall’s close losses (BYU, Tulsa, UCF) into wins.
When Scott gathered his staff Sunday to pick a starter, the vote was unanimous.
“Crystal clear,” Scott said.
But that doesn’t mean the decision was easy. Nothing is in the transfer portal era, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Less than 24 hours after Bohanon thanked Scott for naming him the starter, the quarterback he unseated (McClain) was off the roster.
Scott was, understandably, disappointed. He has raved about McClain’s talent since signing day and compared him to Michael Vick. On Tuesday, Scott called his now-former player a “first-class young man” and the first portal departure of his tenure that truly stung.
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But Scott had been bracing for McClain’s exit since this spring, when USF invited Bohanon on a visit. If Bohanon joined the team and won the job, Scott figured his quarterback of the future was probably gone.
“The transfer portal giveth,” Scott said, “and the transfer portal taketh away.”
It gaveth Bohanon, who’s only at USF because Blake Shapen supplanted him as Baylor’s starter this spring. It taketh away McClain, who started nine games last year as a true freshman.
Scott set his decision-making timeline with that inevitability in mind. By naming a starter now instead of Week 1 or 5, USF can focus on grooming Katravis Marsh — who entered the portal in December before deciding to return — as its No. 2 quarterback instead of wasting reps on someone headed elsewhere.
The long-term effects of the last 48 hours are unknowable. If McClain’s production can match his athletic potential, the Bulls lost a high-end player with three years of eligibility after this season. That’s a legitimate concern, but it’s not one Scott can consider. Either one of USF’s younger quarterbacks (like Marsh or freshmen Byrum Brown and Gunnar Smith) will be ready when Bohanon leaves after this season or next, or the Bulls will taketh from the portal again.
“You can’t think about what’s best for two or three years from now,” Scott said. “In this environment, it’s about who gives us the best chance to win this year.”
And the player who gives the Bulls the best chance to win this year is Bohanon. The choice was crystal clear.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
Running back Kelley Joiner will miss 6-7 weeks with a broken bone in his left foot. The junior from Clermont was USF’s No. 2 rusher last season with 496 yards.
Defensive lineman Clyde Pinder is not with the team due to academic issues, Scott said. Pinder was a four-star prospect at Armwood High who originally signed with North Carolina before transferring to USF.
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