TAMPA — USF football coach Jeff Scott knew he probably wasn’t going to be able to keep incumbent quarterback Timmy McClain and Baylor transfer Gerry Bohanon. Whoever lost their preseason camp battle would likely transfer. The sooner Scott made up his mind, the sooner he could start giving valuable reps to the Bulls’ eventual No. 2 passer: Katravis Marsh.
It might end up as the decision that salvages Scott’s tenure.
With Bohanon recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery, Marsh has inherited the starting job, beginning Saturday at Houston. His success or failure will go a long way in shaping the Bulls’ final five games — and perhaps whether Scott gets a fourth year.
“He’s been training for it this whole time,” running back Brian Battie said.
Getting Marsh on campus in the first place was a notable win for Scott.
Marsh was a three-star recruit who led powerhouse Miami Central High to a Class 6A state championship. The one-time Utah commit received interest from Tennessee and Arkansas, and Scott made him one of USF’s top priorities for his first full recruiting weekend.
“It just kind of clicked,” Scott said Tuesday.
Scott has consistently raved about Marsh’s physical tools. He is big (6-foot-5, 232 pounds), athletic and has the strongest arm of any quarterback Scott has had here.
But he hasn’t been able to put it together. Through his first two seasons, Marsh completed only 34 of his 72 passes with six interceptions and one touchdown and was stuck behind McClain on the depth chart.
Marsh entered the transfer portal after last season to weigh his options. A few weeks later, he called Scott to discuss a possible return.
Scott challenged him: If you’re coming back, be serious about it and get to work.
“I feel like he has,” Scott said.
If nothing else, Marsh has been in position to be serious because of how USF handled the quarterback competition.
Instead of naming a starter during Week 1 or using the non-conference schedule as a prolonged audition, the Bulls needed only 10 practices to anoint Bohanon. Within 24 hours, McClain was in the portal and off the roster.
McClain’s departure meant USF could focus on Marsh as its No. 2 quarterback. The decision looks prescient. If Marsh had left in December, three-star true freshman Byrum Brown would be in line for his first start this week. Instead, the Bulls have a veteran, talented backup who is finally set up to succeed — relatively speaking, given USF’s rash of injuries.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Marsh’s first start came against Cincinnati as a true freshman in the pandemic year. Two of his first four passes were interceptions. His second came at East Carolina last year when McClain was out with an ankle injury. This time, Marsh had the extra time from an open date to prepare, and his coaches had the extra time to tweak the game plan to his specific strengths.
Marsh’s new role comes at a pivotal time for Scott and his program. Though athletic director Michael Kelly has said his coach will get at least one more season, Scott’s 4-24 record (1-6 this season) will, at minimum, test that commitment.
Even if Scott’s job is safe for 2023, the Bulls must show progress through the final five weeks to boost a recruiting class that sits No. 100 nationally (ninth in the AAC) and generate on-field buzz to help their pursuit of an on-campus stadium.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on a quarterback with two career starts, but Marsh was one of Scott’s first prized recruits and has had two and a half years in the program. It’s reasonable to expect progress from here.
The trajectory of the program depends on it.
• • •
Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.