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Discovering Byrum Brown was a gift. Now USF needs to hold on to its QB

John Romano | Offers from other schools may creep up if Brown continues to play the way he did as a redshirt freshman in 2023.
 
USF quarterback Byrum Brown was the only freshman in the nation with more than 3,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards in 2023. His performance has Bulls fans worried that high-profile programs might want to entice Brown into transferring.
USF quarterback Byrum Brown was the only freshman in the nation with more than 3,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards in 2023. His performance has Bulls fans worried that high-profile programs might want to entice Brown into transferring. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 30, 2023

TAMPA — The transfer portal does not officially open until Monday, and already quarterbacks are lined up with their resumes and dreams in pocket.

You have starters from Power Five schools (Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke and Kansas State’s Will Howard), you have quarterbacks with intriguing numbers from smaller schools (Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall and New Hampshire’s Max Brosmer) you even have some schools (Michigan State and Vanderbilt) with multiple quarterbacks planning escapes.

What you do not have, at least at this moment, is any indication that USF quarterback Byrum Brown is interested in leaving.

When a redshirt freshman throws for more than 3,000 yards and rushes for another 700, heads will naturally turn. And with social media offering a platform for fans everywhere, random speculation about Brown chasing name, image and likeness (NIL) money or a higher profile elsewhere was bound to happen.

Except Bulls coach Alex Golesh isn’t buying it.

“There’s this assumption that, man, Byrum is really good so he’ll probably go somewhere else,” Golesh said. “Byrum’s mindset is, No. 1, I’m not nearly as good as I need to be. And, No. 2, I came here to do something and we haven’t done it yet, so I’m going to keep riding this.

“Now, are people hitting him or his family up, or his high school coaches? Absolutely. They’re doing that for every good player at every good program. And the problem right now in college football is nobody is regulating it. They’re supposed to be, but they’re not.”

It’s true, there is a Wild West vibe in this early era of the portal. Nebraska coach Matt Rhule recently said it takes a minimum of $1 million, and as much as $2 million, in NIL money to lure a good quarterback in the portal.

From Deion Sanders using transfers to completely revamp a roster in Colorado to many of the top quarterbacks in the nation (Caleb Williams at USC, Jayden Daniels at LSU, Bo Nix at Oregon, Sam Hartman at Notre Dame and Michael Penix at Washington) furthering their careers after a uniform change, there is a perception that the portal is an automatic pathway to success.

The truth is a little more complex. For every big-name player who increases his NFL stock with a transfer, there are dozens of others who get lost in the shuffle.

This is not a specific conversation Golesh said he’s ever had with Brown. His confidence in Brown’s commitment to USF is more a continuation of the relationship they’ve developed and the culture he’s trying to build around the program. There are exit interviews with players after the season to make sure everyone is on the same page, and Golesh said he spent weeks talking to Gerry Bohanon before the backup quarterback announced earlier in the week he’d be entering the portal.

“The transfer portal is a real thing, and NIL money is a real thing,” Golesh said. “But where it’s a little bit of a make-believe world is that the perception is every kid is a free agent and the only thing that matters is finances. Yes, that’s a part of it. But it’s not like (every) kid has a market value and he’s going to look for that market value somewhere else.

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“These are still 18 to 22-year-olds, still growing and maturing and trying to figure life out.”

Even so, Golesh and USF officials understand they need to keep pace with college football’s expanding financial universe. The Fowler Ave Collective was launched a little more than a year ago with the idea of raising money for an NIL pool of money for USF athletes.

Will there be enough money at USF to keep Brown on campus for another year? Another two years? Are the Bulls looking at a double-edged sword if Brown and the team continue to prosper? Will Brown eventually follow the footsteps of a quarterback such as Hartman, who became the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time leader in touchdown passes at Wake Forest before leaving for Notre Dame and an NIL deal worth more than $1 million?

Golesh seems confident that those questions are much farther down the road. When I asked if he was expecting Brown to be his quarterback in 2024, he didn’t hesitate.

“Yes, sure,” he said, “I would absolutely think so.

“Between the culture we set up, how we coach, how we have done what we said we were going to do and combine it with the collective, you should be able to keep your players here. Are you going to bat 1.000? No, you’re not. But you’re trying. And I’m trying not to live in a ‘Kumbaya’ world, but I want to make sure that’s how things are here.”

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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