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USF begins first preseason of post-Flowers era

Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett was among five scholarship quarterbacks on the field Friday
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11), an Arizona State transfer, joined Bulls veterans Brett Kean (7) and Chris Oladokun (10) in Friday evening's workout in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 3, 2018. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
USF quarterback Blake Barnett (11), an Arizona State transfer, joined Bulls veterans Brett Kean (7) and Chris Oladokun (10) in Friday evening's workout in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 3, 2018. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Aug. 4, 2018
Updated Aug. 4, 2018

TAMPA — In accordance with recent tradition, USF staged its first preseason practice of 2018 Friday evening on the program's original practice fields, several hundred yards north of the current ones at the Morsani Complex.

Adding to that retro vibe was the collection of quarterbacks, which in a sense hearkened to a half-decade ago.

For the first preseason since 2013, Quinton Flowers — USF's all-time total offensive leader — wasn't in the mix.

"What I think about now is, you lose a good player, but there's guys in the program," second-year coach Charlie Strong said. "It's their turn and their opportunity."

The Bulls' first quarterback derby in three years, which began in the spring with redshirt sophomore Chris Oladokun and fourth-year junior Brett Kean, resumed on a warm evening (88 degrees) with Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett in the competition.

An opening-night starter for Alabama in a previous life (2016), Barnett and freshmen Jordan McCloud and Octavious Battle gave USF a quintet of scholarship quarterbacks Friday. Strong made it clear Barnett will compete with Oladokun and Kean, who took a majority of the snaps in the spring game, for the No. 1 job.

"Any time you look at it where you can add a good player, it makes the battle better," Strong said.

"And there's a competitive battle there. And plus, it just makes our team better when they see another good player out there. Those guys all respect each other, and it's gonna be fun just watching them going out there."

Friday's padless workout featured no sidelined players, with Strong confirming those injured in the spring (namely offensive lineman Eric Mayes and linebacker Andre Polk) all practiced.

As he analyzes his quarterbacks, Strong also will be sifting through kickers (no fewer than four prospects) and captains.

In addition to Flowers, currently in the Bengals camp trying to latch on as a running back, USF also lost all-time leading tackler Auggie Sanchez. Both were two-year captains, leaving a leadership vacuum of sorts.

"That's something that we're developing," senior nickel back Ronnie Hoggins said. "Leadership is not something that I feel happens overnight. It's something that happens over the course of days here, and that's something that we're developing."

FERGUSON OUT: The only significant bombshell to fall Friday was Strong's announcement that senior DB Nate Ferguson — a Sickles High alumnus — is transferring. A special-teams fixture last season, Ferguson appeared in 22 games over the previous three years, totaling 27 tackles.

ODDS AND ENDS: Mayes, who had surgery to repair some left-meniscus damage last spring, said he's 100 percent.  "I felt real comfortable with everything," he said. "All the plays, I felt comfortable with all the cutting, everything." … The kicking competition got off to an encouraging start, with three candidates —Jake Vivonetto, Jake Stone and Coby Weiss — all connecting from what appeared to be about 40 yards during a special-teams period. … Strong had no update on Kean, who faces what is believed to be a two-game suspension for academic-related reasons. … Among those practicing at nickel back with Hoggins — sophomores Donelle Thomas and Bentlee Sanders, and freshmen Vincent Davis and JaJuan Cherry.

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