TAMPA — Less than two weeks before USF faces Marshall in one of the program's most critical bowl games, Charlie Strong still hasn't determined who will call his offensive plays or whether his starting quarterback will be ready.
But the answers are likely to arrive before the weekend concludes.
Speaking less than 24 hours after Bulls offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert was announced as McNeese State's new coach, Strong said he'll meet with his staff Friday to decide on a play caller for the Dec. 20 Gasparilla Bowl against Marshall.
Running backs coach Shaun King — the former Gibbs High and Buccaneers quarterback — is the likeliest choice and an overwhelming favorite among the fan base. King and the rest of USF's staff have been out recruiting; the Bulls hold their first bowl practice Saturday on campus.
"There's enough guys on our offense (staff) that you can pick one and they can get it done," Strong said Thursday on Harbour Island, where he and Marshall coach Doc Holliday convened for a Gasparilla Bowl media function.
"But you just want to make sure that we can…get on track and get the preparation ready to go play the game."
Gilbert, 40, became the lightning rod for fan criticism during the Bulls' five-game skid as his offense averaged only 19.8 points in that span. But Strong deflected the blame when speaking with reporters Thursday.
"You can point at the defense also. We didn't play really good defense, and our special teams were only solid," he said.
"I take the blame for those five games, because I didn't do a good job of preparing the team and we just didn't play well."
Meantime, Strong said he'll have a better idea of quarterback Blake Barnett's status for the bowl game upon observing him this weekend at practice. Barnett missed two of the last three games with shoulder and ankle injuries.
"I try to get them through their finals (held this week), and then they've been working out and running," Strong said. "So now we're gonna get us a practice in on Saturday and then get us one in on Sunday, and then we get ready for bowl preparation, and then we'll see exactly where he is."
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.