Roundtable: Can Kerwin Bell be the answer to USF’s offensive coaching woes?

He guided the Division II Valdosta State Blazers to a national championship, but can he make the leap to D-I and guide USF's offense? We ask our team.
New University of South Florida offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell, former Florida Gator, speaks with media about his new position and plans for the season during a press conference at the Selmon Center on campus on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times
New University of South Florida offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell, former Florida Gator, speaks with media about his new position and plans for the season during a press conference at the Selmon Center on campus on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. BRONTE WITTPENN | Times
Published January 17
Updated January 17

Can Kerwin Bell, a Division II coach, make the leap to Division I and be the answer to USF’s offensive coaching woes?

The cupboard is full

Joey Knight, USF and colleges reporter @TBTimes_Bulls: No question. The first prerequisite for Bell’s spread, Spurrier-influenced attack is an astute, mobile quarterback, and he has one (Blake Barnett). He also inherits a veteran offensive line right out of the gate, and a tight end (Mitch Wilcox) who could get drafted in 2020. While there’s some replenishing to do at receiver, USF should have enough young speed merchants (Jernard Phillips, Randall St. Felix, possibly Terrence Horne) to flourish in a system predicated on getting guys isolated in space.

Close to clicking

Matt Baker, State colleges reporter @MattBakerTBTimes: Why not? USF returns a blue-chip quarterback (Blake Barnett) and a former SEC running back (Jordan Cronkrite). That’s a good start. Bell had NCAA Division II’s top offense last season in scoring and yards per play, so he knows what he’s doing. And while the Bulls’ offense wasn’t great in 2018, it wasn’t awful, either (47th nationally at six yards per play). That tells me USF might not be that far away from clicking again.

Sending the right message

Traci Johnson, assistant sports editor @TBHomeTeam: Sterlin Gilbert’s “can’t catch your breath” offensive pace was mostly panned by Bulls fans, so Kerwin Bell certainly said the right things when officially introduced on Wednesday.  “A lot of people just try to play so fast nowadays, and they try to just run so many plays,” Bell said. “… We’re gonna go fast, but we’re also gonna try to execute at a very, very high level.” Emphasis is mine … and was that shade? As Matt pointed out, his D-II track record is good, so why doubt him this early?  

A return to greatness?

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor @hoop4you: They may doubt Kerwin Bell when he takes the field with the Bulls against Wisconsin on Aug. 31. They doubted him when he made his collegiate debut as the Gators starting quarterback in the same general vicinity on Sept. 1, 1984. UF came up short that day in Tampa Stadium against a Miami team led by Bernie Kosar, but Bell acquitted himself well and went on to achieve legendary status. Going from D-II to D-I may come with some challenges, but other coaches have made big leaps into the top division and done well (Gus Malzahn, Lance Leipold). I like Bell’s chances to return to glory where he first broke through.

Who says Jameis is the only QB who needs whispering?

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: The real reason for USF’s six-game death drop to end the season was an awful defense. There. Said it. Having said it, there’s no reason why Bell can’t make the great leap from Valdosta State and Division II. Guy has been doubted before, right, Gators fans? And he’s not trying to restart Oklahoma’s offense. This is USF. Even so, the Bulls have some pieces on offense, and that mostly includes quarterback Blake Barnett, who was brought down by injuries and inconsistency as 2018 went on. Bell, the Gators great, will have to do his best to get the most out of Barnett. Bell’s advantage is that the USF offense should have a good running game. Hey, they’re already one up on the Bucs. Give Kerwin’s krew a shot, I suppose.

Same scheme, better players

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: All the jump from Division II means is he will likely be coaching better players. The guy played in the SEC and coached grown men in the CFL. This isn’t a problem, it’s an asset. It’s clear USF was out of offensive ideas. His creativity and variety of experience will be a breath of fresh air.

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