TAMPA ― A day ago, we offered four reasons USF fans should feel good about the 2019 Bulls as they embark on preseason camp. Now comes the sobering counter-balance.
Significant question marks still surround this team (particularly on defense). We outline four of them here:
Arguably no unit on the team was more blatantly exposed in 2018 than this one, which featured rush ends (Greg Reaves) and safeties (Khalid McGee) playing the position out of necessity. Not coincidentally, USF allowed a staggering 247.5 rushing yards a game.
Nearly a year later, questions still abound.
The expected return of senior middle linebacker Nico Sawtelle, who missed the final seven games last season due to neck/shoulder issues, will be huge. And beefed-up sophomore Dwayne Boyles (listed at 224 pounds) appears poised for a breakthrough autumn.
But overall, this group remains very lean on game experience. The addition of 244-pound Oklahoma State transfer Patrick Macon could be highly significant.
Interior defensive line
While juniors Kevin Kegler and Kelvin Pinkney are proven entities inside, and Tyrone Barber and Rashawn Yates showed flashes of promise as freshmen last year, this unit could stand to get a little deeper.
Perhaps it will, but upperclassman Brandon Boyce was part of last December’s roster purge, and former Port Charlotte High state-champion weightlifter Devin Leacock recently left the program for undisclosed reasons.
That creates a prime opportunity for Admiral Farragut alumnus John Waller, fellow redshirt freshmen Armon Williams and Stacy Kirby, Northwest Missouri State transfer Blake Green, or anyone else who might care to step up.
Due to the offseason procession of USF quarterbacks into the NCAA transfer portal, the Bulls find themselves one high-ankle sprain from catastrophe.
Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud established himself as the clear No. 2 guy behind Blake Barnett in the spring, but he never has taken a snap in a Division I-A game. Neither has any other quarterback on the roster.
But should Barnett go down, history says not all hope is lost. In a previous life, first-year offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell was thrust into action out of necessity as a Gators redshirt freshman quarterback in 1984.
If memory serves, that didn’t turn out too badly.
Regardless of the potency of Bell’s scheme, or how effectively the coaches address their defensive issues in camp, some kinks are sure to arise in the Aug. 30 season opener.
And the Badgers are hardly the type of foe against which to work out kinks.
While the Bulls are being rightfully applauded for their bold non-conference scheduling, this is hardly the ideal season opener for a program in dire need of a confidence boost. The ’19 Bulls very well could be far better than last year’s team and still lose to Wisconsin.
And that would extend the program’s losing skid to seven games. Ouch.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.