2018 USF Preview: Life with Blake Barnett
Charlie Strong enters year 2 at USF football with some uncertainty as he had a lot of senior leadership graduate this off season. The headliner has to be 3 year starting QB Flowers, who probably is the best player in program history.
RBs D’Ernest Johnson and Daruis Tice, WR Marquez Valdez-Scantling (now with the Green Bay Packers) and several offensive lineman are gone. Defensively, big DT Deadrin Senat, LB Auggie Sanchez and DB’s Deatrick Nichols and Devin Abrahams are all gone as well. Coach Strong not only has a lot of production and leadership to replace but needs to find a new identity with this current team.
Luckily the cupboard is not totally bare as several headliners return and one big transfer has won the QB race.
Blake Barnett, a consensus 5 star recruit a few years ago that actually started ahead of Jalen Hurts at Alabama, has transferred to USF Football this past May and was just named the starting QB for week 1 against Elon. The 6’5 QB looks the part of a star qb and has all the physical tools but now must prove it after losing QB battles at Alabama or Arizona State. He should have some help in another transfer from Florida in RB Jordan Cronkrite. In the passing game, bullish WR Tyre McCants returns after a having a monster game against UCF last season. He had a couple plays last season where he was literally dragging DB’s and actually one is highlighted on billboards around Tampa this season. TE Mitchell Wilcox also returns and is being selected as all conference on several publications.
While LB Nico Sawtelle returns he will be expected to step up as a leader a year after producing 54 tackles, 2 picks, and 4.5 tfl. Defensive ends Greg Reaves and Kirk Livingstone will need to produce some pressure on opposing QB’s as the projected starters. In the secondary rangy safety Jaymon Thomas and CB’s Mazzi Wilkins and Ronnie Huggins, Jr look to create some turnovers with their speed.
Although a lot of talent has left the program, there is still enough to be one of the better teams in the AAC conference. Da Guru’s prediction is the Bulls go 9-3 on the year with losses to Georgia Tech, UCF, and one other aac team. If Barnett can put all that potential on the field the Bulls might contend for a conference championship and knock UCF out.
Written by Yousaf “Da Guru” Khan