BULLS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : TULANE
By Leo Haggerty
For the second week in a row, USF was blasted. The only difference between the 57-36 mauling Houston put on the Bulls two weekends ago and the 41-15 trouncing at the hands of Tulane last Saturday was the later happened at home.
It’s been since early October of 2015 since the Green & Gold lost consecutive football games. Now, South Florida has lost two straight and need to stop the bleeding quickly or this open wound could become infected fast.
How did this thrashing happen? I have some very simple hypotheses to that query below.
First, let’s not push the panic button just yet. This team is 7-2 as HC Charlie Strong has emphasized all week.
There are some problem areas on both sides of the ball. Let’s rationally look at what’s going on with the Green & Gold on offense and defense. Of course, this will be my opinion based on my first-hand observations of the team since fall camp.
On offense, I feel the Bulls are just running out of bodies especially in the skilled position areas. That, my devout readers, is never a good thing.
At QB, Blake Barnett hasn’t played anywhere close to double-digit games since high school. #11 looks like he is starting to feel the aches and pains that a full season of Division 1 football can entail.
The receiving corps has been hit like the first wave that stormed the Normandy beaches in France on D-Day. TE Mitch Wilcox was on the shelf along with WR Randall St. Felix. WR Terrance Horne Jr is done for the season plus WR Tyre McCants hasn’t been at full strength all season. #8 is playing on guts and determination.
At RB, Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford are just flat-out overworked. #2 sat out the entire 2017 campaign after transferring from Florida. #20 is a true freshman. Both, from a physical standpoint, are in uncharted territory.
So, on the offense side of the ball, OC Sterlin Gilbert is playing with the JV right now. With road contests at Cincinnati and Temple plus the home end-of-the-season “War on I-4” with UCF, South Florida needs to get healthy or it’s going to be a very painful last three weeks of the campaign.
On defense, I believe the early-season battles are starting to catch up with the unit as a whole. The just seem to be worn down especially on the defensive line.
This leads to a plethora of problems. When you cannot stop the run, you need to put an extra player or two in the box.
When that happens, you are short bodies in the secondary and it forces the Bulls into way too many man coverage scenarios.
Now, with the back end playing so much man, a pass rush is imperative. Sadly, the sacks and hurries that we saw in the early part of the season have been absent the last couple of weeks.
With DC Brian Jean-Mary forced to pick to pick his poison, Houston and Tulane just carved up the USF defense. When the Bulls overloaded the box, the Green Wave threw the football. When South Florida back off into coverage, Tulane just spread the Green & Gold defenders from sideline-to-sideline. With no second or third level protection, TU simply gashed USF with some “splash play” runs. Not a pretty sight.
Hey, these guys haven’t forgot how to coach. Last year, no one was complaining about the coaching staff as the Bulls posted a 10-2 record.
Then, what has changed? You have to play with what you have and that brings me to one of the oldest coaching postulates going. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken soup.
So, the most important people in the USF program right now are the training staff. Unless the Green & Gold get healthy quickly, it will not be a pretty month of November.