An offseason chalk full of changes and turnover leaves several questions for South Florida football entering the 2015 campaign. With the official depth chart being released and fall camp looming, the biggest question mark comes from the top at the quarterback position, where the battle for the starting spot continues and where this positional preview series will begin.
The biggest story of the Bulls offseason was Willie Taggart’s decision to abandon the seemingly ineffective pro style of offense he had run for the previous two years at USF to a more spread based philosophy that fits the skillsets of the majority of his Florida based athletes. The tandem of Danny Hope (O-Line coach) and David Reaves (QB coach) will now replace Paul Wulff as co-offensive coordinators. With former starter Mike White deciding to transfer to Western Kentucky after the conclusion of spring practice, Taggart will be left with a decision to have either senior Steven Bench or sophomore Quinton Flowers run his new up tempo offense. Entering fall practice, both quarterbacks have shown flashes of skill that could help them succeed in a new system, but possess faults that could render them ineffective.
The veteran Bench, now in his third season at USF, certainly has the edge when it comes to experience, but hasn’t shown much in his previous opportunities as a starter. USF fans have seen the 215 pound Bainbridge, GA native’s ability to run, as evidenced by his 62 yard touchdown scamper in the spring game. However, his only start of the 2014 campaign yielded just three points against Houston, as Bench posted the pedestrian numbers of 12-25 completions for 147 yards and 1 INT.
In contrast, the now second year Flowers holds the higher ceiling for success, but by all indications needs more time playing at the collegiate level. Throughout spring practice, the Miami Jackson alum accumulated a lot of reps with the first team offense, executing a similar up tempo offense that drew him acclaim in high school. Flower’s ability to elude defenders and keep plays alive with his feet could very well give him the edge in winning the starting job, but his accuracy, arm strength and ability to find open receivers on time needs more fine tuning to run an effective passing offense.
With the Bulls ranking 97th in passing yards per game (196.8) while finishing near the bottom of the entire FBS in terms of advanced statistics by Football Outsiders such as offensive efficiency (114th), first down rate (113th) and value drives (117th), changes across the board needed to be made to ensure USF moving the ball more efficiently than in previous seasons. Whether it’d be Bench, Flowers, or even freshman newcomer Brett Kean, it goes without saying that whoever can prove themselves as the most productive passer and leader of the offense in fall camp will emerge the starter.