The “Bull Shark” defense hasn’t missed a beat
With defensive coordinator Tom Allen leaving USF for Indiana University during the offseason, many wondered if the wildly successful “Bull Shark” defensive scheme was in jeopardy of being scrapped by incoming coordinator, Raymond Woodie. With the majority of defense players returning this season, not much has changed with the 4-2-5 set.
“We have a lot of guys that we finally got them to understand the defense and buy into this system,” said junior linebacker and team captain, Auggie Sanchez.
Any worries were put to rest with the dominant display that the defense showcased on Saturday night. Towson’s power-style offense didn’t deviate from what has made them successful in the past; a grind it out style that features senior running back Darius Victor, who has successfully crossed the 1000-yard threshold the previous two seasons.
The Bulls were able to keep Towson’s biggest offensive weapon in check; holding Victor to only 70 yards on 23 attempts and the rest of the Tigers offense to only 57 yards on the ground.
The Bulls were also able to force three fumbles and a 49-yard interception, while also tallying three sacks.
The offense picked up right where it left off
With versatile junior quarterback Quinton Flowers under center, the Bull’s Gulf Coast offense remains a high scoring machine. Posting 444 total yards and 56 points in the season opener, the Bulls proved that they could sustain the high octane offense that totaled over 440 yards in eight games of the 2015 season.
The duo of Flowers and Marlon Mack were able to rack up a combined 104 yards on the ground, with Flowers tallying two touchdowns and Mack collecting one. Fellow running backs senior Darius Tice and junior D’Ernest Johnson finished the night with a combined 65 yards rushing.
With workhorse Mack’s availability for the Bulls’ next matchup against Northern Illinois in question, Tice and Johnson may be heavily relied upon, with Flowers, to help establish the run.
The receiving core demonstrated they were able to stretch the field with the big play, with six of 13 completions stretching over 20 yards.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling appears to be the real deal
North Carolina State transfer junior Marquez Valdes-Scantling was reliable for Flowers, pulling in a team leading three receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown, demonstrating that the 6-foot-5 receiver will become a popular target for the quarterback.
The Bulls are hoping that the addition of Valdes-Scantling will help alleviate coverage on 2015 receiving leader, senior Rodney Adams, allowing Flowers a better view down the field and more favorable matchups for his receivers. Flowers has already expressed his confidence in his receiving squad, stating that he is looking forward to taking advantage of mismatches down the field.
Quinton Flowers will need work on his accuracy
While Flowers wasn’t afraid to throw the ball down the field, he only connected with his receivers eight times on 18 attempts. A number of those incompletions were a result of Flowers not able to get the ball to his receivers.
The Bulls brought on former Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King as their new quarterbacks coach, to help Flowers rely more on his arm and add the finessed touch that is needed to properly utilize the Bulls receivers.
With the creation of the “Gulf Coast” offensive scheme taking basic functions of the West Coast offense Flowers will need to work on his accuracy before playing against ball-hawking teams like Connecticut (18 interceptions in 2015), Temple (16) and Houston (21); USF’s predicted AAC championship contender.
The Bulls have depth
With the Bulls holding a dominant lead late in the game, Taggart put his second string players in the game. The Bulls did not let off pedal as freshman quarterback Brett Kean completed five passes on seven attempts, totaling 52 yards and two touchdowns. Kean connected with backup running back D’Ernest Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown on his first pass in his college career.
The touchdown was a result of redshirt freshman safety Malik Dixon causing Towson quarterback, sophomore Morgan Mahalak, to fumble on their own side of the 50 with senior cornerback Nate Goodwin recovering the ball on the Tiger’s 23 yard line.
USF's depth chart lists 18 of their 22 starting players as juniors or younger, with two redshirt freshmen, right tackle Marcus Norman and defensive end Kirk Livingstone, starting at their respective positions.
The experience of this deep, young team will only continue to grow with every week and look to not only meet this season’s expectations, but shatter them and raise the bar for the future.