AT RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM
The Bulls are 17-8 in two seasons under Charlie Strong. They went 7-6 last season, including 3-5 in the AAC. Strong has an impressive background on defense and was an assistant under two coaching legends, Lou Holtz and Urban Meyer, before moving into the head coaching ranks. Strong had mixed results at his previous two stops, including a successful run at Louisville from 2010-13 followed by a not-so-successful run at Texas, which fired Strong after three consecutive losing seasons.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Senior quarterback Blake Barnett (above) was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and started the opening game of his redshirt freshman season at Alabama in 2016. By the end of that game against USC, Jalen Hurts had taken over and Barnett was out of a job. After stops at Palomar College in California and Arizona State, Barnett finally got his career back on track at South Florida last season. He threw for 2,710 yards and 12 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as a junior and now, with a season under his belt, wants to become a better leader.
BITS AND PIECES
Strong made some changes on his coaching staff in the offseason, including adding Kerwin Bell as the offensive coordinator. Bell, a former Florida quarterback, led Valdosta State to a Division II title last season and inherits nine returning starters. That group includes senior tailback Jordan Cronkrite, who rushed for 1,121 yards and senior tight end Mitchell Wilcox. Another playmaker to keep an eye on is sophomore Johnny Ford, a 5-foot-5, 168-pound speedster who can line up in the backfield or at slot receiver. … The Bulls allowed 247.8 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 122nd of 129 teams nationally. The return of senior middle linebacker Nico Sawtelle, who missed the final seven games with an injury, and Oklahoma State transfer Patrick Macon should help that area.
Will the real Bulls please stand up?
South Florida began the 2018 season by winning its first seven games and ended with six consecutive defeats. That’s part of the reason Strong made staff changes and took a long look in the mirror. “We weren’t a very disciplined football team,” he said. It wasn’t like South Florida was losing heartbreakers, either; its average margin of defeat during the skid was 17.5 points. “Ending the season last year the way we did, that’s unacceptable,” Barnett said. “We are motivated to come out and be better than that this year.”
4-0 | South Florida's record vs. power conference opponents under Strong, who has led the Bulls to wins over Illinois (twice), Georgia Tech and Texas Tech.