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CFF Targets - USF Freshman in for MONSTER season in 2023?
I'll be watching this QB competition closely this offseason
The South Florida Bulls have not been known as a bastion for CFF assets in recent years. Given the amount of talent in the immediate vicinity, one has to wonder why this program has not been more successful. Even more puzzling, the university calls itself the ‘University of South Florida’ while being located in the Tampa Bay area, which is definitely central Florida (I guess the University of West Central Florida wasn’t as appealing… taken maybe?). Nonetheless, this is a program that feels like it can elevate with ease under the right management; there are just simply too many elite athletes around to not catch some success by accident.
Indeed, the Bulls have had some big-time success in the past, reaching as high as #2 overall in the AP poll in mid-October of 2007. That feels like a distant dimension for the Bulls at this point, who have primarily been bottom-dwellers in the Group of Five (G5) since.
In addition to the investments made in the facilities of the program, the administration decided last fall to take a major swing and hired Tennessee OC Alex Golesh as its next head coach. It makes sense that Tennessee’s OC would be in high demand, as the Vols fielded one of the most potent offences in the FBS in 2022. QB Hendon Hooker had a phenomenal season, as did his two WRs Jaylin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman. Hyatt won the Biletnikoff award for the nation’s best receiver (yea, that’s right Ohio State fans, cry me a f*cking river). Hooker was dangerous in the air as well as on the ground, and he found himself in the Heisman conversation late in the year. The success at Golesh’s last stop intrigues me about his future with the Bulls.
As it happens, the Bulls have a young up-and-coming dual threat QB with a similar set of skills to Hendon Hooker. The timing of this marriage couldn’t be any better for CFF players, and this South Florida Bull could be poised to disembowel the AAC in 2023.
Coaching & System
Golesh is relatively new to coaching as he became an OC for the first time in 2020 with UCF, and spent the last two seasons in the same role with the Tennessee Vols before taking the Bulls’ head coaching position. In 2022, QB Hendon Hooker accounted for over 3500 total yards and 32 TDs in 11 games, which tracked to 30 fantasy points per game (FPG) in 4-point passing TD formats. The year prior, he once again accounted for over 3500 yards, and scored 36 TDs.
In 2020, Golesh had his most prolific QB from a CFF standpoint — Dillon Gabriel, who amassed over 3700 yards and 34 TDs, which tracked to 33.1 FPG in 10 games. In Golesh’s two seasons with the Vols, Hooker rushed over 100 times each; with the Knights, Gabriel attempted over 70 rushing attempts in 2020.
The theme seems to be that Golesh’s preference is to utilize a dual threat QB in both capacities — through the air and on the ground.
There isn’t actually an OC listed on the USF website so I think it’s safe to assume Golesh is the man running the show on O. There is associate head coach and RBs coach Matt Merritt, who spent his time at Georgia Southern last season, a program that averaged 468.6 ypg and 33.7 ppg. He’ll likely have a hand in things but I don’t think it is necessary to do a deep dive into his background, as it seems he’ll be more involved with the RBs. Then there is passing game coordinator/QBs coach Joel Gordon. Prior to joining the Bulls, Gordon spent the last four seasons (2019-2022) at Iowa State in the same role. I am not overly inspired by his track record of developing QBs I must admit, as Cyclones QB Brock Purdy (anyone heard from him lately?) had his best season by far in 2019, and then gradually declined over the next two seasons. That 2019 season saw Purdy throw over 3900 yards, 27 TDs, while rushing for another 249 yards and 8 scores.
Miraculously, these numbers only track to 24 FPG for Purdy. It’s late in the evening as I write this so I’m not even going to try to figure out the math behind that. Perhaps someone can point out the flaw in my calculation, the point is Gordon’s last stop did not produce an elite (or even above average, for that matter) CFF asset at QB. I suppose that’s why he’s now at USF instead of the P5 (or maybe he just likes living in western central Florida, who knows, right?).
Gordon did have significant success as the QBs coach at Division II school Shepard (W.V.). In his first year as QBs coach, the Shepards (I don’t actually know if that’s there mascot name, I’m just rolling with it) broke the school record for points per game at 43.5. One of his QBs, Bobby Cooper, broke the single-game passing record for the school with 430 yards against Fairmont State. Cooper also just brought me my Uber Eats order of a smoked meat sandwich with extra pickles in record time.
Okay, that’s obviously not true, but it could be right? I can’t be the only one that wonders what happens to these standout Div. II/III players after they finish playing.
Enter 6’3, 206 pound QB Byrum Brown (…who?)
Byrum Brown exploded onto the scene in the last two weeks of the CFF regular season. The Bulls’ week one starter, former Baylor Bear Gerry Bohanon, went down with injury midway through the season. The Bulls initially tried to go with Katravis Marsh, but he would ultimately disappoint before also going down with injury, opening the door for the freshman Brown to show what he is capable of.
On November 18 vs. Tulsa, Brown accounted for 37 fantasy points (FPs), in which he completed 21 of 25 passes for 240 yards and 3 TDs, while running 12 times for 76 yards and another score. The following week vs. cross-state rival UCF, on his way to 32 FPs Brown completed 13 passes on 20 attempts for 140 yards and a score, while also rushing 15 times for 109 yards and 2 TDs. Those were the only two games Brown started in his freshman season.
It’s noteworthy that, as a freshman, both of Brown’s games as the starter saw him go over 30 FPs. By comparison, in the 7 games Bohanon started, he only went over 30 FPs once.
It remains to be seen who will win the starting QB role for the Bulls in 2023, as both Bohanon and Marsh return from injury. Of note, Bohanon will miss spring camp as he recovers, and Marsh is also unavailable for spring, which should provide valuable reps for the now redshirt freshman Brown.
I am going to go out on a limb in this article and suggest that Brown will find himself as QB1 eventually. It may not be to open the season, but I just think Brown offers too much promise to waste behind Bohanon. Golesh seems intent on hosting a wide-open competition, mentioning that the offence last year was not up to standards:
It will be a wide-open competition at every single spot . . . We were 130th in the country (actually 131st) on defense. What were we on offense? Middle of the pack? Yeah, it will be wide open at every spot.
As Brown enters only his second season of CFB, looking at what he did in the final two games of 2022 the potential seems unlimited in 2023 and 2024. That has to excite Golesh, who likely has three seasons tops to prove his worth to the Bulls administration. Coaches are generally allowed one mulligan in a rebuild — that is, the first season can be a disaster but year two of the regime is expected to provide significant improvement. Bohanon runs out of eligibility after this season (as far as I can tell, at least, which probably means he’s got another two seasons minimum) and I imagine having a stud signal caller returning off a full season would ease a lot of Golesh’s concerns headed into 2024.
As it is still early days in the offseason it’s too soon to make any wild declarations. I’ve given my thoughts on Brown, and I think this QB situation is worth monitoring. Even if Bohanon get’s the nod, Golesh’s track record with rushing QBs intrigues me. If you’re feeling frustrated by the conclusion of this article, I don’t blame you, as few (if any) immediately actionable insights have been provided. This is more of a ‘wait and see’ type of thing. Golesh has an opportunity to find himself on the prestigious All-VP Degenerates list this season, will he rise to the occasion? I have my assistant faxing him this article as we speak… fingers crossed.
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