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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #17 South Florida

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 10, 2017

#17 South Florida Bulls

2016 Recap:
Raise your hand if you didn't know South Florida went 11-2 last season. We followed South Florida and quarterback Quinton Flowers pretty closely and warned our readers about the exceptional play on offense. The only losses for South Florida came against eventual conference champion Temple and Florida State. South Florida closed the season with a 13-point win over South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.


Coaching:
Willie Taggert is the new coach at Oregon so South Florida made a stong hire...literally...in Charlie Strong who was fired at Texas. Sterlin Gilbert and Brian Jean-Mary will run the offense and defensive units.

Offense

The offense ranked 11th nationally and was 4th in scoring at 43.8 PPG after obliterating the school record with 77 touchdowns. The catalyst for the offense is of course quarterback Quinton Flowers who deserves to get some Heisman Trophy love and consideration. Flowers is a threat for 3,000 yards passing and over 1,000 yards rushing. Last season Flowers finished with 2,812 yards through the air with an impressive 24/7 TD/INT ratio and ran for 1,530 yards and another 18 touchdowns on the ground. Flowers only had 41 yards below Lamar Jackson running the football and we all know Jackson brought home the Heisman. The best NFL talent left school early to be paid on Sundays and that was running back Marlon Mack. D'Ernest Johnson is a capable runner and with three top targets returning at receiver and tight end there is a nice balance for the offense where Flowers will not have to use his legs only to succeed and put the team in great position. The offensive line is among one of the bigger starting units in the AAC and shoped tremendous imoprovement last season.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Quinton Flowers QB/WR 4th/5th Round 2018.

                                       Mitchell Wilcox TE 4th Round 2020.


Defense

The defense is the real sticking point for South Florida. The offense was so talented a season ago that the 11th ranked offense easily trumped the 120th ranked defense. Though the numbers are a little misleading because South Florida scored with such ease that the defense was often on the field for a long time. Deatrick Nichols is a legitimate NFL calibur cornerback who actually has enough talent to possibly sneak into the 1st round in the right situation. The good news for the defense is that nine starters return as Strong will try to preach a bend-but-don't break philosophy. Auggie Sanchez is a tackling machine in the middle of the field and posted 120 stops last year. The defense is still a bit of a question mark with a new coordinator. South Florida will employ a 4-2-5 as their basic defensive set.

Best Draft Prospects: Deatrick Nichols CB 3rd Round 2018.              

                                       Auggie Sanchez LB 5th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

South Florida was so efficient scoring touchdowns in 2016 that placekicker Emilio Nadelman only needed to attempt seven field goals. Good news for South FLorida is that Nadelman was a perfect 7-7. Jonathan Hernandez was among the best punters in the conference and D'Ernest Johnson was also near the top of the conference in the return game. It will remain to be seen if Johnson will be the primary return man now that he will start the season as the featured running back.


Schedule:

It's an easier schedule as no Florida State games loom outisde the conference. South Florida will start on the road against San Jose State. Temple, Cincinnati and Houston will all be home games so South Florida has a real shot at getting into a BCS Bowl game as the at-large squad.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

There are a number of players who will be drafted or get serious looks as free agents on this roster. The biggest question will be if Flowers will remain a quarterback at the next level. Flowers has the arm strength but he isn't as polished and has a smaller frame, a move to wide receiver looks to be in the cards for the NFL. Charlie Strong has always been known as a great recruiter and we are starting to see more big recruits go to South Florida vice some of the bigger and traditional Florida programs.

 

DJ Boyer