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An early look at the USF Bulls

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Wisconsin opens the 2019 campaign at USF. What do the Bulls have in store this year?

NCAA Football: South Florida-Charlie Strong Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too early to write about next season!

With spring football completed for college programs, and with what feels like a long offseason until late July/early August, B5Q wanted to check on the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2019 opponents—with the help of some of our SB Nation friends.

Note: These previews will not be in the chronological order of the games, but we hope to get through all of them at some point before fall camp rolls around.

Wisconsin’s first game of the season is on the road against the University of South Florida. Last year the Bulls started off the year 7-0 and then...well we don’t want to make our guests angry and remind them that the Bulls ended the year 0-6.

We definitely don’t want to do that.

Co-manager of The Daily Stampede, and recently married man, Nathan Bond took the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.

What are the overall thoughts about the program heading into the 2019 season? Any major changes on the coaching staff?

USF changed half (5) of the on-field coaching staff from 2018 heading into 2019.

New offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell takes over for Sterlin Gilbert, who somehow got offered a head coaching position at McNeese State. Bell brings an exciting and fast offense more akin to former USF head coach Willie Taggart. Bell was the HC at D-II Valdosta State where they won the national championship last year and averaged over 50 points per game. Bell also brought OL coach Jeremy Darveau with him from VSU.

DB coach Blue Adams tried to fight a player last year (Editor’s note: !!!!!!!!) and didn’t make it to the bowl game and was replaced by Steve Ellis from Middle Tennessee State University. DL coach Damon Cogdell also didn’t make it to the bowl game and was replaced by former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer. And finally, safeties coach Tommy Restivo was replaced by Bryan Hill who was on staff with the Bulls in 2018 as a quality control coach.

Overall, head coach Charlie Strong (and the players) seem so much happier now than they did just five months ago and appear set to get back on track after losing their final six games of 2018.

Who are the main players returning and how could they help the team next season?

Offense: Pretty much everyone important returns from QB Blake Barnett to RB Jordan Cronkrite and all-conference TE Mitchell Wilcox. The offense has the weapons to be explosive, and finally the right offensive coordinator to utilize them.

Defense: The Bulls were dreadful, and dreadfully young, in 2018 defensively. Tons of redshirt freshmen got extended run throughout the year and their inexperience was exposed time and time again. Defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary didn’t forget how to coach, and I expect the defense to be immensely better in 2019. They’re still a bit small on the defensive line and versus a Big Ten team, they may (will) get pushed around quite a bit, but with Kirk Livingstone and Greg Reaves coming off the edge on passing downs, the Bulls can still disrupt a game with TFLs and sacks.

Who’s leaving, and has anyone stepped up to be potential replacements in the fall?

Slot WR Tyre McCants graduated, but he’ll be replaced by former Michigan WR Eddie McDoom and converted RB Johnny Ford. Both had impressive springs and have shown that they can handle the job.

Depth at running back will be a concern. Cronkrite missed spring practice due to off-season surgery, Ford is now at WR and the guys behind Cronkrite are unproven in an extended role at RB. Trevon Sands has never had more than eight carries in a game and the rest of the group are either walk-ons or converted to RB this spring.

Way-too-early breakout player of the year candidate based on spring reports?

It’s a battle between Johnny Ford and Eddie McDoom. I cannot stress this enough: They were so good in the spring! Put your best players in space and let them go to work. Such a novel concept.

Way-too-early prediction not just for the game against Wisconsin itself, but for the 2019 season?

Wisconsin replaces four offensive linemen if I’m not mistaken, but I’m also very confident that there are four more corn-fed hogmollies ready to step in (Editor’s note: duh) and cause chaos. But, with four inexperienced guys, plus a brand new QB taking over for the departed Alex Hornibrook on the road...it’s not impossible for me to see USF pulling off the upset, I just wouldn’t bet my life on it.

Overall, I truly think getting a fresh coaching staff in here has revitalized the team, and the program in general, and what we saw in the final six games of 2018 isn’t what we’ll see in 2019. 8-4 in the floor for this team to me. Steal a game here or there and it can be 10-2 and fighting for a spot in the AAC title game.