USF’s bowl-game QB, OC un­known

The Bradenton Herald - - Sports - BY JOEY KNIGHT

Less than two weeks be­fore USF faces Mar­shall in one of the pro­gram’s most crit­i­cal bowl games, Char­lie Strong still hasn’t de­ter­mined who will call his of­fen­sive plays or whether his start­ing quar­ter­back will be ready.

But the an­swers are likely to ar­rive be­fore the week­end con­cludes.

Speak­ing less than 24 hours af­ter Bulls of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ster­lin Gil­bert was an­nounced as McNeese State’s new coach, Strong said he’ll meet with his staff Fri­day to de­cide on a play caller for the Dec. 20 Gas­par­illa Bowl against Mar­shall.

Run­ning backs coach Shaun King – the for­mer Gibbs High and Buc­ca­neers quar­ter­back – is the like­li­est choice and an over­whelm­ing fa­vorite among the fan base. King and the rest of USF’s staff have been out re­cruit­ing; the Bulls hold their first bowl prac­tice Satur­day on cam­pus.

“There’s enough guys on our of­fense (staff) that you can pick one and they can get it done,” Strong said Thurs­day on Har­bour Is­land, where he and Mar­shall coach Doc Hol­l­i­day con­vened for a Gas­par­illa Bowl me­dia func­tion.

“But you just want to make sure that we can…get on track and get the prepa­ra­tion ready to go play the game.”

Gil­bert, 40, be­came the light­ning rod for fan crit­i­cism dur­ing the Bulls’ five-game skid as his of­fense av­er­aged only 19.8 points in that span. But Strong de­flected the blame when speak­ing with re­porters Thurs­day.

“You can point at the de­fense also. We didn’t play re­ally good de­fense, and our spe­cial teams were only solid,” he said.

“I take the blame for those five games, be­cause I didn’t do a good job of pre­par­ing the team and we just didn’t play well.”

Mean­time, Strong said he’ll have a bet­ter idea of quar­ter­back Blake Bar­nett’s sta­tus for the bowl game upon ob­serv­ing him this week­end at prac­tice. Bar­nett missed two of the last three games with shoul­der and an­kle in­juries.

DER­ICK E. HINGLE AP

South Flor­ida head coach Char­lie Strong has some ques­tions to an­swer be­fore the Dec. 20 Gas­par­illa Bowl against Mar­shall. Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ster­lin Gil­bert has de­parted.

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