As Quinton Flowers and the USF football team prepare for their upcoming game with Syracuse University on Saturday, the quarterback’s journey from budding recruit to confident leader comes full circle.
Four weeks into the 2015 season — Flowers’ first as the starter — the Bulls limped into their homecoming game against The Orange with a 1-3 record.
Shortly before USF's matchup with Syracuse, coach Willie Taggart was having one of his position groups over for dinner and some personal time with their coach.
That week, Taggart hosted the running backs and quarterbacks.
“We were all eating and hanging around and (running back Darius) Tice, being the showstopper, he mentions, ‘Coach, Quinton’s scared of you,’” Taggart said. “‘For whatever reason, he’s afraid of you, coach. When you come around, he’s not the same person. Coach, just let him know not to be afraid of you. You’re pretty cool coach, he don’t have to be afraid of you.’
“He was like, ‘We need Quinton to be like he was in high school. He made all these plays and we need him to be that guy.’ I can recall Tice telling Quinton, ‘We need you to be the first one out of the locker room. You need to be the first guy out of the tunnel. We want you to walk out in the middle of Ray Jay, look around and tell everyone the coast is clear.’”
In those first three games, Flowers had yet to pass for 200 yards in a game and had thrown six touchdowns with four interceptions. But it wasn’t only his teammates who knew there was more to their quarterback than what they’d seen in the first month of the season.
“Last year, it started from the Syracuse game, when coach gave me the ‘go,’ Flowers said.
“I felt like at the beginning of last year, I was playing like a robot, just structurally sound instead of just going out and playing my game. Once he gave me the ‘go’, it was time to show the world.”
After the other players had left for the evening, Taggart held Flowers back to make sure Tice’s message was heard.
“I said, ‘You know Tice and D’Ernest (Johnson) and them were joking with you, but they really were screaming to you what they’re looking for from you,'" Taggart said. "'They want you to lead, they’re waiting for a quarterback to do that.’
“Quinton looked at me and said, ‘I got you coach, let me go.’ And the rest was history. That Saturday we kind of called everything and didn’t hold anything back and guys were playing well and it’s been that way ever since.”
In the Bulls’ 45-24 win on Oct. 10, 2015, Flowers passed for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 55 rushing yards and a score on 15 attempts.
Over the remainder of 2015, Flowers guided the Bulls to a 7-2 finish and an appearance in the Miami Beach Bowl.
With a rematch set for Saturday at The Carrier Dome for Syracuse's homecoming game, the Bulls are confident their proven leader can answer the call once again.
“Then to now, it’s like a caterpillar blossoming into a butterfly,” senior receiver Rodney Adams said. “He was this quiet young kid who didn’t know how everything worked. Now, he’s just a beast, he can do it all. He’s reading the defense, distributing the ball either which way he can and it’s great to see.
“He’s becoming that player everyone wanted him to be.”
Both junior defensive tackle Bruce Hector and sophomore safety Khalid McGee did not practice Tuesday due to ankle injuries sustained in Saturday’s game against the Huskies.
Junior defensive end Mike Love is going through concussion protocol.
Junior running back Marlon Mack practiced in full pads and is probable for Saturday.