USF coach Charlie Strong won’t be the only coach making his program debut when USF plays at San Jose State Saturday at 7 p.m., but he will be the one with the more proven team.
While the Bulls went 11-2 in 2016, San Jose State recorded just four wins en route to their fourth straight losing season and the firing of their former head coach Ron Caragher.
Despite last season’s success, the Bulls recognize they haven’t proven anything in 2017.
“Right now, it’s good everybody has recognized all the hard work we put in over the summer and over last year,” RB D’Ernest Johnson said at Tuesday’s press conference. “But it’s a new year and we’ve got to keep it moving.”
Despite many unknowns concerning the new staffs of both teams, the Bull’s have a significant advantage with QB Quinton Flowers, a potential Heisman candidate.
Meanwhile, Spartans first-year coach Brett Brennan has yet to name a starting quarterback for the opener. There’s currently a three-man battle for the job, and sophomore Josh Love is the only Spartan QB that has played in a Division I game.
Though it’s still unknown who’ll be running the Spartans offense on Saturday, it’s possible that San Jose State will have an similar offense to USF as the Spartan’s Offensive Coordinator, Andrew Sowder, worked under USF Offensive Coordinator Sterlin Gilbert at Texas, Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois.
“He was with us last year at Texas, and actually him and Sterlin have the same background being at Bowling Green and everywhere,” Strong said about Sowder. “But the key thing for us on defense is not so much worry about what he’s gonna do, but we have to worry about ourselves.”
USF finished last season with the fifth best rushing offense in the nation and averaged over 285 yards per game. With seniors Quinton Flowers, Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson, the Bulls run game will try to emulate last year’s success against the Spartans, who finished 2016 with the 122nd ranked rushing defense (246 YPG).
Despite the Spartans dismal defensive numbers from last season, Johnson emphasized the importance of taking things one game at a time.
“Can’t overlook them, we have to take this game like it’s the last game,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to go out and be the best I can be.”
Possibly stemming from the top down, Strong shared the same mentality as Johnson.
“I love our overall attitude,” Strong said. “We just cannot allow complacency to set in. We have to think of every game as a one game season. One game at a time.”