For the first time in weeks, USF is heading into a game with an almost healthy squad.
The Bulls (4-4, 2-2) have the chance to show how their bye week aided in a prime-time matchup against Temple (5-3, 2-2) on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium (8 p.m. TV: ESPN | Radio: WDAE-AM 620).
Besides freshman quarterback Jah’Quez Evans, whose status is up in the air after suffering a knock to the head prior to halftime against East Carolina on Oct. 26, the team is healthy.
Chiefly, redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud is fully healthy for the first time in over a month.
“Basically, we’re a healthy football team right now, knock on wood,” coach Charlie Strong said knocking on the podium at his weekly press conference Monday. “Guys have had the flu or something, but other than that guys are back and ready to go.”
McCloud, who has played through a number of injuries, including a wrist and shoulder injury, said he’s ready to go.
“We had this week off and that was big,” McCloud said. “I felt as good as I felt earlier in the season. That’s how my body feels right now, really good and just ready to go play on Thursday.
“I’m at 100 percent.”
More importantly, offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell endorsed McCloud’s health.
“It was good to get us healthy, especially another week for Jordan to get totally healthy,” Bell said. “I feel comfortable with him. He’s throwing the ball really good and no complaints with his ankles or hand or shoulder, so he’s ready to go.”
The bye week did more than help heal up players. It allowed for the team to further develop its tactics heading into the first game of the November stretch.
“We have continued to work hard on our run game,” Bell said. “We’re starting to see some signs of our throw game with Jordan getting healthy. … We’ve just got to continue to improve on that. It’s going to be big those four weeks to be able to make those plays in the passing game.”
With McCloud back to full health, the Bulls can start to further develop their passing game.
Promising signs of that came from his performance against ECU. He completed 75 percent of his passes, throwing for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
But it’s still not where Bell wants his offense to be.
“My desire is to have 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing,” Bell said. “You do that every day and I’ll be happy … that’s our mark we try to hit … when we’re running and throwing with the efficiency that I know we can, now we can go do those things.”
With a chance at showing off a refreshed team also comes the chance of performing better than the last time the Bulls were on national television, as Thursday’s game will be shown on ESPN.
The last time USF was shown on ESPN was in its 49-0 loss to Wisconsin in Week 1.
Now, the Bulls have a chance at redeeming themselves. Bell said this is the opportunity to show the progress USF has made since the beginning of the season.
“We’ve got to go prove that to ourselves, our fans, to everybody here in Tampa and to the nation,” Bell said.
“This is a good time to do that.”