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Quarterback stability is key to success for Bulls

Coach Willie Taggart burned freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers’ redshirt this season, but hasn’t used him for more than one drive per game. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Competition is a part of any sport; players battle for starting roles while others slide over to the bench. 

In some cases, however, stability trumps competition.

Under coach Willie Taggart, USF has seen seven different quarterbacks take snaps in 21 games.

“(Having so many different quarterbacks) is a challenge,” junior guard Thor Jozwiak said. Jozwiak has blocked for each one of those seven quarterbacks.

Last year, Matt Floyd entered the season as the starter, only to be replaced at halftime by Bobby Eveld, whose slightly longer tenure of two games ended with the substitution of junior quarterback Steven Bench. 

Mike White, a freshman at the time, was the last to see the field and survived until the
season’s end.

None of these starters made much of an impact on offense, leading USF to a 2-10 record and ranking it 112th in the nation in passing for 2013.

This year has seen many of the same problems at quarterback, though the Bulls (3-6, 2-3) have one more win than last year.

White continued his roller coaster career for most of this season. At Tulsa, he made USF’s largest comeback in history, only to give up two turnovers in the first half against Cincinnati, forcing Taggart to look elsewhere for the next starter.

After starting Bench on Saturday against Houston, Taggart must have figured this would be the end of the Cleveland Browns-esque quarterback carousel. But the junior’s performance left much to be desired.

Bench gave a lackluster performance, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes for 147 yards and an interception.

Yet again, Taggart has reopened the quarterback battle. But this time around, things could go a little different.

Taggart has used 4-star freshman quarterback Quinton Flowers sparingly this season and hasn’t let him take hold of the offense. 

The Bulls need a spark, as Taggart has said on numerous occasions, so why not throw in the only quarterback on the roster who is a true dual threat?

With a 6-foot, 217-pound frame, Flowers doesn’t fit the mold of the ideal quarterback, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed. Even better, what he lacks in experience, he makes up for it in skill. 

“(Flowers) has a strong arm, running ability and plays the spread option pretty good,” sophomore wide receiver Rodney Adams said. “His arm is really strong. You really don’t see it much, but when he has the opportunity in practice, he lets it fly.”

 Throwing for over 6,000 yards and rushing for another 2,000 in his high school career, Flowers has the speed and the arm to be a concern for opposing defenses, but has been underutilized thus far.

Taggart has said that he has plans for Flowers and special packages to get him playing time, but the inept offense has left the Bulls trailing in most games, eliminating the chance for Taggart to get him the reps he needs to become the next starter. 

“We’ve had plans (to play him more), but with playing inconsistently and with turnovers, you don’t get a rhythm going and it’s hard to do those things,” Taggart said. “We can’t use that as an excuse when he’s one of our better players and not hold him back.”

Taggart has resorted to throwing Flowers in for three or so plays a game, but keeping him on a short leash. 

Flowers will typically hand the ball off or run the read option with the occasional pass. But this isn’t helping him gain experience.

The one time he was designated to throw in the N.C. State game, he threw two deep passes that resulted in interceptions.

Flowers has had some trouble wrapping his head around the playbook this far in his first season, as most freshmen do, but should have enough of it down to be able to make it through a game.

Just as Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher did for Sean Maguire when Jameis Winston was suspended, Taggart can easily shorten his already bland offense into an even simpler form to give Flowers a chance.

Taggart has been known to use his freshman at key positions; White, Nate Godwin and Marlon Mack all saw extensive time in their first seasons.

Facing a winless SMU following the bye week and with most bowl game hopes dashed, Taggart has nothing to lose.

Flowers should be the team’s starting quarterback going forward and continue to be developed because the game of musical quarterbacks that Taggart is playing is leading to an unstable offense.