Even as opponents in high school, Bulls’ senior running back Darius Tice knew quarterback Quinton Flowers was special.
“I already knew what he was capable of doing,” Tice said.
Coming to USF as 3-star recruit, Flowers amassed 6,042 total yards at Miami Jackson High School.
When he went to Miami’s Northwestern High School, Tice saw Flowers often as a district foe, but now sees the offensive captain as an unquestioned leader of a reenergized USF football program.
“I already knew from the beginning. I played against him in high school, so I already knew that this man was a beast,” Tice said. “I knew that once he got in his groove, as soon as they gave him a little more freedom, he would do his thing.”
After accounting for 403 of the Bulls’ 658 yards in their 48-17 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday night, it’s safe to say Flowers is enjoying all the freedoms of the Gulf Coast offense.
The junior quarterback declined offers from Alabama, Miami (FL), Nebraska, and Texas among others. He committed to the Bulls instead and began his career at USF, making five appearances with only a single start in 2014.
Tice, among others, continued to push Flowers after his initial season, saying he foresaw the dual-threat quarterback emerging as the leader of the Bulls as he did during the middle of the 2015 season.
“I was telling Quinton the whole time, stay confident … it’s coming,” Tice said. “I see a vision of you taking over the team and being able to do things for us … and from the Syracuse game last year, it was a wrap from that point on.”
Flowers also said that game against the Orange became a jumping-off point that has lead him into the conversation for the Davey O’Brien Trophy as the nation’s top quarterback and the undisputed leader of the Bulls’ offense.
“Last year, from the Syracuse, when Coach gave me the word ‘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.”
Tice has emerged as a solid piece of the Bulls’ backfield, backing up junior Marlon Mack.
With Mack out for the game following a concussion he suffered in Week 1, Tice started and ran for his first career 100-yard game, running with power and more than enough energy to spark the rest of his teammates.
“He seems like he drank Red Bull all day,” coach Willie Taggart said.
“The kid was just so fired up all day long. Sometimes, we had to tell him to just calm down. The entire day, from breakfast all the way to pregame meal, he was goin’. He was just excited to compete and help this football team … he was ready from the time he woke up this morning, he was ready to go.”
Taggart said that approach and excitement for the game has allowed Flowers to continue to improve week to week as well.
“Quinton gets excited every time we go out,” Taggart said.
“If a coach blows a whistle, or say we’re ready to go compete, he’s going to compete. He was the same Quinton Flowers he was last week … the kid is always ready to play and always ready to go out there and compete and find a way to win.”
Flowers holds himself to a high standard, one that has allowed him to already become one of the prolific quarterbacks in the program’s brief 20-year history.
“There is a standard I set myself at,” Flowers said.
“Even in practice, I don’t like when I throw interceptions, I don’t like when I do things bad … but I can’t let my teammates see me down so at the end of the day, I just need to go out there and make my reads.”
Tice believes that mindset has not only helped Flowers develop into a confident leader, but has helped in the development of the rest of the Bulls’ backfield.
“That’s where our mentality comes from, from our leader.” Tice said.
Even with the Bulls scoring more points than they ever have through the first two games in a season to begin 2016, Flowers believes that even a performance like the one against NIU isn’t enough.
“It’s not enough,” Flowers said. “Our standards are too high. We’re trying to get to 900 (yards per game). That’s our standard, to put up 60 points a game.”